A simple story

I realized that my “about me” page doesn’t really tell you much about me. I put some minor thought into it and decided to do a post so you all get to know me a bit better.

All things considered, I probably had a relatively normal life. I grew up with both my parents, and two older brothers.

When I was about 10 – I can’t actually remember the exact age, I might’ve been younger – we got our first dog. We adopted Kima from a pet store. She was black at the top, with beige colouring on her paws and face, with hints of brown and white through out. She had a curly tail, pointy ears, and a smile that was too adorable to resist. We knew from the start that she was special. She had a wonderful personality. She was always happy and too clever for her own good.

She was talkative too. Every time we came home, no matter who was with her while any of us were gone, she’d lecture us. It was a sound between a bark and a howl. There was no doubt about it though, she was telling us off for leaving her alone.

When Kima was about a year old, we adopted our second dog. She was a barker. We named her Lady. Lady was a black lab mix, and we found her playing with children across the street. She was barking and making all sorts of noises. We opened the door to find out what was going on. The children said they found her coming up the hill and decided to see if she wanted to play. When she heard our voices from across the street, she came charging into our house. She bolted up the stairs and found my older brother on his bed. The two of them connected instantly. She became my brother’s saviour when he needed one the most. She slept on his bed every night, lay next to him while he played his computer games, and always loved to play.

Lady and Kima got along amazingly. Their personality meshed in such a way that Kima took the role of alpha and Lady very happily followed along.

A couple years after this, we adopted our third dog Faye. Faye was a german shepherd, husky, black lab mix. She was very sweet. She warmed up to Lady and Kima when we visited my aunt. Her dog had just had puppies and we’d gone up to take one home. Faye met Kima and Lady, and it became apparent that there was nothing more to decide. Faye came home with us that night.

Unfortunately for Faye, my brothers found a way of terrifying her into eating a lot, and hiding behind my dad and me. She got scared of the loud, obnoxious noises they would make. She even started getting nervous when new people came into our house. She would run behind either me or my dad, or go straight to the top of the stairs and bark from afar. If they came upstairs, she’d hide on my bed. Of course it’d be no surprise that she was also afraid of thunder. The noise and the storm would terrify her into the smallest possible place in the house, shaking, and panting uncontrollably. It was these times that I would go and comfort her. I’d pet her and cuddle with her. It made things easier for her.

As I’m sure you can tell, Faye very much became my dog. We were very attached. She always slept on my bed despite it being a twin size bed. She’d take up at least half of it but that didn’t matter. She was always there and so was I.

All three dogs were all of ours really. We loved them all equally and they were always attached to us. Some a bit more than others, but they loved us all the same.

Kima passed away when the vet found cancer. We found this out just after I’d contracted Norwalk. If it hadn’t been for Kima, no one would’ve realized there was something wrong. I’d been sleeping in the basement – this was high school just before my last year – it was the summer, and my room was far too hot to stay in at night. My brother was downstairs too. We both slept on the futon in an attempt to stay cool. Kima stayed with me in the basement that night. This was unusual behaviour for her. She ALWAYS slept upstairs. There was never a night where she hadn’t been on someones bed. This was the first sign: she knew something was wrong before I’d even started feeling sick. When it hit me, the severe cramping came first, then the nausea. I moved as quickly as I could to the basement to the massive sink there, but I couldn’t keep myself up and instead crumpled to the ground in the fetal position in agony. Kima woke my brother up. She got him awake and she stayed with me while he ran upstairs to get my parents. They came downstairs, even my other brother, and tended to me. It took a long time but eventually I ended up in bed. If it hadn’t been for Kima, there’s no telling when I would’ve been found and what condition I’d have been in. If it hadn’t been for her, my mom never would’ve known just how sick I was and realized I’d needed that much help. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if it hadn’t been for her. Her passing is a very sad thing. I still tear up whenever I think of her; whenever I think of all the dogs we’ve lost – family members too.

Faye was unfortunately the next to pass away. She hadn’t even reached her double digits on age. She accidentally ate a razor wrapped in kleenex. I was in my second year (I believe) of university at the time. The news of this hit me harder than I could’ve ever thought. My parents said they were coming to get me that night. Faye had been in the emergency room, they’d found the obstruction, tried to fix it, but she wasn’t getting better. They had to make a decision. It was one of the hardest days.

