Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Dog Who Wouldn't Quit (The Conclusion)

     In January of ’09, while we were making the decision whether or not Charlie should have the surgery, my 95-year-old Baba (grandmother), was debating whether to undergo laser eye surgery. While we were at lunch one day in the Forest Hill Village, she told me how her friends, who were mostly younger than her by a decade, were making such a “stink” about her upcoming surgery. They were saying things like, “Tillie you’re 95, haven’t you SEEN enough?” My Baba, who could easily pass for 75, and was in better physical shape than most people I know, explained to them that she didn’t feel the need to sit around losing her eyesight, when modern day technology could fix it. She was still driving, going to movies, and reading books. These were all things that you needed your sight for.

“If I were you, I wouldn’t even think twice about it,” I told her.

Even though the surgery was risky due to my Baba’s age, the rest of my family agreed that she should have it done. My Baba ended up having the surgery and it went perfectly. She had recovered by the next day, and went to see a movie, a few days later.
     About a week later when I was on the phone with my friend from “The Centre,” stressing about Charlie and still unable to decide if he should have his surgery, my friend turned my attention back to my Baba.

 “I don’t mean to point out the obvious,” he said, “however, you guys are all freaking out about Charlie going under anesthetic, yet you were so gung ho on your 95-year-old grandmother going under.” I laughed. My God, this guy was good. He continued,
“It’s true. You have been driving yourself nuts over this, worrying that he won’t pull through, but you didn’t even give it a second thought when you’re Baba asked you your opinion.”

I presented that argument to my parents, and the next day the appointment for Charlie was made.
“Charlie seriously owes me one,” my friend at “The Centre” said, when I told him we were going ahead with the surgery. “I saved his life.”
My mother and I took Charlie back to Oakville to have his surgery, and once again when the technician came out to get him, I cried handing him over. We had been told that if Charlie made it through the surgery, his recovery would be slow. Since he was an older dog, it would take longer, but we should see improvement within a few weeks. The vet called later to say that the surgery had gone well and Charlie was recovering in ICU. He would need to stay in the hospital for at least three or four days, so that they could monitor him closely. Relieved that Charlie had made it through, I went about my day with a little more ease. The next morning my mother received another phone call from the vet, telling her that she could come pick up Charlie. He was ready to go home.

“What??? What do you mean he’s ready?” I asked my mother, when she called to say she was on her way to get him. It hadn’t even been 24 hours yet. Wasn’t he groggy and weak like they said he would be?
My mother said they had told her Charlie was doing great and clearly did not want to be in the cage anymore. He wanted to go home. They also asked what in the world she feeds him that he has so much strength? She listed off his food, but I knew it was the wheatgrass. If I knew 16 years ago what I know now, I probably would have named him Popeye.
A couple hours later, Charlie walked into my parent’s house, or should I say ran into my parent’s house. In a million years you would never have guessed that he was the same dog that I had carried out 24 hours earlier.
“They said that he needs to be kept quiet,” my mother said, as Charlie chased Molly, my youngest Lhasa, down the hall. It was unbelievable, like magic.
     It’s now been almost a year since Charlie had surgery. Unfortunately, over the summer he developed arthritis in his back legs, and his movement has been deteriorating ever since. People say that a dog will somehow let you know when he’s ready to give up, or when it’s time. A month ago, after feeling totally exhausted from being up with him all night, for three nights in a row, I looked Charlie in his eyes to see if I could find that answer. Was it time for both of us to give up?  However, that night he happened to sleep through it, and by morning was back to his lively, happy, self.

“It’s almost like he can sense that you’re about to pull the plug on him, so he tricks you into thinking he’s fine,” my friend at “The Centre” said.

