(three good meals a day and a roof over our heads), never putting a dollar towards comforts for himself nor complaining of the chronic physical pain he endured as a result of a mill accident that left him with a deformed limb and limp. He was my hero, a role model for integrity, loyalty and courage.
On the other hand, Noella’s irreverent wit and humor combined with her protective maternal instincts and liberal values prepared me for life out in the world beyond the sheltered familiarity of my clan and my hometown.
I took my first steps in a modest duplex apartment backing on an alley where feeding packs of stray and infirm cats struck the first resounding note of animal compassion in my soul. By age 6, my independent determined spirit, irrepressibly hooked to my humane inner moral compass told me the human species was not the most noble and was never meant to have dominion over all others. My activist streak caught me and a pet shop owner by surprise on one of my summer afternoon wanderings, when I literally “saw a puppy in the window” that deserved better, and marched in the store to give the owner a lecture before walking out with the dog in my arms on a quest to find it a loving home.
Meanwhile, soothing from pets and relatives’ menagerie of farm animals as well as escapes to nature for hiking, snowshoeing and canoeing helped absorb the aftermath from the tsunamis of instability and chaos that would often overwhelm our home with the sporadic and violent intrusions of an emotionally unstable mother. Nature and animals were instinctively and still remain my safest haven during the tempests of life.
After one year at a neighborhood French school, I transferred to St. Patrick School for 12 years of English education, while continuing to live my French culture at home. I credit Henri Boudreau, my English teacher for recognizing and fostering my need to “self express” by channeling it through composition, drama and public speaking.
After a short bored stint at Montreal’s John Abbott College, with little more than corporal expression dance classes, a couple of foreign language credits, and poetry on my transcript, but high marks for partying, my restlessness filled my job resume with waitress, hostess, bar tender, hotel concierge and restaurant manager to bank teller, sales clerk for men’s wear, tour guide and French tutor.
By the time I turned twenty, I was married to my high school sweetheart and the marriage dissolved within a couple of years as our youth matured in different directions with the predictable trials and tribulations.
My heart’s vocation still called me to veterinary medicine, but the ambition never loud enough to quiet my soul’s wanderlust. The latter found immediate gratification at Air Canada where I spread my flight attendant wings across Canada, the United States and Europe for five high flying years.
I was 24 years old when the death of the only father I had known and loved left me emotionally debilitated for months. But on the afternoon of June 29, 1983, the sun burst out with its warmest glow in years when a blonde blue eyed man with a radiant smile boarded the Toronto Airport Express shuttle. It was love at first sight in spite of the all American tennis shoes, flood pants and checkered shirt. After a whirlwind romance of seven cross-border dates, following the motto of all well bred French Canadian girls, “qui prends mari prends pays,” I said yes to David’s marriage proposal and we eloped to Lake Tahoe for an intimate ceremony.
I arrived in California with my bicycle and my cat ready to forge an identity and begin a new life. David and I soon found out we were a dynamo team both romantically and professionally, when I stepped into his Walnut Creek office and quickly grew into the secretarial and para-legal shoes.
Within a couple of years, we relocated to the Monterey Peninsula, a community I felt celebrated “individuality,” which fit my non-conformist nature like a glove.
My passion for animals, nature and the environment easily found a voice as a freelance writer for a variety of newspapers and magazines, and travel columnist for Dog Fancy Magazine. David and I indulged our lust for travel and outdoor adventures cruising the high seas, hiking and cycling around the world including the mountain kingdoms of the Rockies, Sierra Nevada, Alps, Dolomites, Kilimanjaro, Himalaya and Peruvian Andes.
Raising two coyote/husky hybrids for 16 years added another layer of challenges rewarding us with discovering the National Forest gems and a California paradise called the “Eastern Sierra”. Our dogs “Lobo” and “Shiloh” inspired my first book “Hiking with Dogs – Becoming a Wilderness-Wise Dog Owner, published by Falcon Press/Globe Pequot and my second book “Best Hikes with Dogs Central California” published by The Mountaineers, a two-year project with co-author and husband David Mullally.
We traveled to promote the book, giving radio, newspaper and television interviews about the joys, benefits and responsibilities of hiking with dogs, and the best trails in Central California.
My insatiable appetite for travel is currently well fed as travel columnist for the Monterey County Herald while I work on a third hiking/backpacking guide to be released by Falcon/Globe Pequot in fall 2013 and a Northern California hiking guide in summer 2014. In my spare time I continue to massage other non-fiction manuscripts I hope to have published in the near future.
As far as my love of dogs, since Lobo and Shiloh’s departure for “Rainbow Bridge”, my friends regularly call on me as their “doggie nanny” whenever they or their pooch need a vacation!