Lady was a sad story too. She’d had arthritis in her hips for years. It wasn’t long after Faye passed away that Lady was on her last days. She had cancer but it was in the early stages. She was on pain medication for it so she didn’t feel anything bad. Unfortunately, one day, she just couldn’t get up. She couldn’t move. It was a hard day. We had to carry her in a blanket to the car, drive to the vets, and talk to the doctor there. They said that she would be in pain shortly. It will become too severe that the medication won’t do anything. She can’t move anymore. So we had to make the decision to put her down. It was an incredibly difficult day, and a horribly depressing Christmas.

When Faye had passed away, my mom went to the SPCA to look at other dogs. That’s where she found Sammy. Sammy gave Lady new life. Lady helped teach Sammy everything she knew. They were a great match those two. Unfortunately, it was only a couple of months that they spent together. Sammy, like us, were saddened and devastated by the loss of Lady – as we were with all our dogs – and didn’t have the same energy he had before.

I was in my second year. I was having a rough time with the people I lived with. I found studying Engish literature and Sociology to be heavy on the reading, and trying to balance assignments were becoming tedious. My living conditions weren’t great either. Every day I spent there, I found myself wanting to be on campus. I spent a lot of that time in the library. I loved my classes and most of my teachers, but like any student would say, University is great but it’s also stressful.

My roommates had decided to adopt two wonderfully adorable puppies. They were brother and sister and they were a king shepherd cross husky mix. We’d had a lot of experience with that breed so it felt like I was home again having two trouble makers running around the house.

Due to circumstances which I won’t get into here, we ended up adopting the brother and named him Max. Max is one helluva a dog and one of the smartest dogs we’ve ever owned. He learned things so quickly, negotiated with us on commands he didn’t agree with, communicated with us in very real ways, and even learned our routines to know what to expect. He’s currently impatiently waiting for me to get off my computer and join him downstairs. He paced around my chair for about ten minutes, then lay down on the ground next to me and stared at me, and then finally gave in and hopped up on my bed. He’s sleeping but the second I move, he’ll be running downstairs next to me.

Max was a godsent for Sammy. Like Lady taught Sammy everything she knew, Sammy did the same for Max. The two of them played all the time and just had so much fun together. They were a good pairing and Sammy enjoyed having a little one to look after and teach. Sammy is patient with all the dogs, and loves to meet new dogs while also ensuring everyone behaves themselves. We nicknamed him the ambassador.

I finished university with a degree in English literature in 2010. As I finished my degree with online courses, I’d spent a few months in South Korea. It wasn’t long but it was memorable. The culture was so different and yet shared a number of similarities. People were friendly for the most part. They were quiet too and polite. Several restaurants and cafes carried English menus. It was a bit of a culture shock but the longer I was there, I understood more of what was happening and could get a general idea as to what people were saying even though I didn’t fully understand the language.

The experience was cut short when North Korea dropped artillery shells on the South Korean island. The two countries were on the highest alert since the Korean war. All of the people from the island were evacuated to Incheon, a harbour city, and the city I happened to be staying in. It was a bit chaotic but  you wouldn’t know it. People went about their daily lives. They didn’t speak about it, and just kept going. If you didn’t know any better, it was like nothing had happened. It was hard to ignore the fact that something very serious had occurred. As naval drills continued, tensions rose, and things got anxious.

Due to the unpredictability of what could happen, I left. I booked a flight and was gone. I didn’t want to risk having to flee in the event of an attack, especially with how much military weapons have increased since the 1950’s. I didn’t want to be running for the plane, or worse, killed. Incheon is very close to Seoul. One attack on Seoul could very well deal enough damage to hit Incheon. I didn’t want to be around if that happened. Luckily, nothing did. I had friends that stayed because they thought it was okay to. It was okay in the end, but I didn’t want to risk my life or my health in the event that it wasn’t.

I came home and started applying for jobs. I got a tutoring job which I still maintain now. I applied for teachers college but didn’t get anywhere with that unfortunately. I went to my plan B: journalism. I applied for a post graduate certificate program at Sheridan College for Journalism: New Media. What harm would that be? It was only one year.

