Owning A Dog Cafe & Epilepsy

 This is a bit uncomfortable, but I might as well just dive in..
Let's start with owning the dog cafe, My Dog's Cafe & Bar.  I can't recall the last time I've ever seen a dog at our cafe that wasn't smiling.  I find some of the rescue dogs, depending on what they have gone through, can be shy at first.  It's so heartwarming to see them eventually come around.  Being in a pet friendly environment on a daily basis never gets stale.  We get to see all kinds of interesting and sweet dogs every day and we never know who is going to come in next.  It's also so awesome that people come to My Dog's Cafe that do not own a dog, but they would like to be around them.  I totally get that!
I've lived in the Hamilton area most of my life.  Some years back, I moved away from Hamilton for six years, still coming back most weekends to visit family. I bought a condo in Toronto, by the waterfront and I just loved it. It made me feel like I was on vacation every time I ventured to the lake, which was, of course, often. It does not beat our lovely Bayfront Park, though.  They are definitely neck and neck. 
While I lived in Toronto, I had some strange and scary episodes and after doctors ran various tests, they told me I had epilepsy. That was a pretty frightening diagnosis, especially when my neurologist told me, in such a matter of a fact way, that it was going to get worse. I lost my driver's license for a year while my neurologist got me settled onto my new medication. I’ve lost it since then a couple times as the meds seem to work well for only so long and then I need a stronger amount.  After my last series of seizures in a movie theatre (and yes, of course it had to be on a first date), I sold my place and moved back to Hamilton to be close to my family.  The date handled it incredibly.  He saved my life that night.
If you've ever known anyone who has lived with epilepsy, you know it’s much more than the seizures themselves. There’s good days and bad days, getting use to not feeling well and plugging away anyway.  Always being tired is just a part of life and having to write everything down is a must.  Going back to a project from a week earlier can be tough, trying to figure out where things were left off.  I find my phone notes very handy!  I often only chat for so long, as I find the over stimulation difficult.  That said, I still go to concerts and I do quite well, flashing lights and all.  Go figure!  Every person has it somewhat different.  My mind also does this super weird thing of flipping things in my head. I know it’s happening and still do/say it anyway eg; I will say green when I meant to say red. Yes, very annoying, but at least I catch it just as it's escaped my mouth and can then make the correction.  
I feel very blessed to have my dog friendly café.  People tell me it's given them something to live for and that blows me away that we have made that kind of impact in some lives.  I do feel like the lucky one.  People are so warm, friendly and genuinely caring. I love all of our regulars and always happy to meet and see the new faces that come in. I mean, of course, the odd time I meet someone that’s not exactly warm and fuzzy, but I try to put myself in their position and what they might be going through that week, day, moment or even year.  We've even seen people that come in seemingly so annoyed at the world, change within the time they are in the cafe.  My mom says, "kill people with kindness."  It's very good advice.  It's a pretty great feeling to make someone's day through just being at the cafe.
I've had doctors ask me how I do it.  How do I keep functioning?  I tell them exactly what I do.  I keep going.  I just push through.  I have My Dog's Cafe & Bar to get to.
(Photo by Jennifer Williams)
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