     It was true, every time I thought the Charlie-party was ending, he would make a bigger comeback than Britney Spears. It was at that point, that I decided that I would know when Charlie was ready to go. It would be if he stopped eating, stopped wagging his tail, and no longer showed interest in Molly and Lucy. So far that has not happened. His vet, Dr. Krebs from the Willowdale Animal Hospital, said that Charlie wasn’t sleeping well because older dogs get confused and disoriented at night. She gave me a low dose of Valium to give him half an hour before he goes to sleep. I kid you not, when I say that the friggen pill had no effect on him, whatsoever. He must be the only creature on earth that is immune to Valium!
Next, we tried a combination of a natural pill called “Herbal Calm” and drops of “Rescue Remedy,” that the naturopath vet gave him. Thankfully they worked because I was just about to start back on "Happy Town," a television series, and needed to sleep.
     As well as getting him on a good sleep pattern, we also needed to try and get him to start walking better. According to Dr. Miller at the VEC, who you will later hear more about in regards to Lucy, Charlie was a good candidate for physiotherapy. He referred Charlie next door at the ARC Rehabilitation Services. My dog was going to get to go to physio, while I can barely afford an effing massage. Within no time, they had Charlie walking on the treadmill, in water. Currently he’s had three sessions and each time I’m amazed not only at his progress, but how much he enjoys the session. It’s like watching a puppy playing. Last time I was there, his physiotherapist, Delita, told me how amazed she is by Charlie’s improvement. She said that his willingness to fight is a very a special quality. She thinks there's hope that he will keep showing improvement.

    I am completely aware of how fortunate I have been to have this extraordinary spirit in my life for the past 16 years. Sometimes I believe that Charlie toughed it out this year because he knew how much I needed him to stick around for me. Although 2009 has taken a huge toll on my own spirit, through Charlie I have found the strength to never give up. You see, it doesn't really matter where your inspiration comes from, as long as you have the courage to find it. Every time I look at Charlie or hug him, I know that I have to keep letting him fight the fight because he loves his life and is not ready to quit. I’m realistic that he won’t last too much longer, but in the end at least I will know that I did the best I could to keep his magic alive. I know Joanne would have been proud.
Love and Silver Linings

Andrea Dana

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Dog Who Wouldn't Quit (Part Two)

         There were two things that Joanne, the breeder, had made clear when I adopted Charlie. First, that she would always take her dogs back if it didn’t work out and second, that she actually preferred if we would board Charlie with her when we were out of town. She liked to still be involved in her dogs' lives when possible. Joanne admitted to often having a hard time parting with the litters, hence why she always ended up keeping one or two from each one. This usually meant she had at least 12-15 dogs in her home at any given time. Her motto, there’s always room for one more, really held true.
      I liked knowing how well my dogs would be taken care of, so every time I went away, I would schlep up to Port Perry to leave Charlie, and eventually Lucy, at the LhasaPosa farm. It was well worth the drive to “Acton,” or so to speak.
     When we would go back to pick Charlie and Lucy up, Joanne would always tell us tales of the shenanigans the dogs had gotten into while we were away. One incident that happened to blow her mind and always sticks in mine, was when one day about seven of the dogs, including Charlie and Lucy, took off towards a big Church, down the road from the kennel. Joanne and her husband, John, went after them and when they finally reached the church, they realized there was a funeral going on right behind the building. Joanne felt terrible as she searched around the grounds looking for all the Lhasas. One of her neighbors happened to spot her and pointed her attention towards the front. Joanne looked and saw all of the dogs sitting quietly by the coffin. She was in such shock over how they had settled there, watching the procession, as if they had been invited guests. She told me how embarassed she had felt about the dogs interrupting the funeral, but afterwards, while John and her were gathering up all the dogs, one of the family members of the deceased came up to them to say thank you. She thought the doggy tribute to her father had been magical. Joanne smiled at her and said her life was filled with surprises, daily.

