How Much Crating is Too Much? After the New OAS Book, Some Thoughts on What Constitutes Over-Crating of Dogs

buddy-sam2lo

My dog Khronos (left) and Sam (right) one of our two houseguests playing in front of open crates.

lostcoverlo-dropI left active rescue in 2015, so it’s been awhile since I thought much about the use of crates for dogs, in rescue or otherwise.

But between the release of our latest book from Who Chains You Publishing— I Once Was Lost, But Now I’m Found: Daisy and the Olympic Animal Sanctuary Rescue—and my occasion to use crates this week for two dogs I’m babysitting, I was forced once again to look the issue in the eye and give it a good mulling over.

My dog Khronos has been with us for over a year now, so he’s trained to a doggie door and is a perfect gentleman inside the house, no longer needing or using a crate.

Yet we still have one or two of them, folded up and gathering dust in the back basement room, most likely to get used soon when I foster a dog. It’s always good to have a crate around, even when your pack is stable and you have no foster doggies…just in case.

But just how much crating IS acceptable? When does crating a dog become cruelty?

I’ve always been a big believer in the ultimate freedom for our companions…which to my mind meant chain-free AND cage-free was the ONLY way to go.

So when I came into rescue I’d never used a crate before, viewing them as borderline cruel. However, eventually—and through multiple foster dog situations—I was forced to change my mind and opinion when matters of safety and sanity reared their ugly heads.

georgelo

George, my other little houseguest. Yes, that underbite is just too cute…at least all the rescue ladies think so, cooing when I post his pic on my page.

Sam and George’s dad doesn’t crate them at home anymore, either. He’s had the boys with him for years, and both are well-trained to his house and know their daily schedule.

But I asked him to bring his crates with the dogs for the 12 days they’d be staying here. Because the truth is, when you combine new dogs with your own family dog(s) and/or cats or other companions, one never knows what can happen, and it’s much better to be safe than sorry. A crate is a useful tool that can and will keep everyone secure at bedtime or if you have to leave the home for work or errands.

The boys have now gotten used to my dog, and the three have started playing quite nicely together, but I still wouldn’t leave them alone without crating our visitors. Why? Because I’m not going to take the chance that I get up in the morning or come home from town to discover that play turned violent and someone’s been injured, or something was destroyed and eaten that could harm one of them. If I’m not here to directly supervise, the crates will be used.

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Khronos and Sam posing for their pic like good boys.

So I crated Sam and George for bed both nights so far (and probably will every night they’re here so I don’t lay awake worrying). Then today I wanted to go to town for a few hours, and I’m not gonna lie—this put me in a dilemma.

I felt hella guilty about crating them again after they’d spent eight hours in the crate overnight.

But I knew I had to. For my peace of mind and their safety.

So to assuage my guilt, I took all three dogs for a half mile walk on our property. Then I fed them. Then I took them for another half mile walk. Only then did I feel they’d had enough exercise to sleep in their crates while I was gone.

And when I came home a few hours later? I immediately took them for another half mile walk, fed them, and walked them again.

And guess what? I STILL felt guilty about leaving them in the crate for the time I was gone!

Which got me to thinkin’…

If I feel distressed about leaving two dogs in their crates at night and while I run out to do errands—when I know it’s for their safety AND only after making sure they get some good exercise—WHAT KIND OF MONSTER IS PSYCHOLOGICALLY CAPABLE OF LEAVING A DOG IN A CRATE FOR DAYS, EVEN YEARS, ON END?

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One of the crates outside the Olympic Animal Sanctuary. Note the hardened and crystalized urine encrusted on the top. Can you imagine the suffering?

Seriously, don’t you wonder that, too? Who can emotionally handle that kind of guilt?

Unless…unless you just don’t feel guilt.

Unless you don’t feel empathy for other beings, feel responsible for their welfare, feel any of the emotions that a normal human being should feel.

Because leaving a dog crated for years on end, forcing him to sleep in his own defecation and urination, refusing to walk the dog, allow him to stretch his legs, or provide daily food and water? That’s just the definition of heartless. And that’s exactly what Steve Markwell, founder of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, Washington, did to the dogs in his care. He went out into the world, misrepresented himself as the ultimate dog trainer, got rescues to send him their difficult dogs under the guise of rehabbing them, and then plopped them in crates as if they were nothing more than props, wandering back out to repeat the pattern.

And I just don’t understand HOW. HOW could anyone do that?

If you’re a dog rescue or foster home who’s working out of crates, think long and hard about the appropriate amount of time a dog can be crated without slipping into the realm of cruelty and neglect.

Dogs need daily walks, AND they need time to just BE DOGS. To wrestle around with other dogs or their humans. To play, to lounge, to loll, to eat, to drink. If you’re crating dogs longer than bedtime and while you’re at work or out running errands, it’s too long.

If dogs can’t have hours a day to be a (supervised when needed) part of the family, IT’S NOT ENOUGH.

I still believe dogs deserve as much freedom as humanly possible. I’ve grown to understand that this often includes the use of appropriate crating, living INSIDE the home with the family, playtime, and a walk daily or as often as possible.