Before that started though, and not long after I’d returned from South Korea, my former roommates asked if I could take care of the sister to Max. Without hesitation, I said yes. My family had told them from the start that if they were unable to provide for her, we’d take her in a heart beat.

We brought Skye home and it was as if Skye and Max had never been separated. Sammy grew to love her as she did him. She was engimatic and very communicative, just like her brother. Unfortunately Max and Skye weren’t spayed/neutered, so we ended up with seven puppies.

The pregnancy was a shock to all of us. Sure Skye had devoured a loaf of bread and a baguette in less than 90 seconds, but the vet said she couldn’t be pregnant. The vet felt around for the puppies and couldn’t find them. So when Skye gave birth towards the end of August, we were all shocked by the surprise.

Taking care of puppies was an amazing experience but none of us want to go through it again. Skye nearly died due to feeding the puppies. She had lost too much weight after giving birth and constantly wanted to feed her little ones. We had to nurse her back to health and make some minor changes to her diet. She made it through though with the unforgiving help of our vet.

It took a couple of weeks but Skye allowed Max to lay down with his off spring. Max was a funny father. He wasn’t sure how to react to the little ones but he was both fascinated and curious about them.

When they were about six weeks old and capable of wandering around, and escaping their pen by climbing up the bars and falling over them, Skye allowed Sammy to see her puppies. Sammy was harmless but Skye was protective of her off spring, so she didn’t let him near them. Sammy, once able to see them, helped keep them in line when needed.

We took them outside and let them run around. Sammy and Max followed them around closely. Skye focused most of her attention on Jack, the little grey puppy whom she’d chosen as her toy. She loved him since he was born, and played with him all the time in the pen.

Eventually they were adopted off. We gave them to close friends and people we keep in contact with. We made sure they were going to good homes. We kept Jack because we couldn’t imagine what Skye would be like without him. Eventually, Rory, another puppy who had the same colourings as his father, came back to us too.

By the time I got into the journalism program, we had five dogs. Between my brother and I, we did a lot of the work taking care of them since we were home during the day. My parents went off to work, and we made sure the dogs were okay.

When I started the program, things changed. I was away a lot and most of the responsibilities rested on my brother’s shoulders. My other brother helped out reluctantly. I helped out when I could but the program bogged me down, keeping me busy for hours and hours at a time.

I was able to tone my skills in time management and multitasking though. It did help me with that.

From the journalism program, we had to complete an internship at an organization. I did mine at CBC Sports with the Olympic Unit, working in the preparations for production. It went well and I made some great connections while I was there. I worked my ass off in hopes of a job but nothing came of it.

Over the next several months, after I returned home, I spent most of my time trying to find a job in Toronto. I either got emails saying they found someone else, or no response at all. I fell back on my CBC contacts and hoped they’d get me something somewhere. They gave me people to contact and gave me advice on what to say. Despite all the efforts, nothing was going well.

I realized that the lack of direction was causing a great depression in me, something I hadn’t dealt with since I was in high school and bordered on suicidal. While I wasn’t suicidal, I saw the clues building up and knew that I needed to something before I fell into that hole of uselessness and self doubt for an undetermined amount of time. I decided on a change.

I would still work away at trying to find a job, but I’d spend more time branding myself in not only my production expertise – filming, editing, producing, and taking photographs – but also in my writing. It occurred to me so quickly I’d almost forgotten about my long love passion for writing.

I did a lot of reading as a child, mostly comic books, and easy books. When I turned 12, I started noticing that I really enjoyed getting thoughts and story ideas down on paper. I decided I’d start trying to develop this skill. I did. I started writing a lot and as often as possible. When I hit high school, I’d written one manuscript, and had started on the sequel. I never thought it good enough to send to editors or publishers, but I was very happy with the way it turned out and it gave me courage and confidence to keep going. I continued writing even through university. It was at this time that I thought I could do journalism, but my university didn’t offer a program in it, so I’d put the idea to the back of my mind.

When I started the journalism program I found my love for production. While I could write, I found the constraints of news writing to be confining and stifling. I didn’t like the lack of creative writing and pursuing interesting and fascinating ideas. I found the confines were too much. Production though? There were more options and you could be artsy and creative.

