> No More Secrets And Lies: Josie and the Dogs

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Josie and the Dogs

Josie and Cocoa

My oldest daughter, Josie, was home from Eugene and was splitting her vacation time between her mom's house and mine, like she usually does when she's home. Unlike her sisters, she hadn't succumbed to her mom's attempts to brainwash her against me. She has never tolerated talk like this, and this hasn't been easy for her. Being stronger than her sisters in this way is possibly why she was able to resist this; or maybe resisting it all those years is what made her strong. Either way, she's always had a strong truth-sense about her, and this hallmark of her personality has gotten her through many trying times. She relates to the world authentically and expects others to do the same, and any absence of this in others raises a red flag for her. She doesn't follow others blindly nor expect others to do the same. (Her blog tells this better than I can.) This quality has not only gained her the trust of many people throughout her life, but has kept her safe as well, and it seemed to come in handy during this Christmas season.

I could tell she had been rejected by her mom while she was home, and this was most likely because she wouldn't tolerate her bad-mouthing me. But I think it was harder this time, and I could sense this conflict within her. On the one hand, she was worried by what she had seen and was struggling to find a way to tell me about it. On the other hand, she was worried about any consequences she might face if she was caught telling me what her mother had said — a risky gamble for each of my girls. And because of this, she spent much of her vacation time at my home, or at the dog pound.

She spent four to six hours a day during her Christmas break at the dog pound playing with the dogs and taking them for long walks, despite the bitter cold. She felt sorry for them because they were alone and rejected. She has always loved animals, especially dogs, and is an extremely caring person by nature with tremendous empathy, not just for animals, but for children and just about every other living thing. Watching animals and people suffer in any way is painful for her.

* * *

Josie waited forever for her first dog. She was six-years old when she first asked if she could have a dog. Mary was a toddler at the time, and we told Josie that she would have to wait a few years before we would be able to get her a dog. She asked how many. We told her three. She said she would remind us again in three years. And she did. She waited all that time, and just before her ninth birthday, she asked if she could have her dog now. We had almost forgotten, but she hadn't. I went down to the animal shelter, found a puppy, and brought it home. It became her Cocoa. When she moved to Eugene after high school, she missed Cocoa so much she figured out a way to get her out to Oregon through various rides and what-not, and now she and Cocoa live together on the West Coast.

Josie had visited animal shelters many times prior to this Christmas, but this was extreme even for her. I thought it was most likely her way of coping with what she had seen happening to her sisters over at her mother's house, and that maybe when she realized she couldn't do anything to help her sisters, she thought she could make up for this by helping the dogs. I guess that makes sense. She was at the dog pound from morning 'till night nearly every day while home during that Christmas vacation. Something was bothering her, and maybe by helping the dogs cope with their pain, she was helping herself cope with hers.

One afternoon, when she wasn't at the pound, she and I were sitting around my living room doing nothing in particular, when she asked me for a piece of paper. She said she didn't have her journal with her and she felt like doing some writing. I ripped a piece of paper out of my journal, handed it to her, and she sat and wrote until she had filled out both sides. She then left the piece of paper lying on my living room floor where I could see it, and it stayed there for the rest of her vacation. I walked around it — even vacuumed around it — but never touched it. When she returned to Oregon, the piece of paper was still lying on my floor.

Since it's always been my personal rule to never read my girls' diaries or journals, I put her piece of paper away so she could get it at a later date. But something struck me about this little note of hers. She wouldn't normally leave a heartfelt piece of writing in plain sight, making me have to walk around it. There was something going on here, and it almost seemed as if she wanted me to read the little note she feverously wrote while I watched. She had been struggling to tell me something that day anyhow, and then she deliberately left this note on the living room floor. Plus, I knew that whatever she had seen at her mother's house had troubled her so much she felt compelled to tell me, even though she didn't know quite how to. I also knew that she was keenly aware that telling me anything about her mother could easily damage her relationship with her mother. It was a fear I had seen in each of my girls over the years. If this journal entry was meant for me, it was a very clever way for her to get me to read it while keeping her innocent of any charges she might face — charges like "telling Dad stuff." I didn't know if this was her plan or not, but I started to think I should read it, in case it was.

I picked her note off the floor and sat down with it. And sure enough it was about bad-mouthing, and my heart sank when I saw how much worse this was than I had imagined. What my girls had seen at their mother's house was more than bad-mouthing — it was a campaign — a campaign of denigration, as it is called. And it's things like this that have been slowly killing my family for the past ten years. And it's secrets like these that need to be revealed. 