No matter if you’re a home-based dog rescue or a family fostering or training a new dog, keep in mind that crates are tools, nothing more. The ultimate goal of crating is to achieve the point where your dog no longer needs the crate—but for those dogs who see their crate as a den, it can remain available in the home with the door open so they are free to go in and out as desired.

lostcoverlo-dropIn the case of the OAS dogs, many of them eventually earned their freedom from crating hell, thanks to those in the rescue community who did their parts and kept up the pressure on Markwell until the goal was achieved.

As Laura Koerber, the author of I Once Was Lost, But Now I’m Found: Daisy and the Olympic Animal Sanctuary Rescue states, “the OAS rescue was an epic narrative that extended over several years and featured small town politics, protests, assault, lawsuits, arrests, and a midnight escape, all played out to a nationwide audience.”

If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend the book; the story is nothing short of astounding. I think you, too, will be left with the same burning question I am: HOW?

HOW could anyone do that?

I just don’t know the answer.

Interested in the book? Here’s the links to read more or buy:

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Kindle | Buy from Createspace and $1 Will be Donated to our Charity of the Year

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Let’s Call it What it Is, Rescue Ladies and Hangers-On: Jealousy

I’ve always considered myself a woman’s woman, but after the horrible cruelty I experienced at the hands of women in the rescue world—lashing out through their keyboards because they’re too cowardly to say it to my face—I really had to pull back and rethink.

I’m still rethinking, as a matter of fact.

And what I think is that I’d never again get involved in active rescue (beyond my annual foster pledge). Which one could argue is a shame, but I like to believe that I did my time—I spent 13 years on the front lines and taking abuse from all sides—and now we have new blood to take center stage.

During those difficult years, I all-too-often believed my abusers; believed it was me. There must be something wrong about me, off about me, too abrasive about me, too ‘radical’ about me, and maybe they were right—maybe I was just a horrible person.

Yet now I see the same thing happening to two other lovely ladies who are standing tall and making change for the animals, and quite frankly, it’s making my blood boil, and I’m compelled to speak out on their behalves. (Although they both did a fine job standing up for themselves.)

When it’s not me in the hot seat, when I can see the machinations behind the bullying more clearly, I can see exactly what it is:

jealousy

Jealousy. Pure and simple.

When it’s happening to you, you don’t have the freedom to say people are jealous of you, even if you have the clarity of mind to figure it out. It just makes you look narcissistic, which will already be one of their accusations against you and only further fuels the rage they spew.

But now that I’m not on the chopping block, I can and will call out jealousy when I see it.

And I’m seeing it now.

Two women who I am friendly with and hold respect for in the rescue movement put out posts in the last two days talking about the abuse and vitriol that is currently being heaped upon their heads.

Why? Because they’ve stood up and taken action. And people are jealous of that. Let’s call it what it is, folks.

Jealousy, pure and simple.

denisebitzOne, Denise Bitz, is the founder and President of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue in Asheville, North Carolina. She used to be a rep in that area fighting for the chained dogs when I was with Dogs Deserve Better, so I got to know her through that work, finding her to be strong and ethical.

She’s done fabulous things since starting Brother Wolf, and the organization now, in addition to rescuing dogs and cats, has embraced veganism and right to life for ALL animals, proudly standing by that vision.

For this stance, she has been personally attacked, and even shamed for the way her body looks, for the fact that she’s not model-thin.

Last I checked, being a model was not a prerequisite for making a difference for the animals. Or most of us would not be here, now would we?

When I was being relentlessly attacked on social media, I was told over and over again to just ‘take the high ground. Continue on about my work. They would get bored and go somewhere else.’ But that’s not really true. There are some really sick human beings who become obsessed with destroying their targets, and these SOB’s continue despite you ignoring them.

If one has the money or the energy to take these sorts of people to court for defamation, you might spend many thousands of dollars and come away with little in the form of satisfaction or peace of mind.

How ugly your situation gets depends on the personality disorder of the person you’re dealing with. For those sidekick bullies, the ones just following the BIG BULLY, a strongly-worded letter from an attorney is usually enough to scare them off. But for the hard-core folks with major personality disorders—the leaders of the anti-YOU movement—not much scares them off once they sink their teeth into you.

Take the below, for example: this is from an expert analysis of a woman, a doctor, who harassed one of our reps (who also happened to be her patient) during my years with DDB. This doctor simply switched over to me (having never met me in person) once she was court-ordered to leave our rep alone. I’m sure she is still out there targeting someone today, because her analysis all but guarantees that fact:

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When you’re dealing with a psychosis of this magnitude, above, nothing short of a miracle and another poor SOB pissing them off more will sway them from targeting you.

Denise stood up to her abusers with grace and dignity, even showing compassion for them and not anger. I applaud and commend her, and hope that others will rally around her and her group in the face of others’ cruelty.

She writes: “The nasty comments, allegations, rumors, falsities that continue to be perpetuated by a VERY SMALL group of people in Asheville including the two mentioned above…I want to make sure that everyone is crystal clear here….their hate stems from a very simple place. From my personal stance on veganism and our organizational stance on veganism. The hate attacks, orchestrated attacks on Facebook, etc. all started at the same time we started promoting veganism. And you will see subtle hints of this from them—like Sue mentioned in the screen-shotted comment ‘Denise won’t eat the dog food because it’s not vegan.’

