Backyard to the Universe
Ministry With Dawgs - Being Displaced
Tess is our black 13 year old pit bull. She came to us initially when she was a little less than 2 years of age, along with three cats. Her family was moving and not able to take them. She came to live with us until they might be in a place to have a dog again. I learned a lot from her in that time, including what was 'visitations' with her family, then the re-entry on return to us and our other two dogs (a golden retriever and a golden/shepherd mix). They - the dogs - were like the Three Musketeers. But they had their own personalities and places and functions within the family. These were renegotiated when she returned from a visit, or when one of the other dogs got sick, etc. She was dominant, and the two male dogs let her have her way - usually.
She lived with us for about 5 years before her family was able to have a dog again and she "went home". Her family lived in a small trailer. There were, over the years, additional cats, and then a baby. Tess was expected to spend much of her time on her own bed and small area in a corner of the living room. She was let outside as needed, but not walked. She loved to go for car rides. But, after being "home" for almost 3 years, we were asked to take her back. I am sure that she would never have hurt the baby, but she was, in reality, being pushed out by the baby. We did take her back - on the condition that she would be ours and not go back to her original family.
Tess had always been a high energy dog, one who liked to keep things going, to get the other dogs to bark when things got too quiet. When she returned to us, however, there was an added dimension of severe anxiety. She resumed her place in our household, even with her old friends. But her buddies died over the next year, and she became even more anxious. We adopted an older male golden retriever from the shelter, and they have become friends. But we have also taken various other measures to control the anxiety, including medications and herbal treatment, and regular exercise. Her anxiety is basically 'under control'. I have learned real patience over the two years since she returned, thanks largely to my husband's understanding of anxiety. It is part of our lives, but her being part of our family is also enriching. In fact, she was able to accommodate my son's black female 4 year old pit bull over Christmas with seeming calm!
Which brings me to this morning. There is a black female pit bull at the shelter that shows the initial anxiety that I noticed in Tess -namely barking and constant panting. Her story? Let me guess! She had been "the pet" for several years when the family had a baby. Would she have harmed the baby, or was she 'pushed aside'?
When there are changes in our family situations, how do we include the impact on our pets? Do we understand that displacement is not less for them than for people? How is a new baby different for a dog than for an older sibling? How do we help with transitions, realizing that finding a new home for a pet may be an option that is not available for an older child? What is the life-long impact of these interactions and transitions?
May we have relationships that honor the place and role of each being, animal and human, within our family and society constructs
February 4, 2013