     We left Charlie and Lucy with Joanne and John for about five or six years, and then one day my mother called to make a plan to take them out there for Christmas break, and received the terrible news that Joanne had had a heart attack and passed away a few months earlier. John and their daughter were still running the business, but they were no longer able to board the dogs. Even as I write this, I have a lump in my throat thinking of the sadness I felt upon hearing of Joanne’s untimely death. She was such a special woman, who brought so much joy into peoples’ lives with the gift of her magical dogs.
    So after that, we started boarding them with another wonderful woman named Bambi, who, at the time, was living over at York Mills and Leslie, in Toronto. Bambi was definitely a silver lining for us after Joanne’s death. She had such a passion for all animals, and her life was devoted to taking care of them.
    About two years ago, when I went to pick my dogs up at Bambi’s house after Christmas break, she mentioned that Charlie seemed to be having trouble getting up the stairs. She thought his back was bothering him. After having tests done on him at the vet, he was diagnosed as having a herniated disc in his neck, which is a common ailment in an aging Lhasa Apso. The vet told me that this was something that was fixable by surgery, and that we should consider having it done if his situation started to worsen.
    As the winter of 2008 grew colder, Charlie began having more difficulty walking, and I could tell he was in pain. One morning in early April, I woke up and not only could Charlie not walk, but he couldn’t even stand. It was as if overnight he had become paralyzed. We rushed him to the emergency vet in Oakville, where his specialist was, and as I handed him over to the technician. I was teary eyed, believing that it might be the last time I ever saw him again. Two hours later, the vet walked out with Charlie on a leash. He was walking perfectly. They had put an opium patch on his stomach for the pain and given him something through an IV. Here he was, totally happy and totally wasted. At that point, I could have used one of those opium patches for myself.
 “He’s a remarkable dog,” the vet said.  If that wasn’t foreshadowing what was to come, I don’t know what was.
     We decided to book the appointment for Charlie’s neck surgery. Although it was risky, due to his age and the uncertainty that the anesthetic would have on him, there was no other choice. I wanted him to be able live the rest of his life comfortably. A few weeks later, my mother took Charlie back to Oakville for his surgery. Within an hour and a half, she was home with Charlie and crying. In pre-surgery, they had discovered a large mass on Charlie’s liver. They believed it was cancer. I was devastated. At a follow up appointment for Charlie, a few days later, the vet explained that although they could not be 100% certain if it was malignant or not, they needed to treat it like it was. The only way to know for sure would be to do a biopsy on it, however, if it was cancer, it would most likely bleed out instantly from the needle and Charlie would die. That had recently happened to the vet’s own dog. She also warned us that because of the aggressiveness of liver cancer in dogs, Charlie probably only had another six weeks to live. She said most likely he would bleed internally and die one day, without pain. Can you even imagine the anxiety I had every time I had to leave the house and think that I’d be coming home to find my dog dead? It was not a pleasant feeling.
     One of the many things Bambi had taught me a few years ago, was the health benefits that wheatgrass has on animals. She had told me that there was a man who had come up with his own blend of it, and used it to cure cancer in his wife. I immediately started ordering the blend for my dogs as a preventative. The main reason I did not believe Charlie actually had cancer was because of the many years I had been feeding him wheatgrass. Even after this dismal trip to the vet, I still believed in the wheatgrass, and upped the dosage for him. We also started taking Charlie to Rona, the naturopath vet at Secord Animal Hospital. She gave him all sorts of natural healing medicines to strengthen his liver.

     Charlie’s six week death sentence came and went, and he was still here. Then those six weeks turned into six months and when we returned to Oakville to have the mass rechecked, it had nearly vanished. The veterinarian was shocked. How was this possible? How could such a little, old dog fight off cancer? She highly recommended that we proceed with the neck surgery.  By this time, Charlie was in his fifteenth year and as you can imagine, there is a huge risk in putting a dog of his age under anesthetic. There were a lot of stressful decisions that needed to be made in those early days of 2009. I can only imagine what people were saying behind my back that never owned a pet, or don't believe in the fight. In my next posting you will learn about how my friend at “The Centre,” put it all into perspective for me, helping me make that decision, and the final outcome of Charlie’s situation. Until then...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Dog Who Wouldn't Quit (Part One)

“My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.” 
              ------Author Unknown