I had pushed writing to the back of my mind and tried my best with production. I focused on it for jobs too. Of course, most places required years of experience which I hadn’t been given the chance to get.

However, as the months went on with no job, I knew I needed the change and this is it. I’d been working on a manuscript for a story I’d been writing for quite some time. I’d even finished the rough draft of the manuscript and started editing it. I’d almost finished the other two books that followed it. I was in love with the characters and the story I was writing. Something was missing though. As I started editing I realized there was a bit too much repetition. I didn’t like it and I found it was getting boring.

I spent a lot of time thinking of how I was going to be able to fix it without starting over. I thought about taking out the chapters that were a bit boring, but realized that I’d only have a book and a half at least. Then I thought I’d just focus on the over arching plot, but then realized I’d have a book and that’s it. I thought maybe just one book wouldn’t be so bad. But then I thought about getting rid of all that hard work I’d done, and I couldn’t bare with it.

After some time, I finally came up with an idea of how I could make it work and not lose the background story. I’d create the story based on what I’ve written and incorporate it when necessary. I’d make it all count towards something at the very end of the trilogy, but for now, I’ll have each book focus on one very important aspect of the main character; one hurdle, one challenge that must be overcome. The main character will fall apart, build herself back up again, and eventually make peace with the decisions she’s made and how they affected the people around her. It sounds like a typical tale but the way in which this is accomplished is different. At least, I haven’t read anything that follows this path.

I started liking the idea more and more and started writing bits and pieces here and there. When I wrote out a couple of scenes, I waited for more inspiration to hit me. And it did. And it hit me out of absolutely nowhere. I ran to my computer and started typing away at the outline and realized I had something. I was so happy with it.

So when I made the decision to write again, I decided a strict schedule needs to be implemented. I will have goals for each week that must be met no matter what. I will also continue filming and taking photographs. I will also ensure to update regularly on my blog to show what I’ve done so far. I will also try to find jobs more publishing centered since I definitely have the skills to do entry level work. I figured out my plan and it made me happier than I’d been in a long time in regards to my career.

When it comes down to it, writing has been a passion of mine for quite some time. I love writing stories and creating new worlds to explore and get lost in. It’s the only place I feel like my imagination can really let loose, and the only time where writing has no constraints and isn’t stifling.

I know I focused a lot on my dogs but growing up, they were a huge part of my life. They are today. All five of them. Max sleeps on my bed and is definitely attached me. Sammy protects the women in the family; Jack is just a playful guy who gets in moods and feels the need to dominate the other dogs (he still has his balls); Rory is light hearted and playful and loves to run around; and Skye tries to keep them all in line as a mother always does. Skye tries to play with all of them. They’re all very sweet in their own way and they will always have a place in my heart. They can be considered my inspiration to follow my passions and to remember not to take things too seriously. They help me every day to keep going and to remember all the things that have happened. We have had many deaths and our family has been in a state of mourning for a very long time. But our dogs have been there for us through all the hard times, even when they passed away, we still felt them here. They give us reason to get up and to pursue our dreams. They provide an inspiration unlike any other. And that’s why they were important to talk about here.

Now I have to end this but I hope this gives some perspective of what I’m like. I’d also like to point out that my pursuits would not be possible if I didn’t have the support and love of my boyfriend. He has been so helpful and absolutely wonderful in ways that I never thought imaginable. He believes that I can be a writer and can’t wait to see what I accomplish. If I didn’t have his support, I don’t know that I’d have all the courage I’d need to pursue such a difficult and daunting career.

Below are photos of our five dogs. Max, Skye, Sammy, Jack, and Rory. Jack is grey; Sammy is blonde; Max and Rory look similar but Max is a bit lighter and has one ear up and one ear down; Skye has bright blue eyes and lots of black.

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About rachelsparling

I'm a writer working on a manuscript for a novel. I love to write and I've been doing it for 13 years. Through several story ideas I have figured out what works and what doesn't, and I've learned a lot about myself and my writing style. I love to read and escape to many different worlds. I've also learned a lot about good writing and bad writing through both reading a lot and acquiring an education in English literature. I enjoy filming and photographing all sorts of things and putting together short documentaries and videos. I love my camera.
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