Emma and Lola
Identity: Queer woman
"I was extremely anxious as a child, not because of my gender or sexuality, more likely a bit of nature and a lot of nurture. I have adhd and often have tics when under stress so much to the annoyance of my father, I found it very hard to stay still as a child. I remember one incident when he tied me to a chair to try to stop me ‘fidgeting’. It didn’t end well.
It was a difficult childhood, the child protection agency were called, my parents got divorced, and I got sick. I would throw up so often that I kept losing weight. My mum took me to hospital and specialist appointments to try to find out what was wrong with me. It turned out that there was nothing wrong with me, I was simply an anxious child in desperate need of a supportive and understanding environment.
And then came Lola! I tell people I was a teen mum because I adopted her when I was 18. We actually got her as a family pet, but after a month my parents said she was ‘too much work’ and they were going to take her back to the shelter. I knew what this would do to an animal, in much the same way as the lack of stability had done to me, and I promised I would take on the responsibility for Lola completely - physically, financially and emotionally.
Lola needed a lot of training in the early days - she was damaged. It was obvious that she had been beaten. I understood. I was patient and gentle with her and I promised never to let her down. She started to trust me, and we have built everything from that moment onwards. I’ve started to trust myself too. I still take medication and have a therapist, but I no longer feel like I want to die. I used to spend 16 hours a day hiding from life behind my computer, now I spend any spare time I have hiking, running and biking with Lola. Of course, I still have the occasional bad day, but now if I cry Lola will lick my face, or if the anxiety tics start, she reassures me and they stop. She’s not an official service dog, but she’s my service dog and I owe my life to her.
I’ve just moved to Nova Scotia from Montreal and am excited for the future and to be building my own life with Lola. I’m working as an animator and artist and hope one day to open an art therapy clinic for queer youth. I want queer youth to know that life can be better than anything they ever imagined, that someone out there will support them and become their family. I want to be that family."
Editor’s note: Emma now also works part time at Pet Valu having taken part in the Project and seen the Rescued by Love exhibit. Emma also volunteers for the Project. Thank you for being the shining light that you are Emma, the world is lucky to have you.