The Story Behind The Start Of LWDG
Written By Joanne Perrott in 2018
Have You Ever Wanted To Know Why Joanne Started The Ladies Working Dog Group? Here’s Her Story As First Published in Into The Country Magazine…
Life up until 2010 for me had been the same as everyone else’s. A series of great occasions, and moments we would rather forget.
By 27 I had married, brought two amazing children, Charlotte and Rob, into the world, divorced, and had left the UK and moved to Malta with my new (and forever) husband, Matt. We ran a rock climbing business on the island and I had my last (and final) beautiful daughter Megan. Life was a happy place but I was very tired all the time. I thought the tiredness was down to the heat, three children, our own business and being without family support and thought coming home would help so in 2009 we returned to the UK. But when we returned, the tiredness didn’t leave, and I just dealt with it. I’m a really active person, I grew up with horses, I would hunt and compete and loved the outdoors. So I pushed through and carried on with life.
On December 20th, 2010 I found out why I hadn’t been feeling myself. An emergency visit to A&E for pain in my face led to the unexpected finding of a large brain tumour,
Business-wise we lost everything. I couldn’t dance, so I couldn’t work as a dance instructor anymore. Matt had to take care of three children, and me so his Climbing business died with no one looking after it.
Personally, I lost myself. My confidence disappeared and over the next few months, I was diagnosed with PTSD and epilepsy. It was a very dark time. In all the years before, I had many jobs because of my personality. My confidence had secured my job roles I had no experience in.
I fought back from our financial ruin by joining a network marketing company, needing the income potential and the freedom of time it offered, hoping I would finally find a career I would love… The network marketing industry introduced me to self-development and I read every book I could get my hands on, watched YouTube, and listened to audible. My appetite was and still is limitless. Slowly I became me again, my anxiety returning to a manageable level.
“Every year I had to go for a scan. 2012 revealed the tumour was growing back. I was devastated.”
I had spent so much time rebuilding myself only to lose it all in a 10-minute consultation. As the tumour grew, my confidence shrank, and my anxiety was to the point where I would regularly go days without leaving the house. I wouldn’t shop on my own, I sat with my back to the walls in public places. I forgot who I was and became this sad shell of me who could manage to fake her confidence for the few moments she had with others and then I would run and curl into a ball in my husband’s arms to comfort me from the never-ending pain of panic. Mental health is a weird thing. You can see if someone is physically hurt, but emotions can be masked in such a way that you would never think there was anything wrong. Only my immediate family had a clue of what I was going through.
But by 2015, even they were worried. I had daily panic attacks, and getting me outdoors was nearly impossible. Whilst all of this had been happening in my life, my Dad had faced challenges of his own. Multiple spinal accidents had left him unable to horse ride and he had begun working and competing with his spaniels. One day, Dad convinced me to go beating for the day with him.
From the moment I started working with his dog that day, for some reason, I felt at peace. I should have been stressing about the new environment, new faces, new everything. But instead, I just felt happy. I was back outdoors but instead of dwelling on myself, I was busy thinking about Grace, the dog I was working with. That day I walked for miles, disconnected from my daily life and technology, and it felt so good. I was hooked.
Straight away I wanted my own dog. Dad’s dog Grace was fab, she had competed with Dad and knew her stuff. But as soon as she would hear Dad’s whistle she would abandon me without a thought just to get back to him. I decided I needed a dog of my own.
Bob was five months when I had him, and we were inseparable. He lived with me in the house, wherever I went he was there. If I visited people he came, he sat on the passenger seat of my car, and lay on my lap, he was my shadow. He was too young to work on a shoot, so instead, I carried him around all day in a canvas bag, his head poking out as we went about our work. When the season ended, I began training him, and he became my rock. Slowly and surely, he got my confidence back. Any time I felt my anxiety starting to climb I would grab a ball and we would get outside. His need for exercise increased mine and this is known to help with what I was facing.
The missing thing was contact with other women hunting with dogs. I had joined the same Facebook groups as my Dad, but found that some of the stuff men were posting was really inappropriate, and arguments got quite nasty. I started a group called ‘women beaters and pickers-up. There were only a few of us to begin with, but as we each added the other ladies we knew, it grew into this amazing community of women who supported one another so much. Due to some weird men wanting to join our ‘women beater’ group, We had a Facebook name change to The Ladies Working Dog Group.
In January 2017 I had to face another 6-hour operation to remove my brain tumour that had decided to grow back. This time I faced it with a newfound strength. I had hunted my dog Bob and my new addition Jess (yes, they are addictive) up until December but knew the rest of the season would be out for me. The dogs sat with me through it all, their looks of understanding keeping me from reaching a meltdown. Three weeks after, I managed to walk outside with them to the gate and back, a tiny distance, but to me, it meant so much.
The Ladies Working Dog Group has a single purpose: To create an online community that offers friendship, advice and encouragement to female working dog owners worldwide. With over 5000 supporters across Instagram and Facebook, along with our free and full members, Ladies Working Dog Group is one of the largest, fastest-growing groups for female working dog owners only.
We now produce a member’s masterclass training video with a featured expert each month. Companies send us exclusive discounts, we hold Ladies Only events, we run competitions and our community is really active. We even have our own clothing range ‘hold the line’. There’s so much great stuff going on that it makes me excited and happy, and keeps me away most of the time from those dark moments. April this year I was told my tumour hasn’t grown back. I will still face yearly MRIs, and I pray I don’t have to face another tumour, but I now have so many ladies I call friends that I have met online, who give me support whenever I need it, and of course, my family and my gorgeous dogs.
As I write my story today, it still makes me cry, and the pain is still so raw, but at my feet lay Jess and Ella, her 8-month-old pup. I owe my dogs so much. Without them, I’m not sure I could have gotten through what I have faced, but also I would never have had a reason to start the Ladies Working Dog Group.
Update: Isn’t it funny how quickly time passes… This was written in 2018, and it is now September 2020. Dad, the man who brought me into training working dogs, passed away in October 2019. It’s still too hard for me to write at length about it, but I have been lost without his guidance and his presence.
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