I know our veganism makes you uncomfortable. And for that, well, too bad. I am not going to apologize for being a kind, compassionate person, leading an organization that is a reflection of my values NOR am I going to apologize for having a beautiful Board Of Directors who not only embraces our core ethic of Uncompromised Compassion but lives it everyday. And if you don’t want to hear compelling stories about animals—all animals—from our organization and just want to hear about dogs and cats, then maybe it is time to move on. There are plenty of other “animal welfare” organizations out there that do not promote veganism as a moral baseline.

Our work for the dogs and cats will not only continue, but get stronger every year. But so will our work for the farm animals. And yes, when we tell you a story about a calf that we rescued from the veal industry and a pig who came from a factory farm that gives you the warm fuzzies, we are also going to ask you to give them the same consideration you give your dogs and cats. And please don’t eat them. Because they all want to live. There is no humane way to take another beings life. And you can live a healthier life by embracing this lifestyle of compassion. ‘I will not stay silent so that you can stay comfortable.'”

So well said, Denise!

reginaquinn.jpgAnother woman I consider a friend (but have never met in person), Regina Quinn, is going through similar harassment for taking a really strong stand for animals in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area. In fact, when I watched some of the videos she was making—and how much she was putting herself out there—I cringed, because I knew what was coming for her: online abuse by those who became jealous of her efforts and willingness to put herself on the line, and legal trouble because authorities can’t stand a woman doing their jobs for them. They find a need to put her in her place, to remove her from their territory.

Both of these things have since happened to Regina, and I’ve watched her struggle so greatly in the past few weeks.

My heart goes out to her, because I know what it feels like. I share her pain and heartbreak.

She wrote an amazing bit on Facebook I’d like to share in part with you: “I have much to say to the rescue community—some of it good, some bad. 
These past few months have been my greatest and my worst.

The greatest has been realizing my own potential, trusting in my faith and knowing anything is possible if you believe in yourself and let that higher power in to guide you. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished when you truly believe in your mission and purpose on this earth.

We are living in trying times, families against families over the presidential election, religion and values. 
We are as a rescue community working together to save lives each day and at the same time cutting each other’s throats in the name of self righteousness and ego.

The very justice system we claim to be just is crumbling before us and many of you are falling with it. 
Through the ages there have been people who have risen above the masses, took risks to make change, spoke out when their lives were at risk, took chances not from a self-driven need to be acknowledged but for humanity and justice for all.

I decided four years ago that I wanted to be a part of the change. 
My dedication and appreciation comes in the form of knowing I am being driven by a divine power that cannot be seen, only felt. 
How many of you have that inside you? 
I have lost fear in the light of following a purpose driven life. 
To me being a voice for animals is being a voice for you as well. 
No living creature deserves to be ridiculed, stereotyped, judged, abused, neglected, or used for profit.

I want to ask why anyone in the rescue community would go against, bash, discredit, defame a person willing to take a stand for their freedom? The judgment I have received from some of the rescuers here in VA is staggering.

We as humans kill what we fear, destroy what we don’t understand. Someone like me makes those type of people who are lacking in faith and confidence uncomfortable.

I am trying very hard to do what’s right yet people continue to get in the way, bringing false claims and hearsay to the table and pounding forks and knifes with a hunger to destroy my mission.

I am here to tell you that you will not succeed. 
The negative people, the corrupt systems to which we live in every day are the obstacles I will continue to overcome.

For those of you who say you stay out of “the drama”, it is your resistance to standing for what’s right that instead continues to fuel the drama.

For those who seek to destroy, I hope one day you will lose your fear and stop using others to make yourself appear a better person than you really are. Examine yourselves and find your own faults and stop pointing the fingers at those who are willing to make a difference in this world.

I appreciate being liked but its not the purpose of why I’m here. 
I’m here to force change. 
Either you’re with me or against me. 
Just realize every time you get in my way, you are preventing more progress for the animals I am here to help.”

Today, as one on the sidelines trying to cheer for those doing the work, I want to say “BRAVO! HEAR HEAR!” to these two women, and the many others out there who are going through hell at this very moment because you stood tall for the animals.

They cannot say it, but I can.

YOU BULLIES? YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS of their success.

When a woman stands tall in her beliefs and finds some success, suddenly she is attacked and becomes a target for others’ cruelty.

Every human being (at least all but the very highest of us) feels jealous of the success of others. It’s what we do about that jealousy that matters. When I feel jealous of someone else, I recognize they are succeeding in an area in which I’d like to succeed, and take stock of how much effort I’m willing to put into being a success there.

If I’m not willing to put in the effort that they do, then I have no one but myself to blame for not being as ‘famous’ or successful as these other woman. I know that I have no right to go after them online to make myself feel better. None whatsoever. Neither do these women. Denise and Regina pointing out their bad behavior is not playing the victim. They are standing up to their abusers.

I always considered myself a woman’s woman, but the way I’ve seen women treat each other in this movement is truly shameful, and I hang my head for those who seek to do harm to our sisters.

Jealous of what someone else is accomplishing for the animals? This is a clear sign for you to take action to improve your own life by doing more for the animals, too. When you do that, you’ll be so busy building something that matters that you’ll have no time or desire to do harm to other women.

