Let me say first, that this blog post is pretty personal. If you aren't interested in reading that type of post, don't read it.
I was bullied when I was younger. This wasn't the occasional name-calling or other smaller things. This was outright bullying. For years. Logically, you can think of well they were just kids then, but that is certainly not how it felt. Some schools do not seem to take bullying seriously enough and sometimes kids that are bullies grow up to be bullies as adults as well.
At times, the parents aren't aware what is going on. Other times, maybe they don't know how to deal with it, and some, honestly, might not really care.
After quite some time, I did tell my parents who tried to help. You know what the teacher told them? That I was overly sensitive and that to just deal with it.
Animals are not just animals.
Through out my entire life, animals have been my friends, confidants and my sanctuary. THE place to go to. The ones who ALWAYS care. No matter what. You could hug them, cry and tell them what happened. They would understand. No, it was not a matter of transference. They really did understand.
My first Newfoundland dog. Totte. He was a big dog with a big heart. He would have defended me to his last breath... He was a gentle giant, unless he could tell some dog looked at me the wrong way. If I was the slightest bit off for how I was feeling, he would know. He would not hesitate for a second.
I remember that there were some teenagers driving by on their mopeds honking their horns, hollering rude things.... Totte would know that I was not thrilled. He was a big dog by then, not a puppy either. So then a few days later, I was so ticked off at these teenagers that I said something back to them. I don't remember what. But Totte. Oh my... he pulled and he sent me flying after him. I still had the leash and him though! He was barking so angrily...
If you ever heard a Newfoundland dog bark, and especially if they are angry, you know that it is a very deep bark.... and an impressive one...
Let's just say that next time those people drove by, they drove by at a normal speed with no honking or comments. Go Totte!!!
Animals were always there for me, so I try to be there for them. No if, but, or maybe. In most cases, I will chose animals over people. I always loved animals and had a close connection to them. As I dealt with the bullying issues, the ones that kept me going were the animals.
I did have a few friends, but not many. Those were good friends though, and to this day I would rather choose to have a few close friends then tons of casual friends.
Horses. My Zen Zone.
None of the people that were mean to me had shown up in one of my best sanctuaries of all. The stables. Around the horses I felt safe. I felt like I was understood. Even by most people!
Then there was one day... one of the girls at the one school (yeah this went on for a while)... She was the ring leader so to speak for a couple of really snotty girls. As it turned out, she started going to the same stable as me. Purposely or not, I will let that be unsaid. I don't know if it was, and I really couldn't care less at this point.
Yep. You guessed it. She started being outright mean even at the stables. I didn't care so much there, and to her great dismay, she got no traction there. People didn't pay attention to her and they supported me. My sanctuary was still my sanctuary.
I couldn't find a photo of Fernol on the pc now. This beautiful grey was one of my favorite horses. He was one of the horses at that stable I mentioned. This is from an old drawing I did. It shows me and Fernol. Boy, did that guy know how to jump! He loved show-jumping. In fact, when we'd be standing outside the ring waiting for our turn, he would literally study how the other horses jumped the course.
It wasn't for her lack of trying though, she kept at it for a while. After so long though, she left the stables. I don't know if she chose another stable or whatever. But, the point was, she wasn't at the one I went to anymore.
Then they tried to pick on me even worse at school. And. I just HAD it. Ya know? I can still remember that one day at school. We were heading to the school buses after school was out for the afternoon. We were still pretty close to the actual school buildings.
The snotty bitc*es were walking right behind me, talking purposely, about me. Not nice things. Like RIGHT behind me. That was it. I just had enough. I turned around and blew up on them in their faces... I wouldn't have been surprised, nor cared, if I got sent to the principal for it (I was normally an exemplary student mind you). The girls looked shocked. If it had come down to a fist fight, you bet your bottom dollar that I would have been up to it.
After that, things got more quiet.... until a few days later... one of the snotty girls was talking right behind me on the bus.... I blew up on her again and.... well. I guess she realized it wasn't a one-time fluke. She looked shocked. And them bitc*es? They never bothered me again.
In case you are wondering, I didn't bother asking the school or anyone for help really after the initial response we'd gotten from the other school. It completely felt like no one cared anyways, so what was the point?
These horses were not from that stable I mentioned. As much as I tried to look I could not find any scanned in pictures on the pc from then. I only have a few, regular photos from back then. I didn't have a camera and my parents did take a few photos. Usually I was at the stable by myself though. This photo is of two horses from a private stable. I leased horses from there for a couple of summers. These were the two I had leased. Beautiful, wonderful horses.
Animals Helping Heal The Spirit
Animals also helped re-establish my connection with people. When I am around people and I talk about animals, I'm much more extroverted than I normally am. In fact, my soulmate, my dear hubby, will point out that wow, you talked to those people like you'd known them for years!
So you see, my art isn't just art. I don't just draw and paint animals to show people how beautiful animals are. In a way, I hope to help people connect with animals at a different level than maybe most do. To show them these beautiful spirits that brighten our days and lives. In that way, I can also help people, like animals helped me.
There are so many animals that I've had the pleasure to know and be part of their lives. Only a few of those animals were shown on photos in this post.
In summary, keep in mind that some words hurt more than others. Simply put, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Also, if you see someone be mean to someone else, stand up for the person they are being mean to. Show them that there ARE people who care!
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Gunilla Wachtel ~ Conveying the Beautiful Essence of Animals in Art
Artist. Animal lover. Swedish-American.