The past is the past, water under the bridge, spilled milk. We must live in the moment, the present, the here and now, for it’s in how we live out today that shapes and defines who we will become. What happens after the fact is the choice that determines the extent of mental damage.
‘Damage Control’ is a dramatization, a realistic fiction story based on an ACTUAL beating and rape that happened in Virginia last year to seven year old Sally (not her real name), in her own living room. It’s a story about healing, balance, and the reality that is found only by ‘Walking the Walk’.
~~~Flash back to February 2010~~~
Three weeks have passed since that fateful day in February and Sally was not responding well at all. None of the counseling, the drugs, or the therapy sessions had shown any positive improvement in alleviating Sally’s nightmares, her fear, or her trauma.
Her parents pleaded for help and finally the child-care counselor involved with this case contacted, TARP (Teens At Risk Program) and spoke to Dr. Amy Baxter at a university in Pennsylvania.. They arranged to bring Sally and her parents to Gray’s Farm, an experiential research learning- lab affiliated with the Animal Shelter the following week for a six-month intensive, TARP intervention program, with all expenses covered by the research foundation.
The family was set up in trailer #12, which nestled in along side the horse corral and the pasture with an over-looking view of Wintergreen Gorge. The father had to return home after a few days but the mother stayed on and participated in the activities and chores around the farm and at the animal shelter. For sixteen hours a day, everyday, Sally’s day was filled with action, adventure, structure, mentoring, learning, teaching, dog training, and much, much more, all with the good guidance and mentoring from the many good and caring volunteers who understood pain and suffering. Her nightmares subsided.
~~~The Animal Shelter~~~
Seventeen year old, Julia Roberts and fifteen year old, Buddy, had been working with Sally to develop her assertiveness and self-identity through defensive action moves in the Combat Hapkido Self-Defense Program. “It’s all about having control,” Julia repeated over and over to Sally.
Julia showed Sally just a couple simple techniques and focused on speed, accuracy, conviction, and spontaneous reaction. “There are at least five techniques to break the thumb of an 800 lb gorilla and you already know two of them,” she said. Sally was getting readings of ‘SEVERE SPRAIN’ on the ‘Rule of Thumb Meter’, a contraption Julia helped design and build to measure the actual twist-torque delivered to a fake thumb.
Already, Sally knew the sidekick and the front kick, and her impact force, speed, and accuracy kept improving every day. Julia explained to her that it doesn’t matter how many moves you know, but how well you know them. She endlessly repeated her mantra, “It’s better to know one thing well, than ten things not quite good enough in a pinch.”
Mrs. Andrews, Sally’s mom, sat on the bench along the front of the animal shelter and watched Julia, Sally, and Buddy finish their workout. The kick-bag hung from a big oak tree and Buddy stood behind it, supporting it. Julia looked over to Sally and smiled, “Okay, let’s do it one last time for today.” She looked directly at the bag and shouted, “MY NAME IS JULIA AND YOU WILL NOT HURT ME!” She went into a backspin, followed by a round-kick hitting high on the bag almost knocking Buddy off his balance with the impact force. “Take THAT,” she said and turned to Sally. “Your turn, show your mom what you can do.”
Sally glanced around at her mom then back at the bag. She zoned in on that exact spot Julia had showed her and with conviction in her voice, she shouted loudly, “MY NAME IS SALLY AND YOU WILL NOT HURT ME!” She stepped in and snapped out a front kick with accuracy and force. At the impact Buddy, in his bag-support position, grunted loudly and pushed himself off into a back roll and bounced off the tree then rolled backwards again. He got up, staggered a few steps, feigned a faint, and fell to the ground motionless and pleaded, “Hey, take it easy on me, I’m a good guy.” Sally and Julia looked at each other, did a high-five slap, and started laughing.
Mrs. Andrews just sat there for a moment. She could not believe the difference in her daughter after only two weeks. She wasn’t sure she would ever see her sweet child laugh again, but…. A tear seeped from her eye, and she had to shake herself to control her voice, “You’re doing really good sweetheart.”
Julia put her arm around Sally as they walked towards her mother, “She’s going to be a champ Mrs. Andrews, you can be real proud of her.”
Her mom stood up and took Sally in her arms, and they hugged. “But Julia, I’m worried about Sally going through life in attack mode like that, it invites trouble.”
“Mrs. Andrews. This is not about being in attack mode or about fighting, or even about the win or lose outcome. This is about developing self-efficacy, and self-confidence. This is about self-empowerment. It’s about having perfected a skill of action and assertiveness that generates a power within. It’s about knowing and believing in yourself and your skills of choice until they become a part of you. It’s about never again feeling helpless and defenseless without options.”
“I can see that now, Julia, thank you, and what a powerful belief to have within.”
“Yes indeed ma‘am. It’s a mentally magic state of mind; it IS the ‘ART’ of self-defense.” Julia paused and smiled, “We’re going to do a short cool-down walk now, and then she can get ready for her appointment with Dr. Amy. Come on Sally, let’s get a quick drink, grab a dog, and hit the trails.” Julia patted Sally’s back as they walked to the front door. “You’re doing good kid, there’s nobody ever gonna mess with you again.”