And you’ll be ashamed that you ever did.

If you’re a woman who’s participated in these attacks, even orchestrated them, and have had a change of heart, I urge you to apologize to the one you hurt. It is so freeing, for you AND for her, and gives you good karma points to boot. God knows we could all use more of those.

Megan Leavey and Rex Won’t Fail in Their Mission to Touch Your Heart: Movie Review

(Photo, above, from official website: http://www.bleeckerstreetmedia.com/meganleavey)

Last night I was first in line with my hubby to see Megan Leavey, which is a movie about a young female Marine who trains a bomb-sniffing German Shepherd, Rex, and deploys with him to Camp Ramadi, Iraq as his handler.

Despite the fact that females aren’t supposed to be going on the more-dangerous missions, she soon finds herself and Rex out there anyway, and together they save hundreds of lives by searching for and detecting IEDs throughout two deployments…until an explosion almost takes them both out.

She has to fight many things, including bureaucracy, PTSD, and her own feelings of inadequacy to reunite with Rex—and it’s a fight so many will be able to get behind.

Of course the movie’s a tear-jerker, and I’m sure every shepherd lover will be remembering those they’ve loved and lost throughout the movie, adding to its emotional tug.

As a former chained-dog rescuer, I’m always floored when I see how much dogs are capable of: they serve our country, die for our freedom, and save thousands of lives.

Why do we as a nation still tolerate yahoos chaining them in our backyards. Why?

[Grumble. Grumble.]

Some of the lines in the movie that moved me or struck a chord follow:

  1. Rex is a Marine Corp dog. He’s not your dog or my dog.
  2. Everything you feel goes down leash. If you’re not confident, he’s not confident. I can’t teach you how to bond.
  3. They aren’t pets. They aren’t even dogs anymore. They’re warriors. They come back with all the same issues we do.
  4. I want you to be a person who shows up. So you failed. I failed. Keep failing until they’re tossing dirt on your corpse.
  5. As much as they’re our family, we’re theirs too.

Watching the movie gave me food for thought on where I stand in relation to dogs in the military. Having been in the Air Force, I have a military bone in my body, and I still believe in much of what our military does to protect us in time of need.

At the same time, I love animals, and I don’t want humans to bring them harm. The thought of an animal dying on our behalf hurts me greatly, as much as if not even more than we humans giving our lives in the line of duty.

Because we genuinely choose to be there.

But do they?

It’s a quandary. When I study the lines I jotted down from the movie, I can’t help but note the innate contradiction repeated throughout. Half of the time the powers that be talk about the need to bond with the dog—how we love them and they love us—but then they go off in the opposite direction, asserting that they are simply property of the military, just warriors like everyone else.

I had a very hard time making these polar opposite statements jibe with each other. And really, I guess, that’s the crux of the movie.

It’s a conflict between how we feel about dogs as living beings vs. the military hardline, which spares no room for bonding or feelings or any of that mushy stuff.

Unfortunately, humans are not wired that way, at least not the majority of us. In the end, if the military is to continue to use dogs in the line of duty, they need to—at a minimum—ensure a humane adoption by someone who loves them when they hit retirement age. It’s the least they can do for these heroes.

I highly recommend the movie Megan Leavey to all my animal-loving friends, and welcome your discussion points.

Here’s a link to a USA Today article about the movie. http://ux-origin.usatoday.com/story/life/nation-now/2017/06/07/megan-leavey-sgt-rex/377334001/

P.S. Speaking of shepherds and shooting, I was reminded of Ezekiel, a shepherd I had the honor of saving from certain death around Christmas of 2011. Whether you believe in God or not, I am convinced a higher power sent us to rescue him at the exact moment we did. I would later realize that the very man who shot him drove up while we were there hoping to finish him off.

The man ended up confessing to the shooting, and it would be the ONLY case during my years helping abused dogs where the abuser was found guilty…or even charged with a crime. I got to speak on the dog’s behalf during sentencing, and I felt the responsibility of truly being the dog’s voice. Below is a short video of Ezekiel’s story, if you’re interested.

Ezekiel got his happy ending, and went to live in the mountains of central PA with a very loving family. It’s my heartfelt hope that he is still living his happily ever after today.

A Fight for Human Rights IS a Fight for Animal Rights

cfd5The year was 2000, and I was searching for a mission, a way to make a difference before I left this planet. My love for animals pushed me to fight for chained dogs—the forgotten dogs, the dogs languishing in backyards with no one to speak on their behalf.

Even though I loved all animals, and shortly after forming Dogs Deserve Better became vegetarian (and now mostly vegan), I always carried a deep fascination for cows. Those faces! I just wanted to squish them and kiss them all over.

But a part of me always thought, “if I can’t get people to care about the dog suffering on the chain, how can I get them to care about the cows, pigs, or chickens laying on their plates?”

I never envied those who fight on the front lines for farmed animals—the difficulty of their mission made mine look like child’s play. 

But now, today, we have a fight that must engage every animal rights activist in the cause of human rights. This very moment in America we are facing a level of crisis unprecedented in my lifetime, a crisis that has given me and many of my fellow animal advocates serious pause in our daily lives, disrupted our work for the animals.

