Dogs are amazing creatures. Their ability to sense when we need them the most, and their innate skills at helping us heal, surely explains the growing use of pet therapy programs across the country. Love for our dogs, can not only get us to run into a burning house to save them, but also to run away from an abusive husband.
In her own words, here is the story of Shelly Poochpark*, a woman spurred to take her beloved dog and herself, away from domestic violence, and toward a new life in San Francisco.
[Beloved Baby modeling a custom shirt. She passed away in 2010.]
I met Baby, a brown Chiweenie, while I was visiting the SPCA in Southern California. She had just been surrendered by her family. It was love at first sight. Her loving eyes and beautiful face just made me want to hold her and keep her. They kept her for 48 hours to spay her and check her out, and then I fetched her. Baby changed my life from the moment she came to live with my now ex-husband and me.
At home, I was a victim of domestic violence on a daily basis. With Baby around, I finally had an excuse to get out of the house, by telling my ex I was taking her for a walk. I went for long walks with her, which helped me be away from the stress I was submerged in day after day. My life was hard. My ex controlled the money, the computer, the phone — everything. He didn’t give me access to bank accounts, I was not allowed to answer the telephone, I could not check e-mails, not even the mail box. I was isolated from the outside world, including my friends and family.
When I was allowed to talk to them, he sat right next to me, so I could not say much. He timed me when I went to the supermarket or went shopping. If I was a bit longer than expected, I got yelled at. In a way, his constant emotional abuse was to me harder than any physical abuse, since body wounds heal quicker than emotions. I was walking on eggshells all the time. No matter what I did, to him it always looked wrong. Baby kept me going with her loving personality, her wanting cuddles, her unconditional love. And the moment we had a chance, I packed up with her and ran.
We found shelter with a friend, who hid us both until we could get our lives organized. We were penniless, but I knew in my heart that all would fall slowly into place once we were safe and by ourselves. When we arrived in San Francisco, Baby was the first dog accepted into a domestic violence shelter.
Today we have our own little place we call home and are living a peaceful happy life. Baby is the diva at the park, wearing Pooch Park Wear t-shirts and hoodies that I created. I started dressing Baby because of the cool weather here. Soon I found that dog clothing was expensive, and I wanted her to wear clothes that reflected her attitude or the name of her favorite dog park. That’s how my business was born. Baby is the boss at Pooch Park Wear, and I do the work. And together, Baby and I also opened our home to domestic violence survivors and their pets.
If you are in the situation we were in, know that where there is a will there is a way. Against all odds, Baby and I did it. You can do it, too.
More from Shelly...
PoochParkWear was started when I could not find affordable clothing for my baby, and when I did it had the mundane sayings princess or diva on and I wanted her to be different, so PoochParkWear was born. Our idea was to enable the parents of pampered pooches to customize his or her hoodie/t-shirt making each one unique, different and fun, so whether he or she is good, naughty or in between, the political, the proud, they can be seen. We have since starting added other items such as biker jackets, collars which you can customize with our special slide on charms, collar charms (our charms are unique making a statement).
We are proudly selling a very special new item – our Zinja Beaded Collars. These collars are made by the Sisonke Women (SISONKE means “togetherness” in isXhosa, which is one of the indigenous languages of South Africa). The Sisonke Beading and Sewing Cooperative is a self help project for HIV positive women who desperately need to "learn to earn" in order to help in providing for their families. Our goal is to give back as much as possible and that is why it an honor for us to be selling the Zinja dog collars.
For more information about our products visit -- www.PoochParkWear.com or email: [email protected]
* Shelly’s last name has been changed to protect her.