Professional and eloquent, Toby offers three topics to help any group:
“Were twelve days with John Manard worth ten years of your life?” he yelled above the raucous crowd of reporters. Curled up on the floor, naked and cold, that question echoed in my head. From above, a glimmer slowly pushed away my inky despair as a visceral need to tell my story took root. The stark reality is that no one escapes, but if I could heal from the devastating wounds deep inside me, my recovery would be a road map for other broken women.
From an early age, dogs enriched my life. Some use fear and discipline and end up with a dog that is broken but obedient. I prefer using love and understanding for a fulfilling partnership. Leashes are tools. Dogs are so sensitive they can feel your mood through the leash. Removing it can be beautiful. Risky and sometimes chaotic, I always wondered, “Is the dog disciplined enough to follow voice commands? Is the handler steady enough to remain calm? Was the unleashing a mistake? Or is it the beginning of freedom?”
At 48 years of age, having spent most of my life tethered to duty and responsibility, I broke free. My unleashing was dangerous and life-altering. The road to redemption runs through ruin. My story, the one I am about to share with you, is one of fear and shame, but that’s not all. It’s also grit, love, and grace.
Behind bars, I found freedom. I figured out who I wanted to be. Gut-wrenching, soul searching, wailing days were fruitful and the ashes for a new garden were rich. I discovered that relationships can be empathetic and forgiving. Since prison, I’ve achieved much and married a wonderful guy who loves me unconditionally.
Some of the harshest prisons don’t have any bars at all. You don’t have to be incarcerated to face serious adversity. A failed business, splintered home or broken relationship has the power to drop the strongest person to her knees.
If you are a woman who has somehow fallen, I know the pain you feel. You are not alone. I know how difficult it is to come back from being down. But hear this, victory is sweetest when the challenge is greatest. Face your fears, boldly evaluate where you are, and courageously change.
I will never claim that healing is easy. It was anything but. So many times, I wanted to give up. There’s an old saying that the strength of a woman’s character is measured by the obstacle that stops her.
If you are looking for a broken woman with a felony conviction, you’ll find me. If you read this story hoping for answers, you’ll find a woman living with conviction. With wisdom, you’ll find both. Learn to live with conviction, unleashed—and unstoppable!
Join me. Your details will differ, but in my story perhaps we’ll find each other. My name is Toby, better known as The Dog Lady of Lansing Prison. I am Unleashed. Are you?