As people told me to calm down, as they advocated for “let’s wait and see”, “let’s give Trump a chance”, my heart, mind, and soul all knew there was no need to do any of that. It would be as bad as we thought—no, it would be much worse.

I grew up with a narcissistic father and I then married a narcissist; I know what happens when people like Trump come into your life.

EVERYTHING FRACTURES. Everything is destroyed.

We’re seeing it already in myriad ways that you don’t need me to elucidate for you. Here are takes on what we’re dealing with, and reading these articles can give you a good picture of what’s really been going on.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/a-clarifying-moment-in-american-history/514868/

http://www.newsweek.com/2016/02/12/right-wing-extremists-militants-bigger-threat-america-isis-jihadists-422743.html

View story at Medium.com

Without human rights there are no animal rights. If our fellow human beings—or we, ourselves—are terrified, enslaved, marginalized, ostracized, killed, or imprisoned for being different than “the all-powerful white man”, who is left to care about the harm that is being done to animals?

When we as humans are in survival mode, we have no room in our psyches to care about the animals we share our planet with.

When our fellow Americans lose rights to basic dignities like equality, safety, homes, we cannot expect them to stand with us to fight for the animals. We can’t expect them to donate, we can’t expect them to protest, we can’t expect them to give us even a part of their soul—they have nothing left to give.

Every fight for human rights is a fight for animal rights in the end.

Therefore, today I ask all my friends who fight for the animals to also stand and fight for our basic human rights as citizens of these United States. I know that many of you already are, and you have been inspiring me for months. I thank you.

Each and every American has the right to equality—whether we are white, black, brown, or tan in color, gay or straight, woman or man. We have the right to equal pay for equal jobs and to live without fear we will be dragged from our homes for speaking out. We demand the right to feel safe in our homes, our land.

We insist the U.S. maintain our democracy, that we don’t allow Trump to become the dictator he obviously believes he can be. We must resist.

As much as we want to devote all our time to the animals, we must now divert at least a portion of that time to standing for our fellow human beings, no matter their race, color, creed, sexual orientation, or country of origin.

I signed up for this daily action, below, but there are myriad ways to get involved. I pledge to do more to fight for our democracy, and I hope you will too.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/a-capitol-hill-mom-directs-thousands-of-anti-trump-activists-by-sending-texts-from-her-living-room/2017/01/27/cf0538f2-e447-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html?postshare=9261485646755900&tid=ss_fb&utm_term=.9e8c96062dd6#comments

A fight for human rights IS a fight for animal rights.

God help us all.

chooseempathycowlo

Our Dogs Were Shot Yesterday, But You Want Us to SHUT UP About It Today

In the aftermath of the election and for those of us who are in genuine fear of a Trump presidency, the people who are pissing me off the worst in Facebookland are the ones who just want those of us who are grieving—and daring to express it on Facebook—to STFU about it already.

So I’m going to put this in a way that maybe my dog-loving friends can actually understand, since some of them seem to be lacking the gene that allows us to grieve for anything but animals.

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Yesterday our dogs were shot, and now they are all dead. By a neighbor who we always knew hated us, and we had already feared, but officials would do nothing to stop him from stalking our dogs. So he took out his power, and he shot them, dead. They are gone. Never to be there for us again.

There’s nothing we can do about it.

We’re deeply, deeply saddened by the loss of our dogs. Our dogs meant many things to us, but mainly our dogs symbolized equality. The ability to love who you want without fear of retribution, at least not in our neighborhood. The ability to live in a community where skin color didn’t matter. Where you wouldn’t be thrown out simply for being born who you were.

Because our dogs loved everyone equally. After all, that’s one of the best things about dogs, isn’t it? They love everyone.

We’re hurt, we’re angry, and we feel betrayed. But above it all, we are afraid. Afraid of a world where it’s ok to shoot our dogs at any time, and have no consequences for it. Hell, it’s even celebrated.

That’s a world we don’t want to live in, but we are trapped here too. A world where fear rules, where power and might take over, and the little guys—and their dogs—are shot.

If we were truly grieving the loss of our dogs by a violent and angry man, would you give us more than a day to grieve? To express our fears, our anger, our betrayal, and our pain?

Our suffering?

Or would you tell us to STFU if our grief were about dogs too?

No, you wouldn’t. Telling us to sit down and shut up as we make sometimes pitiful attempts to express our true pain and fear is just expanding the abuse. You are taking away our right to feel, our right to express our feelings, and our rights to have our friends support us in those very real feelings.

If you want to remain our friends, but don’t like to see our pain, then unfollow us.

But telling us to sweep our pain under the rug instead of allowing us to grieve? That is not something any genuine friend would do.

The End of Magical Thinking: America, Welcome to Your Four-Year Abusive Relationship with a Narcissist

donald-trump

I am still as much in shock about last night’s election as anyone else who believed in the power of love to conquer hate, the power of a pantsuit nation of beautiful women (and men) to stand tall and together and to put a dent in the wall of misogyny this country has built around us.

I have yet to wrap my head around what it means for me as a white woman and an activist, for the future of my daughter, the animals, the gay and transgender community, and our nation’s minorities and refugees. My emotions have swung wildly from “we’re all gonna die” to “maybe it won’t be that bad.”