        Recently, a friend told me that when she dies she wants to come back to this world as MY dog. Even though I’ve heard it a handful of times throughout my life, I still laughed. It’s true; my dogs receive better care than David Letterman’s assistants. I have never understood people that don’t like dogs. In fact when someone walks into a room and doesn’t get excited about a dog, I look closely at them to make sure they are not a cat.
     I got my first dog when I was six years old. Her name was Candy, and we named her that because she was as long as a piece of licorice. She reached her fourteenth birthday, before we had to put her down. She was too sick, had lost that glimmer in her eyes, and her will to live. Up to that point, I had never experienced a bigger tragedy. It was like losing a sibling, a child, and a best friend all at once. After that painful experience, I swore I would never get another one again. I didn’t have the strength to buy another tragedy. Their biggest fault, these darned creatures called dogs, is that they just don’t live long enough. The loneliness that I encountered in those first few months after Candy died was sadder than Mike Myers dying career. If you are a dog owner then you can understand how empty life can feel without one, no matter how fulfilled you are in other ways. In those months, I started stopping by pet stores and looking at puppies in the window. Sometimes I’d cry, but sometimes I’d ask to hold one, just to see if it felt right. It never did. I knew it was too soon.
     The first time I saw a Lhasa Apso was that following summer up at Camp Winnebago in Huntsville, Ontario. It was Visitor’s Day and one of my camper’s parents brought their new puppy up to show her. It was the first time since Candy died that I went absolutely bonkers over a dog. What was that? An Ewok? Gizmo, from the Gremlins? It was the cutest thing I’d ever seen in my life. As I lay on the grass playing with it, I looked up and asked my camper’s mother the number one question that I had: What was the breed’s lifespan? She told me they lived to be between 15 and 18 years old, but the breeder had told her of many instances where they lived even longer. I knew my next dog was going to be a Lhasa Apso.
     I went home and researched Lhasa Apsos in books at the library. (What was the Internet back then?) I learned that they were originally watchdogs from Tibet. They were bred in the Buddhist monasteries, and used to alert the monks to any intruders who entered. They were  guarding the doors. So to tie this in with my last few blogs, basically Lhasa Apsos were just another way of saying “bouncers.” Perfect! I found a few different breeders in the classified section of The Toronto Star and called them. The one that drew me in, was a breeder out in Port Perry called “Lhasaposa.” The breeder’s name was Joanne, and after she consoled me for half an hour about my childhood dog dying, she told me to hurry up and come see her, so I could choose a puppy. She said after seeing her dogs, I would be instantly cheered up.
    My parents came with me out to Port Perry and, upon arriving there, about fifteen Lhasa Apsos and a huge English Mastiff greeted us. The personalities these dogs had were amazing. It was as if they were little clowns. None of them looked exactly the same and their behavior was so comical that I couldn’t stop laughing. Choosing a puppy is almost like choosing a mate. In order for it to work there has to be something that instantly clicks.  Let me tell you, as you will learn in future posts, I really have this dog choosing thing down to a tee…the mates? Mmm…not so much!
    I chose Charlie because, when I sat down with the litter of newborns, he was the one that puttered over to me, dropped face first in my hand, and fell asleep. Instant love.
     “Well that was easy,” I said. At the time Charlie was this salt and pepper color with dark black eyes. However, when I returned to pick him up a few weeks later, he had turned a chocolate brown with white paws and had these mesmerizing, bright emerald green eyes.
     “I don’t think this is Charlie,” I said to Joanne. She laughed and said that Lhasa Apsos change colors often, and he may turn many shades throughout his life. It’s part of what makes them so unique. She also told me that this dog was different from ones she had seen recently. His eyes were a very rare color and only once in a while did she see eyes in one of her pups that were so human like. It was almost as if you could see his soul through them.
     “This dog is going to be a fighter, you’ll see,” Joanne said.
     Over the past two years, no words have ever rang truer for me than those. Charlie is now almost sixteen years old, and tomorrow you will read about a story of strength and a will to live that I have never seen. This past year the amount of dog nar that I have had, has been out of control. My friends and family will attest to that. I will start with the story of Charlie, who a year and a half ago was given a medical prognosis of six weeks to live. Later on, as I continue to document my hellish year through my writing, you will also learn about the miracle of my other two Lhasa Apsos, Lucy and Molly. For now sit tight, and never let a day go by without appreciating the unconditional love of dogs, as they could be role models to all of us.
See you tomorrow
Love and Silver Linings
Andrea Dana

Monday, December 14, 2009

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night....(The Conclusion)

