I’ve been pretty open about my high school boyfriend who I was in a sexually and emotionally abusive relationship with for 3 years. I’ve spoken on the site openly about the problems it’s caused me in the years following. But I’ve not acknowledged my other survivor in all this and what she’s done for me.
There was often no witness to the abuse that would happen at his house. He would lock me in his bedroom and forbid anyone to enter. Occasionally we would end up in my basement and he would pressure me into having sex I wasn’t ready for. Those times, there was a witness to everything that happened: my Lola.
I ended up with Lola after a lengthy hospital stay. My parents were getting divorced, I was chronically ill, we needed a little piece of hope. That’s exactly what she was for me. When I drove home with her in my lap, she was 3 pounds and 10 weeks old. She had to be syringe fed in the first few weeks because a bottle was too small.
The night I got her, I called him to come see her. He instantly drew this distaste for the tiny ball of fluff wagging her tail and nibbling on his finger. “She loves you so much,” he said to me.
“She loves you too,” I responded.
“Yeah but I don’t like her. She’s too small and she’s not mine. And she loves you too much. She’s going to take all of your love.”
I brushed off the toxic comment as a joke and continued to love on my puppy. To me, she was perfect in every way.
Often, I would try to make dinner for my boyfriend and he would get mad because I took too long to cook. “I don’t like you in there. Come in here and pay attention to me,” he would beg.
“Play with the dog or something,” I would say back.
“I don’t want to. She wants you anyway.” Lola hated being near him. Whenever he was over, she never left my side. She often separated us by physically getting in between us. This made him mad. He often tried to throw her, step on her, kick her. I often look back and think about boyfriends who have killed dogs as a means of intimidation and control.
Lola still gets concerned every now and then. She has pretty bad separation anxiety and does not like when men get too close to me. If my current boyfriend comes over, she whines and cries but doesn’t seem to want anything. One night as we kissed, she got up and put herself between us again. Then I knew.
Lola often stares at me with great intent. For a while, I just thought she must have some kind of awkward staring problem. After doing a bit of research, I’ve learned that she does this to tell me she’s got my back. When dogs are vulnerable or notice their owners may be, they stare at their owners to communicate support.
She may not be as perfect as I originally thought. She’s got an attitude. She’s socially awkward around other dogs much like me. She pees on the carpet. She tears up any tissues she can find if she’s mad. But my Lola kept me calm amongst the scariest moments of my life.
She knew I was in pain. She knew I wanted out. She knew I couldn’t leave and I was scared. She knows if I’m about to have an anxiety attack. Only Lola will know the extent and intensity of what I suffered, because she suffered with me. Sometimes we still do.
So it’s probably ridiculous that she hugs me when I come in the door and she religiously sleeps with me every night. My dog is coping and healing just like me. Together, we’re still patching our lives years later. And we may always be doing that. But nothing has comforted me quite like having her with me.
Thank you to my best friend. My fellow survivor.