I’ve read so many amazing blogs and articles already today on what this means for us, and found that these also fluctuate from “now they’ll see what they’ve done” to “maybe it REALLY won’t be that bad.”

I had to cut myself off right quick from the magical thinking of hoping that somehow Donald Trump will change for the better, though, and I hope you do too, so you can emotionally survive the next four years. Sometimes the bitter pill needs to be swallowed so you can man or woman up and deal with the reality in front of you.

Here’s why: if you know ANYTHING about narcissists and narcissistic personality disorder, you too will acknowledge that they don’t change; they don’t do better; and it WILL be that bad. That I can promise you.

I don’t claim to be a psychiatrist, nor do I play one on TV. Sometimes, yes, over a few glasses of wine I can all too eagerly get into amateur hour, but my services don’t generally seem to be appreciated by the masses. As with any of the information or misinformation you find floating about the web, you can take my words with a grain of salt and go back to your unicorns in the sky if that will make you feel better.

I just don’t recommend it.

I’ve co-habitated with three narcissists in my 52 years of life—yet never, before ten years ago, did I understand what the term ‘narcissist’ actually meant and why I needed to steer clear of these folks for the rest of whatever remains of my days on this cheery planet.

That lack of knowledge would prove repeatedly to be to my detriment, and—understanding that now—I feel compelled to warn the half of the country who DIDN’T sign up willingly for four years of Trumpdom to buckle up: it’s gonna be an ugly ride, and I don’t know who all will make it off at the end. Forewarned is forearmed and all that happy horseshit.

The first narcissist I was blessed to share a household with was my father (more about him in this blog), and I spent almost 45 years trying to be the daughter he could be proud of and maybe even love. It took many, many long years to finally get it through my thick skull there would NEVER be a time that came true. I finally learned to love myself enough to release him from my life.

I lived with the second narcissist just briefly before coming to my senses, but the biggest thing I learned about narcissists from him is that they can charm every stranger they meet, yet what happens behind closed doors is rarely so nice.

The third narcissist I married, because I still didn’t really understand narcissism and why I continued to gravitate toward this kind of man. I lived through years of misery trying to ‘make it work’, and when I finally asked for a divorce, he immediately tried to ‘steal’ our child by picking her up and literally walking out the door with her. Through my struggle to keep him from taking my baby away, I ended up getting a protection from abuse order against him; this order gave me custody of my daughter and, coincidentally, ALL the power.

That’s when things changed. He realized he had lost that round, but the war was still up for grabs. So he did what narcissists do when the stakes in the game have changed but they aren’t done yet; he turned nice. He cried and begged and pleaded with me that he only wanted his half of our daughter’s time.

Of course I gave it to him, against the advice of my lawyer. Because to my mind, that was only fair. He then plotted and schemed for 8 years until she was old enough for him to try it again, at which point he won the war.

Why? Because I was naive. Because I didn’t know what was happening to me. Because I didn’t know what a narcissist was. And because I didn’t know that there IS NO WINNING with a narcissist.

There is only getting out alive.

Once I understood what had happened to me, once I read enough about parental alienation and narcissistic personality disorder to learn what I never knew, I was horrified. I was horrified that there are people who are so damaged or evil or devoid of the ability to love and to be honest with those who try to love them that they will deliberately destroy them.

For revenge. Or for fun. Or just because. But mostly to WIN.

I made a promise and a vow to myself that I would NEVER EVER be caught in an abusive relationship with a narcissist again.

And I’ve kept that promise.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, against my will, I entered into a fourth abusive relationship with a narcissist.

That man is Donald Trump. And, with the exception of death or fleeing the country, I will not be able to escape this relationship; neither will you.

If you magically think “It will be ok. He’s not really as bad as he seems. He won’t really treat our people that way, right?” I ask you to spend some time googling narcissism until you too understand what we’re up against. It’s not pretty.

When you don’t understand what’s happening, you become a very real target for the abuse. Half of the country signed us up for this, and the other half of us are stuck in an abusive relationship with Trump and those who follow in his footsteps for the foreseeable future.

I’m done crying (for today), I’m done gnashing my teeth (for today), but I’m not done mourning my fate and the fate of all those who didn’t sign up for this hell. That will take me awhile.

My eyes are open. And I can only hope and pray yours are too.

I’m sorry. For all of us who cared enough to hope. It was indeed audacious of us.

Here are a few of my favorite reads so far. Enjoy, and treat yourself with kindness. It’s all we can do today.

“Hillary supporters believe in a diverse America; one where religion or skin color or sexual orientation or place of birth aren’t liabilities or deficiencies or moral defects. Her campaign was one of inclusion and connection and interdependency. It was about building bridges and breaking ceilings. It was about going high.” Read more at: http://johnpavlovitz.com/2016/11/09/heres-why-we-grieve-today/

“I don’t know if Hillary is going to win on Tuesday or even if she does, what kind of continuing nonsense she’ll have to overcome from Trump and his followers.