      During those wee hours of the morning, I lay in bed unable to sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about that damn pill that I gave away at the party. My friend, who was probably sound asleep in her bed and anxiety free, was going to owe me big time. Finally, after puking twice, I managed to fall asleep with all three of my dogs lying in my bed. By morning the snow had stopped. I was up at 8:30, but I couldn’t even go out to get a friggen coffee from Starbucks since my car was still at my friend’s condo, downtown. As soon as the clock hit 10:00, I called my friend at “The Centre.” Seeing that it was my number on caller ID, he immediately tried to tell me something about his night. I interrupted him immediately.
     “Save it, because whatever you have to tell me is not going to Trump this,” I said. He let me speak. I immediately started bawling my eyes out, barely able to tell the story. First, I cried over my friends, who didn’t try and stop me from getting into K’s car. Next, I cried over not stopping myself from getting into K’s car. Finally, I cried over how guilty I felt for thinking that K was going to kill me, when it turned out he had stepped up to the plate like no one else ever had in my life. Right away, my friend at “The Centre” told me to stop crying about my friends. He said that at “The Centre” we don’t cry over people that don’t cry over us. So just stop. I still cried. Stop! Stop! Stop! I stopped. Then I started again. No, stop! I stopped. He told me to focus on how fortunate I am. He said this was the greatest Christmas story he’d ever heard in his life. Better than anything he’d ever seen on the big screen or TV. He told me that K had saved my Christmas!
     “But I’m Jewish,” I said. Whatever, that was only a minor detail in the grand scheme of things, my friend at “The Centre” told me. He was so excited to hear about everything K and I had talked about in the car. With great enthusiasm, I told him what I could remember about the conversation.
      “Oh and get this! K is such a mensch, that after he dropped me off, he went to help a friend plow driveways,” I said, as if I was bragging about my own son.  My friend at “The Centre” was especially interested about K being a personal trainer. He asked if I got any good workout tips from him?
     “Of course not,” I laughed. “I thought the only exercise I’d ever be doing again was in physio, for all my broken bones.” I told my friend that I was planning to buy K a Christmas present and we talked about things he might like. Then suddenly, my friend at “The Centre,” came up with what he thought I should write in the card.
“Dear K. I hope you have a Merry Christmas, and p.s. thank you for not raping or killing me!” 

     That was how the laughter really started. I mean, because what it came down to was I had been extremely stupid. Getting into a stranger’s car was probably the most foolish thing I’d ever done in my life. In most cases, all odds would have pointed to something terrible happening to me. You are so fucking lucky is what my friend at “The Centre” told me over and over. He said I had the most unbelievable luck in the world and that’s all it was, luck, just like the lottery. One in a billion win. I happened to win that night. He was very insistent that I keep in touch with K. He said he was even jealous of me now that I had my own personal bodyguard. I could call him whenever I wanted to get into a club, or if I needed any kind of help. He’d probably give me free training sessions if I asked…I mean who in the world gets that sort of treatment from their kidnapper and rapist? My friend at “The Centre” did an excellent job in helping me find the silver lining in all this and I hope he knows how much I appreciated it.
     Later that day I spoke to my friend the Naturopath doctor, Dr. Regan T. (click here to book an appointment.) After I told Dr. Regan T the story, she said she was going to call around to some of her friends from the “club scene.” She wanted to find out if anyone knew K. After all, he now knew where I lived and she wanted to make sure I would be safe. There’s something you should know about Dr. Regan T. Not only is she a fabulous Naturopath doctor (click here  if you happened to miss the link above), but she is fast and she is GOOD at getting the 411 on anything. I've never known her to not be able to complete a mission. Within five minutes I received a text from her.
“My friend knows K. He said he’s a great guy.” 

      I sighed with relief. Thank God! Not only did someone know him, but that person also thought K was great. It was completely crazy that Dr. Regan T was able to track down someone that knew him. I mean what are the chances? Just as I was about to text her back, the humor in all this hit me and I started cracking up. I called her instead of texting.
      “Well OBVIOUSLY he’s a great guy,” I said, laughing. “I think I could be the reference for him on that one." To this day, we still laugh over the urgency we had to find someone to confirm he was "great." 
     The next day, I texted K. It had now been over 24hours since the incident and I wanted to thank him and see how he was doing. He texted me back:
 “Don’t be silly. You don’t need to thank me. I should be the one thanking you for trusting me. It really meant a lot.”
  Gulp! Was this guy for real? He was grateful to me for trusting him? Had he not sensed that I was a crazy, racist, non-trusting, filled with fear, psycho bitch? I made another call to my friend at “The Centre.” He was speechless and strongly encouraged me to go and get my prescription filled. This situation could no longer be deciphered in my natural state.
     A couple days after Christmas, I stopped by Best Buy to pick up a gift card for K. I planned on taking it down to the club where he worked, to give it to him later on that evening, when the doors opened.  I even had to turn down some of my friends who wanted to come with me so they could meet him, because I didn’t want K being hounded by his fan club. However, that didn’t stop my brother. As I was getting ready to go down to the club, my brother called to tell me not to bother going. He said he had taken the liberty to go over to the club himself because he also wanted to thank K. When he got there, another doorman told him that K no longer worked there anymore. Confused, I immediately texted K and asked what was up. He texted me back saying that he had quit his job to pursue full time personal training. He said that he had been so inspired by me on the ride home. He thought it was amazing that I had so bravely followed my dream and written a book. He said that he had felt stuck in that club world for too long and that my encouraging words had really helped him turn his life around. My faith in him was exactly the kick in the ass he needed to get on with his life. He was impressed by how chilled I was and that I really had my shit together. He ended it with,

“I’m so glad that we are friends now and hey, If you ever want any personal training sessions, let me know. I’ll give you some for free!”