It's why I've included her note here in my story exactly as she wrote it. It's that important. There's nothing too embarrassing or too revealing about it — just the heart and the soul of a beautiful person.

Josie's Letter to Me—

Jan 2nd.

I left my journal at mom's house and right now I'm at dad's new apt on Lincoln St. I've been going to the humane society for the past few days and volunteering – mostly playing with dogs and walking them. I feel so bad for these dogs.

Their kennel areas aren't deathly-small, but whenever someone goes back there, they all, start barking and it's so loud and seems like it would be unpleasant to be in, and they are all so loving and excited. I want to get another dog. I have a favorite dog there. Her name is Trista.

I'm sad that I only went there towards the very end of my trip. I could have avoided almost all my kooks I feel like. This morning I've felt pretty good. I talked to mom on the phone and it always makes me feel weird when she talks about dad and I want to tell her not to talk to Grace or Mary like that. I mean it even made me feel weird for a little while after talking to her. Like weird about hanging out with dad. Like that he's very irresponsible and I should not be feeling as good hanging out with him as I do. But I'm glad I don't feel too kooky because then I would just get more upset on the phone and feel more messed up.

I have some ideas that I want to try to pursue with the Humane Society. I want to help get the word out, about the Humane Society and all the WONDERFUL animals there. God damn. Like through facebook and dad might help them update their website. Gosh I wish it wasn't so cold. Taking the dogs on walks is kind of painful. Last night I fell asleep pretty easily – like at midnight. I didn't get very far in Back to the Future 2. I finished watching it this morning. I'm glad because I have spent my last time here well and mostly with my family.

I slept over here last night and the night before. Yesterday I went to the humane society for like 6 hours from like 11-6 and played with the dogs and took them outside and did a little bit of training with them. I want to take Trista home with me.

* * *

Even though I've read a lot about how children's minds can be controlled, nothing I've read has impacted me as much as this little note from Josie. And it's clear to me now why I haven't seen Mary for over two years and haven't seen Grace for almost as long. Here I see just how easily a child's mind can be manipulated; and here, with Josie, she's surprised at herself as she notices one part of her mind beginning to believe the words she's reading, while another part is rejecting them.

I'm thankful I still have Josie in my life. For a time, I thought I would lose her as well, like I've lost Mary and Grace, even though she is far away from the influences that took her sisters. I'm so thankful she caught this manipulation before it caught her. Poor girl wished she could have spent more of her vacation time alone at the dog pound rather than with her family so she wouldn't have had to witness things that were being said about her father, and so she wouldn't have felt so "kooky" — her code word for letting me know she's stressed or worried, or simply that her world is messed up and she doesn't know why.

This little "note" of hers is important and shows just how easily alienation can occur. And even after reading a number of books on this topic, I was surprised at what I saw here in her little message to me.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


John Brosnan said...

No. It's all true. I can show you the piece of paper.

Anonymous said...


John Brosnan said...

No, un-pies, or truths.

Anonymous said...

Silly man, you no understand logic!

John Brosnan said...

How don't I understand logic?

Anonymous said...

Obvi you no understand why you no understand logic.

John Brosnan said...

Obvi you do understand why I don't understand why I don't understand logic. That's good.

Anonymous said...

Just because the "piece of paper" is true doesn't mean it's all true, silly man!

:D You no understand logic.

John Brosnan said...

It is all true. The only mistake I made was not telling it sooner. Speaking up is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Sad situation all around. My siblings and I grew up with being played, used as a pawn by my Mom to get back at my Dad. As we matured, we were able to look at situations and past history -- and basically call "BS" to that garbage.

Shunning or isolating a family member and gleefully putting someone in pain -- what does it accomplish?

Life is too short to be mean, to be willingly hurtful, to be unforgiving -- because in the long run, the person does more damage to themselves.

John Brosnan said...

Thank you, whoever you are. I just want my relationship with my girls back. That's all.

TSElliott said...

Girls as they get older tend to have more traits of their mothers. As their mother sees her manipulations working with them, the more powerful she feels. As these feelings of accomplishment grow - she tries more risky behavior. The girls are so used to it now that they see it as normal. The more you are around - the more you will be used as the bad guy. It is just the way groups of girls work. How sad.

Pennie Reese said...

So sad when a child is shamed for loving a parent. No matter who their parents are, no matter what they've done, there is always good that can be gotten from loving them and receiving love from them.

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