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  • Writer's pictureInterval House of Ottawa

Escaping violence together

Updated: Apr 26, 2019

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Jennifer has a dog named Daisy, a senior who is 13 years old. Daisy has been with Jennifer her whole life. Every morning, Jennifer wakes up to Daisy's cold nose, nudges and kisses. Together, they start their day with a walk and visiting other dogs at the park. When Jennifer leaves for work, Daisy's sad eyes watch her go. Every evening Daisy happily greets Jennifer, they go for a walk, then they watch TV and snuggle until Jennifer unwinds with Daisy's comfort and they go to sleep.

With all the time they spend together, Daisy and Jennifer know everything about each other. Daisy has a certain way she lays when she wants water, and a certain look at dinner time. When Jennifer is upset, Daisy brings her toys, licks her tears, and stays by her side until Jennifer feels better. They even have a birthday ritual - Daisy gets a Timbit, they take pictures, and have a day all about Daisy! These two have been through a lot together, including college, new family members, and an abusive relationship. "Daisy is my life," says Jennifer. "She's everything to me." But even so, Jennifer hesitated before escaping to the safety of IHO.

"One of the things that held me back was knowing that I was going to be separated from Daisy," Jennifer says of her decision to leave her abusive relationship. "Some women choose to have pets instead of children and you worry about their safety as others would think of their children." When considering foster care, "you wonder if you are going to ever get back the time that you have lost." For these reasons, Jennifer decided to stay in her abusive relationship until Daisy passed away naturally due to old age, but "I was worried he would start hurting Daisy as a way of hurting me."

Jennifer decided to leave and placed Daisy in foster care for the duration of her shelter stay - six months. She remembers the day she left Daisy with the foster as the hardest day in her process of leaving violence. "When she was distracted, I walked away and she realized I wasn't with her," Jennifer remembers. "I was walking away and she started to panic - where was I going? She was so upset! Having to leave my baby while she wondered where I was going, why I was leaving her, all just to keep us both safe. I knew it was temporary, but she didn't understand."

The situation was made more difficult because the foster care policies do not allow Jennifer to have contact with Daisy while she was at IHO. Without receiving regular reports Jennifer constantly worried that her senior companion was not well. "I know she's safe, but is she comfortable? Does she think I'm never coming back? Not a day goes by that I don't think about her."

woman kissing dog

Jennifer struggled at IHO since she had lost the emotional support that Daisy provided. In addition to worrying about Daisy's wellbeing, Jennifer had missed Daisy's birthday and their ritual Timbit. There was no one to lick away her tears and bring her toys at the toughest times. "I have had difficulty coping," Jennifer says of her time without Daisy. "It has affected my sleep, not having Daisy as my comfort." Instead, Jennifer watches videos of Daisy that she filmed when preparing to come to IHO.

In October of 2017, Jennifer received the keys to her new apartment. She asked our Residential Program Manager to accompany her to pick up Daisy from foster care because she was nervous that Daisy would reject her after being separated for six months. Jennifer and Daisy shared a very happy, emotional reunion and came to IHO for a visit before heading to their new home together.

Jennifer believes that a program for women to bring their pets into a shelter would enable more women to leave abuse or not to delay leaving because they will not have to choose between leaving their pet with an abuser or a stranger. Unfortunately, Jennifer's situation is not uncommon. At IHO we have heard from many women who delayed leaving abuse out of fear for their pet's wellbeing.

That's why we're happy to announce that we are moving forward with our plans to build a dedicated animal housing area at IHO. Construction on the new area begins in the winter of 2017 and we anticipate being prepared to receive furry family members early in 2018. But we still need your help. Your donations will support families with Jennifer and Daisy to stay together at IHO during their healing journey.

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