So there it was, the conversation I couldn’t remember. In it, I had boosted his confidence to pursue a better career path, yet at the same time was thinking  he was going to pull out a gun and shoot me at any moment. The way K had perceived that car ride and the way I did were completely different. I got out of that black SUV a complete disaster, feeling lucky to be alive.  K drove home feeling so inspired by me that he quit his job and stepped up his life a few notches. Believe me, I couldn't make this up if I tried. Life is just funny sometimes!

Thanks for reading and please learn from my mistake. Don’t EVER get into a car with a stranger. Unfortunately, there are not enough happy endings in these situations. I know how fortunate I was and am forever grateful for it. 

Love and Silver Linings

Andrea Dana

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night....(Part Two)

As soon as the doors locked I knew I had made a huge mistake. Knowing I was trapped, I felt a wave of panic rush through me. I quickly searched through my purse for my ativan, remembering that I had given my last one to a girl friend, who was having a “crisis,” at the party. When I rehashed this story later on to my friend at “The Centre,” he actually scolded me by saying that no one gives away his or her LAST ativan, and that was even a bigger mistake than getting into the car. The stranger stopped the car at the red light and waited. The whole Paul Bernardo/Karla Homolka incident flashed through my memory for a few seconds, but my thoughts were interrupted when he asked me my name.
      “Andrea,” I said, with some hesitation. He told me his name was K. The light turned green but he didn’t move. I notice a small tube of hand lotion sitting in the cup holder beside me and hoped he wasn't going to make me moisturize, "Silence of the Lambs"-style.
      “Is everything okay?” I asked. He laughed and said that since I hadn’t told him where I live, he didn’t know where we were going.
      “Bathurst and Sheppard,” I said. K turned right, driving in the opposite direction.
      “You could just drive up Bathurst,” I suggested. He told me he knew a quicker way where he could avoid the icy hills. I stared out the window. I was thinking that if I just unlocked the door and jumped, I probably wouldn’t get too hurt. Since there was so much snow, I wouldn’t break that many bones. Plus, there were no cars around to hit me once I landed. As I was practicing the jump a few times in my head, K broke my focus by asking what I do for a living. I told him that I was a teacher on movie sets and then went on to explain what that was. I went on and gave him my whole sob story about how I was unhappy in the schools and this great opportunity came along. I thought this would make me seem more human to him. I also told K that I’m an author.
     "My book is at Indigo and I did a lot of press for it." He took his eyes off the road and stared at me for a moment. I imagined he was seeing a big steak in place of my head, like Wile E. Coyote did when he looked at the Road Runner. However, instead of clobbering me and making me his next meal, he told me he was pretty sure he had seen me on Entertainment Tonight Canada, and that was why I looked so familiar. I was shocked at his discovery. K turned onto the Don Valley and headed north. The snow was still coming down hard and the SUV was sliding back and forth in the lane. Just then K’s cell phone rang.
     “Shit, you still need me tonight?” he asked the caller. He looked over at me, staring back at him. “Yeah I’ll be there. I just need to take care of something first.” Take care of something? I looked at the screen on my own phone. Why hadn’t my friends called to check up on my yet? Weren’t they worried at all? Had they tried calling, but I had no reception? I was freaking out inside and tried to take my mind off my inevitable death. I had no intention of giving K the impression that I was terrified.
     “So what else do you do, besides work at the club?” I asked.  K told me he was trying to move away from the whole club scene and was interested in becoming a full time personal trainer. He asked my opinion. Without a delay, I blurted out,
     “You should do it!” Those were the last words I remembered about that particular conversation. Even though I remembered babbling away about following your dreams and bla bla bla, I got distracted when K reached into his pocket to pull something out. I thought it was going to be a gun. It was gum. He offered me a piece.  I started to change my mind about K. Could he just be a nice guy that had come to my rescue on this snowy night? We finally reached the 401 and headed west towards home. I sighed. K turned to me and admitted to me that if I hadn’t been so pretty, he probably wouldn’t have offered me a lift. That’s when I realized I had been so focused on him killing me; I hadn’t even considered the possibility of getting raped.
     “Oh come on. You’re just saying that. You would have helped anyone in my situation. Right?” I asked, laughing off his comment. He shrugged his shoulders and said maybe. As we passed the Leslie exit, K's phone rang again. Same friend. He told him again that he would be there soon.
     “So where are you going after you take me home?” I asked. K told me his friend had a snow plowing business and he needed help tonight because of how bad people’s driveways were. He was supposed to go there right after work, but now he was really late. I started apologizing, feeling guilty that I was making my future rapist late for work. Suddenly, K passed the Avenue Road exit.
     “You were supposed to get off there!” I said, pointing to my neighborhood and freaking out. He apologized. He said he was busy thinking about our conversation a few minutes ago. I had no idea what conversation he was talking about. At this point I was so traumatized, I could barely remember how many children the Octomom had just given birth to. I directed him to my house from the Allen Road, going through all the side streets. We finally ended up in front of my house and I sat there paralyzed. I was unsure what to do. Cry? Laugh? Count my blessings?  I sat there thanking K over and over. He told me it was his pleasure and felt like he was the one who should be thanking me. Huh? More confusion. He said for me to put his number in my phone and that maybe we could go for lunch one day.
     “I would love to!” I said, excitedly punching his number into my cell. Was I the same psycho, who five minutes ago thought I would never eat lunch again? I leaned over and gave K a huge hug goodbye. I felt my eyes tearing up as I realized this had been luckiest night of my life. As I got out of the car his last words to me were, “Andrea, if you ever need anything, you just call me.” I smiled. We had entered the car as strangers, but we were leaving as friends. (Please stay tuned for the conclusion of this story. It is VERY special. Includes: the reaction of "The Centre," The conversation with K that I did not remember having, and how I learned to laugh through this.  I will post it tomorrow)

