I am grateful for our dog, Olive.
Olive came to live in our home one year ago. She was our neighbor’s dog and I remember when I first met her, she was a small, adorable puppy. A few years later, Olive became my daughter’s best friend. Abby would go to visit Olive and we would take her for walks together and sometimes Abby would just bring Olive to our yard to play.
And then Olive became our magic angel who helped my daughter out of her fear and rage that went along with the severe anxiety that began to overtake my daughter’s life when she was 8 years old. We would sometimes bring Olive into Abby’s bedroom when she awoke in a rage. Like magic, seeing Olive could help her calm down and begin to move out of fear and be able to engage in life, to eat a meal or stop her aggressive behavior.
And so when our neighbors told us they were moving in a few weeks and the house they were renting did not allow all three of their dogs and asked us if we wanted to have Olive, what else could we have said? Sure, my husband and I thought about it and discussed it privately for a few days. We were already considering getting our daughter a dog in the future, possibly in a few months.
So Olive came to live in our home, first temporarily but knowing it could be permanent.
Olive more than tolerated our exuberant and energetic youngest child, Jason who was not yet 2 when she came to live with us. We watched the two of them very closely in the beginning and had some couch “resource guarding behavior” to deal with initially but Olive otherwise had nothing but kisses and love for our toddler. I am sure it helped that he gave her treats whenever he could get a hold of them and often as many treats as he could give her.
I am even more grateful for my daughter, Abby, thanking me for Olive.
I am happy to say that one year later, and much time and effort helping my daughter with her anxiety disordrer (OCD), she spontaneously thanked me for her dog, Olive. It is exciting to see her running up to Olive and saying “I love my puppy!”
Abby, gave me a Thank You card the other day. She thanked me for giving her: life, love, giving to her, our cat, Peanut and Olive. It was one of those miraculous moments of motherhood that you cherish forever. One that erases hours, days and years of challenges. For my daughter, it was also a monumental point for her given her experiences over the past year or so. An expression of her new ability to write and express herself on her own and an amazing turning point in her life with severe anxiety- a sign of the “real Abby” the beautiful soul who is without fear and is pure love and joy. A reminder to the rest of us as to who she really is.
Today Abby asked me, “Why is Olive always already outside when I wake up?”
I resisted the urge to say, ‘Because you wake up so late and often don’t get out of bed until 9:30 or later’. Instead, I saw her need and interest in spending time with her dog (something to be celebrated!) in the morning and told her that I could bring Olive inside for her. And I joyfully, brought Olive back in the house.
I realize that there are not words to describe or fully express the magnificence of these small but huge leaps for my daughter. She has always loved Olive and continued to when Olive came to live with us. Yet, within days of Olive moving into our home, Olive became part of my daughter’s anxiety disorder. She could not touch Olive for some time, maybe with her arm or the back of her hand and then later only if she had washed her hands for a certain length of time (read: a very long time). She quickly grew unable to feed Olive- she couldn’t touch the container that held her food, and for some time, she couldn’t hold her leash.
At the beginning of this year, my sister, an animal love, dog behaviorist and kindred spirit with my daughter, began coming to visit monthly, and spend time with Abby and Olive. With those visits combined with Abby and Olive taking a local dog training class, we have seen improvements with my daughter being able to do more with Olive and improvements with her anxiety. I used to have to bring Olive to Abby when she was in a “stuck place” and I would say, “Her’s your dog, Abby. Olive loves you no matter what.”
Take all that I have described and multiply it in your mind by 1000 and now you have a glimmer of understanding of her life over the past year.
Abby may have a long way to go with her anxiety and maybe a lifetime of managing OCD, yet, to see her enjoying her dog brings us hope. We want our children to be happy. When a child has had an experience of pure hell; an experience that takes away her childhood innocence , as her parent, you just want to take it all away and make it all better. As much as I have wanted to take away her pain, I have always known that I can’t do that. It is her life to live and my job is to love her and provide support and encouragement for her. I can comfort her, but I can not take away the ‘bad’stuff, nor can I always make it better.
So to hear Abby thank me for her dog and to see her joyfully and spontaneously run up to Olive and hug her and spend time with her is truly an amazing and beautiful sight to behold. Our daughter is coming back. She is showing wonderful moments of her true self, without the fear and anxiety and it fills my heart with joy and gratitude.