“I just know that when I marked that circle and put my ballot in the machine, there was a sense that there was and is no going back. Hillary may not win, but we as women will win. Maybe not this election, but because of this election, there’s no going back — no putting this genie back in the bottle.” Read more at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/schmich/ct-hillary-clinton-schmich-met-1110-20161109-column.html

“The Trumpers never expected their guy to actually win the thing, and that’s their problem now. They wanted only to whoop and yell, boo at the H-word, wear profane T-shirts, maybe grab a crotch or two, jump in the RV with a couple six-packs and go out and shoot some spotted owls. It was pleasure enough for them just to know that they were driving us wild with dismay — by “us,” I mean librarians, children’s authors, yoga practitioners, Unitarians, bird-watchers, people who make their own pasta, opera goers, the grammar police, people who keep books on their shelves, that bunch. The Trumpers exulted in knowing we were tearing our hair out. They had our number, like a bratty kid who knows exactly how to make you grit your teeth and froth at the mouth.” Read more at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-voters-will-not-like-what-happens-next/2016/11/09/e346ffc2-a67f-11e6-8fc0-7be8f848c492_story.html

I Don’t Feel Safe: The Answer to Why I Post so Much Anti-Trump Stuff.

catyouth

Animals were always my safe place.

A Facebook friend recently posted a tirade against all those non-stop political posting-types.

That would be me.

I get where she’s coming from; I even envy her because she doesn’t share in the same Trump-riddled anxiety that I do.

But what she—and many others—don’t understand is that for those of us who’ve survived physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, our wounds are re-opened with each insult, each putdown of women, each targeting of social groups to which we may or may not belong.

We fear for ourselves and all those who wear today’s targets.

I can’t go there again.

As an abuse-survivor, a hyper-awareness takes root when I perceive that I am being threatened with the same situation I’ve survived in the past. According to Mary Beth Williams, co-author of The PTSD Workbook, Those with PTSD or other trauma “experience intense psychological distress or bodily reactions when exposed to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event or events; these are called triggers.”

I don’t feel safe.

My childhood was spent in an emotionally and physically unsafe environment. My father was a very angry man, and I ran from the dinner table in tears most nights.

There was no safe zone, no “How was your day, let’s discuss our highlights over dinner” talk in my family.

There was only “Who will be today’s target for Dad’s wrath.”

I often drew the lucky straw.

I would huddle in the hay mow with my cat Streaker after school, hyper-alert and peering through the holes in the barn so I could see him coming up our 1/2 mile long lane. I needed some warning as to when my tiny bubble of safety would be destroyed.

My stomach hurt when I saw that red truck.

Then he killed Streaker, and all our other cats but one.

She was all I had.

catsdog

Two cats and our dog Gally huddled for warmth by the house chimney.

Our animals were not allowed inside the house. We had a chained beagle, Maggie, who lived a sad and pitiful life, and never went or trained for hunting—although that was her purported mission in life.

Our other dog, a black lab named Gally, was free to roam the farm (and often the neighbors), but was not allowed inside.

I pitied our animals even then.

I often brought the cats and Gally inside the home when my parents were away from the house. The animals, understandably, liked it and wanted more.

Little did I know that my love and caring for them would lead to their deaths.

They all (with the exception of poor chained Maggie) began sitting at the front door, waiting and hoping for their chance to get back in. They snuck inside at every opportunity.

This annoyed my mother, who was prone to griping about them being in her way.

My father solved the problem.

He killed them all, with the exception of one cat and Gally.

I never saw Streaker again.

Did I mention that I loved her?

I mourned the cats intensely, felt I was to blame because I’d made them want to come inside, and hated my father for what he did to them, to us. I didn’t speak to him for two months.

This was just a stepping stone to what we would end up going through at the hands of my father.

The abuse in our family escalated from verbal to physical until when I was 16 my father overpowered my mother and was strangling her on the kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator.

My brother, then 14, ran upstairs, got a shotgun, and held it on my father, screaming at him to stop.

My father seized the gun from my brother and checked to see if it was loaded, popping the shell out in the process. I grabbed the shell off the floor and clutched it for dear life, so afraid he would get it from me and shoot one of us with it.

My mother took that chance to run out into the snow to escape my father, but he chased her down and dragged her back inside by the hair.

We then sat in the living room, the four of us, while my father calmly discussed whether he should just kill us all now, because his life was over.

My mother talked him down, and that night I slept in a sleeping bag in the hallway, hoping if he tried to kill her again I could help her before it was too late.

My father never went to jail, because we never reported him to the police.

It took me four months to persuade my mother to leave, during which time the abuse continued unabated. He smashed a ketchup bottle against the edge of the kitchen table, and when it shattered a piece of glass flew into my mother’s eye. When I tried to drive her to the hospital, he wouldn’t allow it, telling me I’d better have the mess cleaned up when they returned home.

He then swerved off the road with her in the car, saying he should just kill them both.

He threatened to kill me because I was laying out for the prom instead of cooking him dinner, telling my mother “I got a new gun, and she’s the first one I’m going to use it on.”

My mother and I fled to Canada one morning after he left for work, calling his parents after we were safely away and asking them to go to the home to take all the guns out and get my brother from school. My brother had refused to leave with us, wanting the family to stay intact.

I have ZERO DOUBT in my mind that if we hadn’t left the ever-worsening situation when we did, we would all be dead now.