Friday, December 11, 2009

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night....(Part One)

“Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.”
                                  ------Shirley MacLaine                                       

Through the media, we are constantly instilled with the fear that strangers want to kill us. As children we believe that strangers are grotesque figures who want to lure us with candy and lock us in a tower. As we get older we learn to use our own discretion in figuring out the good strangers from the bad strangers. We take risks everyday speaking to these dangerous people who want to kill us. I was never one to follow the rule “don’t talk to strangers.” Sure my parents, like everyone else’s, tried to drill it into my head more times than Tiger Woods has cheated on his wife, but it just never stuck. In fact, I thought it was insane to walk around fearing other people just because I didn’t know them. How would things ever progress if we never spoke to anyone outside of our immediate circle of acquaintances? So as someone who prides myself on trusting the right people, I have never discriminated against anyone new that I randomly meet. However, it is exactly a year ago that my faith and intuition were deeply challenged.
Last year over Christmas vacation a close friend of mine from LA was in for a few days. I was excited to go with him and two other guy friends to a party at Bread and Circus, in Kensington Market. Now, if you happened to be in Toronto last winter, you will probably remember the excessive amount of snowstorms that fell in December. This was a particularly snowy night. I had volunteered to be the designated driver because I needed to be home by a certain time to give my oldest dog, Charlie, medication. My parents were on their usual three-week December holiday, and I was staying at their house taking care of my dogs.
 I would be lying if I told you that I did not drink at that party, because I did. After an awkward run in with “The LifeSucker,” who you will learn more about in later postings, I had a couple of drinks with my friends. By the time we returned to my car, a few hours later, I was sober enough to drive. It was around one in the morning and the snow was falling lightly, as we drove back to my friend’s condo. Once there, he invited me in to play a game of poker with the other guys, before I headed home. Without hesitation, I parked my car in the back alley behind his condo and joined them upstairs. For reasons that you will never know, we lost track of time and suddenly it was 3am. Noticing the snow coming down hard, I quickly grabbed my stuff, said goodbye to my friends, and rushed out the door. All I could think of was that I had to get home to Charlie. Once outside, the wind hit me in the face harder than “Jon and Kate Plus 8’s” breakup. Other than a black SUV parked beside me, there was not another car or person in sight. I quickly cleared the snow off my car while it was warming up inside. When I was ready to go, I put the car in reverse and proceeded to leave. However, my car would not move. I seemed to be stuck on something and my wheels spun every time I gave it gas. I tried rocking it out of the spot by moving my gear back and forth from reverse to drive. After fifteen minutes, when the car had still not budged an inch, I started to panic. Suddenly out of my passenger window I saw a large guy come running through the alley to the SUV beside me. I watched him clear off his car, and his dreadlocks turned quickly from black to white, as the snow fell heavily on his head. As he was about to get into his car, I realized he might be my only hope and quickly rolled down my window.
“Hey, could you help me?” I shouted. He came over and asked what was wrong. I told him that I was stuck and desperately needed to get home. He went and stood at the front of my car and tried to direct me out of the spot, telling me when to turn the wheel and give it gas. My car still wouldn’t move. Next I got out, letting him replace me in the driver’s seat. Still nothing. After a few more attempts, he asked if I wanted him to drive me home. I thought it was a strange offer, considering he didn’t even ask what part of the city I lived in.
“Thanks, but I will just call my friends upstairs to come down and help,” I said. Within a few minutes two of my friends were downstairs and we all tried pushing. My tires continued to spin. The man told my friends about his offer to drive me home.
 “It’s okay, I will take a cab,” I said, interrupting him. My friends encouraged me to take the lift. Besides, where would I find a cab at this hour and in this awful weather? I stood there for a moment looking at my guy friends. They were cold and wanted to go inside. I just wanted to get home. The guy assured us I’d be safe. He tried to make himself sound more like a civilian by telling us he was a bouncer at a club down the road, however, it never occurred to any of us that he never told us his name. I finally realized it was up to me to make this decision, and I needed to do it quickly. I said goodbye to my friends and got into the car with this stranger, every parent’s biggest fear. I had no idea I was about to embark on a life changing journey. (To be continued on Monday)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy End Year!