~~~WALKING THE WALK~~~
After grabbing two water bottles from the fridge and two leashes off the hooks, Julia and Sally went into the kennel area and walked down ‘dog-isle’. About halfway Julia stopped, opened a gate and put a leash on a little beagle pup named Lucky, and handed the leash to Sally. She walked on to the large-dog section and went to the last kennel on the left. She knelt down and spoke softly to Ol’ Maude, an old retriever mix they found last year beaten and almost starved to death. Ol’ Maude was about ten years old and nobody seemed interested in adopting the old dog, so Julia did.
Ol’ Maude was Julia’s favorite and she got real excited when Julia stood up, opened her gate, and snapped on a leash. She wagged her tail so hard it swayed her whole backside and she almost lost her balance. She loved her walks with Julia everyday.
With people in tow, the dogs led the way out the side door, around the agility course, and up the well-worn trail that meandered through the trees. Ol’ Maude took the lead position with her keen nose and sharp eyes. She was always on the lookout and smelling for any signs of danger, or food. This was her pack and she had a job to do.
Julia and Sally followed behind their dogs with an easy walk and some small talk until they came to a fork in the trail. Julia paused for a moment. “What time is your meeting with Dr. Amy?”
“Three o’clock.” Sally said.
Julia looked at her watch then back to Sally, “We’d better take the short trail this time.” She then tugged the leash to the left with two easy snaps of her wrist and said “Haw.” Ol’ Maude, who knew the lingo well, headed off onto the trail to the left.
The short trail led directly to the creek before looping back toward the shelter. Sally looked over to Julia and asked, “How long have you been with the shelter, Julia?”
“For about a year now, my real home is in West Virginia. Did you know that Joe Freeman, we call him J.F. for short, is Christina’s dad, and he lives right next door to me and that’s where Christina grew up? And Buddy always came down for the summers to visit his granddad, and that’s how we became best friends. When Christina decided to take over the shelter, as a family effort with both her kids, Buddy and Cathy Anne, both her dad and I came up to help."
“Don’t you miss being home?”
“Yeah, I miss home, but this is important, to help Christina get this Animal Shelter going.” Julia went off in thought for a second, “Ya know what I really miss the most though is watching the wild mustangs frolic in the creek late in the evenings, with the moonlight reflecting off the water. It looks like a liquid silver ribbon running back and forth through the valley. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”
Sally's eyes lit up, “YOU have wild mustangs?”
“Yep, ‘bout 25 of them, all ranging free in the upper meadows behind J.F.s cabin. We bring them down every year for the rodeos.”
“Rodeos," Sally said with disgust. "That’s mean; I saw how they are so mean to those horses on TV.”
“There’s nobody’s mean to my horses. I’m with them almost all the time and they actually kind of like it. They spend all year long looking forward for rodeo season to begin so they can buck those cowboys off their backs and put ‘em in the dirt, on their butts.” Julia smiled and looked over to Sally, “Do you ride?”
“No, I’ve always wanted to but…”
“Well, how about tonight after supper, you can come along with me and Buddy for a little trail ride down Manitowoc Valley. I‘ve watched you muck out the stalls and you're a natural. ”
“Sure.” Sally piped up with enthusiasm. “Julia? Will you teach me to barrel race like you do?”
“I think that might be something we can work at. Yeah! That’s good idea, Sally.”
They reached the half waypoint of the trail where it followed along side the babbling creek, briefly, before winding back into the woods towards the shelter. “Hey, you want to switch dogs?” Julia asked as she held out her leash towards Sally.
“Sure, I’ll take the lead with Ol’ Maude” she said, and they switched dogs and positions. Sally admired the way Ol’ Maude just moseyed along smelling everything there was to smell when she noticed a big scar on her hind leg. “What’s that Julia?” she asked, pointing to the scar.
“That’s an old battle wound Maude carries with her. She was abused and beaten pretty bad before we found her.”
Sally stared at the scar that ran from the top of the left hip all the way down to her knee, “Who would ever hurt a dog like Ol’ Maude?”
“I don’t know!” Julia said vehemently. “But they sure as heck wouldn’t if I was around.” She looked over to Sally then off to the side and threw out a swift round kick at some imagined dog abuser, and shouted out simultaneously, “UHAAUUH!”
Sally then imitated Julia’s kick with one of her own, “My name is Ol’ Maude, and you will not hurt me. Uhaauh!”
’ Maude turned her head around to see who called out her name and what the ruckus was about, and then turned back again, to her job at hand.
Photo by Chuck Szmurlo. Thanks for this perfect image of teamwork between mankind and animal.
This is a conceptual book of how walking the walk overrules and supersedes talking the talk. Showing, not telling, is the real master key to realistic learning. It’s about a young-at-heart and very creative single mom (Christina Virginia Freeman), and her two kids, (Cathy Anne, 16), and (Buddy, 15), take over an animal shelter, with the help of her father (Joe Freeman) and family friend, (Julia Roberts, 17). There, they all team-up and pursue every effort they can think of to help the dogs, cats, troubled kids, elders and all others that want to join in and become part of the modeling process. It is about the real magic that comes from giving.