My father went into a mental hospital for two weeks, but none of the rest of us received counseling for the multiple traumas we suffered at his hands. The words PTSD meant nothing then, and we bravely soldiered on like we were just a normal late-70’s family. I thought we were.

But we humans don’t get off that easy.

I dated abusive men and married a narcissist before I finally got a handle on what had happened to me in my life.

It took me until my late 30’s to really understand that I grew up in an abusive home, and that I was continuing to allow the same harmful personality types into my life in an attempt to somehow force a better outcome. That wasn’t happening.

I went public with my father’s abuse once before, in 2007, and he got even with me by testifying against me at a child custody hearing for my daughter, telling the judge I was a bad mother. Yet he saw my daughter so rarely that she didn’t even recognize him when I showed her a picture…how could he possibly know what kind of mother I was?

That’s what happens when you tell the truth about abusers. They get even with you by telling lies to destroy you.

Sound like Trump?

Today my daughter lives with me. I put my father out of my life once and for all when I finally realized (after almost 30 years of hoping and trying for more) there would be no “I’m truly sorry for all the hurt I caused you.”

There would be no “I was a bad father, how can I make it up to you?”

There would never be a “I really screwed up. Let me fix it, please.”

None of that would ever happen. I faced my reality.

My father is a preacher to this day in the Altoona, PA area. He once wanted to write a book called “Just Close the Door,” about shutting out all that happened in your life before and starting over.

That would be mighty convenient, wouldn’t it? For him, at least.

But for the abused, it’s never that easy. Many of us have spent years in therapy, thousands for self-help books, pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps time and time again, and finally learned to love and accept ourselves. We’ve worked so hard to get past our childhood traumas, only to be faced with a new and yet all-too-familiar threat that we can’t just walk away from.

Donald Trump.

I wonder how my father will get even with me for telling the truth this time?

If you think for one minute the women who have come forward against Trump have done so to get ‘fame’ you would be insane. They came forward because they finally realized they weren’t alone in their sexual abuse. It felt just safe enough and they felt just brave enough to finally publicly admit “He abused me too.”

I never went public with my family’s abuse for 27 years because I was afraid and ashamed. My father sought revenge against me for doing so at his earliest opportunity…what do you think will happen to these women?

They will continue to be traumatized by Trump and his supporters for having the courage to talk about what this man did to them—what he himself brags about doing yet now unbelievably denies!

I see so many similarities between Trump and my father. They share a narcissistic and  incessant need to talk only about themselves, a complete lack of remorse for wrongs done to others, and a treatment of those they see as beneath them that is simply egregious…all while playing the victim and lying through their teeth to get even with anyone who tells the truth about them.

And THAT’s why I can’t stop sharing Anti-Trump posts. Because now that I can finally spot an abuser from a mile away, I don’t want them—him—TRUMP in my life in any way, shape, or form.

I know how narcissistic abusers destroy families.

And now we’re seeing firsthand how they destroy countries.

I can’t allow that kind of person in my life again, to destroy my family again.

Trump—and his supporters—make me feel unsafe.

I finally have a measure of safety in my life. I love my husband, and even if we didn’t make it one more day as a married couple, I couldn’t regret marrying him.

He made me feel like I wasn’t a complete piece of garbage after all.

Joe’s given me more love in seven years than I received in the 45 years before he came into my life.

I can come home and know that I will not be called names, not be screamed at, not be physically or emotionally abused.

I can provide a safe environment for my daughter, who has her own trauma to deal with. She, too, feels incredibly anxious about a Trump presidency.

I don’t want a man like him to have power over my family again. The thought of Trump coming into my home daily through my television or computer screen, through discriminatory policies he makes up as he seizes power, or through hearing him belittle and demean women or other members of our society, causes me intense anxiety.

I feel like I’m back at my father’s dinner table.

I’m afraid if I stop watching to be SURE he won’t become president, something bad will happen, and my worst nightmare will come true.

My subconscious tells me I must be on high alert.

I had a dream that Trump was beating on a young man of darker skin. I tried so hard to protect the young man, but realized that I couldn’t fight and passed out.

I awoke feeling helpless and hopeless.

A few nights later I dreamed that I was leading a social movement and I was walking around organizing an event. There was a male photographer there. Someone asked me how I knew him and I said I didn’t. They said “He was talking about you. He said you’re cute but you’re kinda overweight.”

Then he looked at me and told me to come get my picture taken. I was in sweat pants and everyone was looking at me. He said “It’s ok, you’re a little overweight and you’re dressed badly, but let’s take a picture anyway.”

I walked away in shame.

Then I came back and I said “Let me tell you this. Don’t EVER shame me again or tell me I’m overweight. It’s unacceptable—you wouldn’t do it to a man, and I won’t allow you to do it to me.”

I said it loudly and proudly and in front of everyone.

As I turned to walk away, Hillary Clinton was standing there smiling and giving me a hands-up wave as if to say “You go, girl.”

That, for me, is the power of a woman who stands up to the abuse that would have knocked most of us down years ago.

I can admit that it would have destroyed me.

Hillary Clinton gives me hope.

Thank you, Hillary, for standing up to so much abuse on behalf of all women in America. I, for one, am grateful.