We have almost reached the final curtain of 2009 and let me ring it out by saying, “See ya later, you big jerk!” As 2009 opened, millions of people worldwide saw their dreams come true when Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States. Even as a Canadian, I was ecstatic upon hearing the news that he had won. Hope and change were in the air, as well as the promise of making a fresh new start towards rebuilding our lives. For most people, myself included, the possibilities of being released from our traps through Obama’s message seemed endless. However, for me it quickly turned into a year of living dangerously.

I’ve started this blog because although I have had one of the most unpleasant years of my life, it has also been an enormous eye opener. The stories I have to tell are so outrageous that even as a writer I couldn’t have made them up if I tried. A close friend has been encouraging me for months to write a blog about my struggles and how I learned to turn negatives into positives, but I have been hesitant because I felt like it would be hard to have to relive things that happened. However, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge. I am going full force to document the mixed-up incidents of 2009 because as nutty as things got, I learned how to tough it out by finding the silver lining each time I was knocked down.
Next week I will write about the first event that started off my year from hell, but first I wanted to share with you my most valuable ingredient that got me through the year. It is what kept me from jumping head first into the Don River, other than the fact that I never would have drowned since I could almost double for Dara Torres these days. So how did I make it through 2009 in one piece? Laughter. It’s the truth. I will never again underestimate the power of laughing. I had no idea how much humor can be found in bad situations. You probably don’t realize it either. Trust me it is there, and if you can’t find it, then it is crucial to surround yourself with people who can help point it out. I mostly credit “The Centre” for helping me find my strength through humor. "The Centre" is a duo of friends, who I have known for a short time, but have managed to pick me up off the bathroom floor “Eat, Pray, Love”-style on many occasions.  There will be much more on them later.

My goal of this blog is to inspire you to find the silver linings within your own personal struggles. It may seem absurd that I’m encouraging you to laugh at things that aren't supposed to be funny, but believe me, sometimes in a heavy situation you need that release. I know many of you were like me and started off the year hopeful, only to end up tangled in a sea of chaos as well. I hope you will be brave and share your stories with me either in the comments section or in private emails. I also am aware that some of my stories will bring controversy and criticism for the way I handled certain issues, but as John Powell once said, "The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing." With that said, in preparation for next week, I advise you get your warm clothes on and make yourself a cup of your favorite hot drink. I am going to take you back to a dark and stormy night that has changed my life forever and will most likely blow your mind.
See you next week!

Love and Silver Linings

Andrea Dana