sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Posts tagged ‘animals as therapy’

Life with a dog… 11 months and counting

Our dog, Olive, came to live with us in late October of 2010.  She was our neighbor’s dog.  We met her as a cute little puppy and got to know her as we assisted our neighbors with dog sitting on occasion.   My daughter, the animal lover who has wanted a dog of her own, enjoyed helping take care of the dogs across the street.  She then had opportunities to take Olive for walks and got to bring her to our yard for visits.  My neighbor described that when Olive would hear Abby’s voice outside their house, she would get all excited and come running to the door.  Olive became my daughter’s best friend.

Then in early  2010, my daughter’s irrational fears, nighttime difficulties  and over hand washing grew into full-blown dysfunctional Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  It was a crazy time for the entire family.  Through the most difficult times, she begged for a dog, saying that a dog would “make it better”.  We realized that a dog would not really make it better but as we learned to cope and help her navigate this disruptive anxiety disorder, we considered the idea of a dog.  We did witness how our neighbor’s dog, coming over and at times into Abby’s room could take her from a state of rage to a more calm and rational place.

Then in October, we learned our neighbor’s were moving due to a job change.  They were looking for rental property and could not find any that would allow all 3 of their dogs.  They came to my husband and I quietly and asked if we wanted Olive.  We did not have much time to make a decision.  We choose to take her temporarily and they agreed and had others who could take her if it did not work out for us.   We told our children it was only temporary to give us time to figure out if this was going to work for us.

I have had cats since I have lived on my own and am clearly a “cat person”.  My husband grew up with dogs but dogs who lived outside.  We would have been happy to continue through life without a dog.  Cats are self maintaining.  They bathe themselves and use a liter box. They can even be left home alone for a few days with plenty of water, food and clean liter boxes.   We have always been able to find someone to check in on our cats when we have been away.

So just prior to Halloween, 2010, Olive came to live with us and a few days later we watched our neighbors drive off in their moving truck- off to live several states away.  Olive was on her best behavior when we first got her.  I vividly recall that first night as we ate dinner, she sat quietly at a distance from the table.   We had to fix our fence to be able to let her run in the back yard and I can recall standing outside with her on a leash in the dark before bed.   Sometimes, I was happy to be standing outside in the quiet of my yard at night.

Somehow, after Olive came into our home, her place with my daughter changed.   The first few nights, Olive slept in my daughter’s bedroom but then something changed.  I am not sure what, other than Abby’s OCD- the part of her brain that is not functioning as it should and giving her false messages of danger. Olive was no longer an escape from her anxieties and fears but now part of our family and part of her issues.   Because we took Olive in on such short notice, we had no expectations for our daughter as to her role in caring for Olive.  We hoped she would take to caring for Olive and it would become her activity, something she enjoyed.  Yet, as time passed, we saw that Abby’s irrational fears and anxieties and inability to touch things now included Olive, feeding Olive, taking her outside, and even petting Olive.

We made our first trip with Olive over Thanksgiving and even my non-dog mother declared her a great  dog and she was welcome at her home.  Olive is a great dog with a wonderful temperament.  She is an ideal dog for a family with a toddler.  She gets along great with our cat who I think despite her air of superiority, is happy to have an animal companion.  She gives that away when she hides from and then jumps out at Olive, running from her, knowing despite being much smaller, she the cat with claws, has the upper hand.

At times, I do grumble about having a dog because I feel that we have the dog for my daughter and yet she can not usually do the simple things like feed her and take her outside.  Things are much better than those first few months~for Abby and with Olive.  Abby has participated in Canine Good Citizen Class with Olive and my sister has been coming about once per month and spending time with Abby and Olive with dog training.  Olive is more comfortable and now begs at the table and follows us when we have food.  She also is attention seeking at times and has wiggled her way between Jason, the toddler, and another person to get affection.  She likes to sit in our lap even though she is about 37 pounds.

Olive has become our family dog.  Jason calls her “my dog” and enjoys giving her treats- often many treats- but this makes for a good relationship with the two of them.  She barks a lot when she is outside.  She didn’t bark at all the first week or so that we had her.  She rarely barks in the house.  She is a great dog.  Yet, I do ask the question, “Why is there a dog in my house?” at times because I am still a cat person.

We are going to take our first trip where Olive can not come and so we needed to find someone to watch Olive.  Before Olive came to live with us, and we contemplated getting a dog for our daughter, we figured our wonderful neighbors across the street could dog sit for us.  The ones who gave us Olive and moved several states away.

I found a homeschool family with a young daughter who loves animals so much she started her own pet sitting business.   We had met them  several months ago and so they came over to meet Olive and will be coming over to take care of her when we are gone.   It feels good to hire another young girl who loves animals like my daughter with a mom that I know and trust.  I am not sure how Olive will do with us gone as she is so used to us being here during the day.  It is rare that we are gone for more than maybe 4 fours at a time.  Olive’s previous owners, our former neighbors both worked full-time and so she has lived that life.  Yet, she has been with us for almost a year and has grown accustomed to us being around.  I know we will pick up all the toys in the living room.  She has chewed a few toys on days when we were gone for a long stretch of time but only one toy per incident and I would say less than 5 times total.

I have come to appreciate aspects of life with a dog.  The happy, tail-wagging greeting whenever we return home.  Her unconditional love and acceptance of us as we are.  She listens well and can be trained easily with treats.  She does come when you call her (unless she is in pursuit of a cat or rabbit) and tolerates bathes and nail clippings as well hair cuts in a calm manner.   She is happy to go off in a corner when given a good bone.  She has learned to get off the couch when people are sitting on it~ well, will move as told, we are working on this.  Our youngest, Jason, has learned to be gentle and loves Olive.  Our oldest has learned to tolerate a dog in his home and even has helped to care for her.  I think having pets is wonderful for children.  We had a dog when I was young, but my sister, like my daughter, loved the dog and took full care of our dog.  I was very sad when our dog ran away from home and we never found him.  We only had him for about 3 or 4 years.

Olive is really a part of our family now even though some aspect of me still resists this.  When my husband had a heart attack and was in the hospital for 12 days, it seamed that Olive sat at the top of the stairs, almost watching over us but also waiting for him to come home.  I think my husband has bonded more with Olive than I have.  That part of me that still resists having a dog has not fully accepted that she is with us permanently now.  When our neighbors were still trying to sell their house, across the street from us, there was this possibility that they would move back but once they sold the house and new people moved in, that door closed.   It has been about 6 months now since that time.

My husband’s heart attack happened just shortly after our new neighbors moved in.  So now, that we are getting back to “regular life” do I find myself reflecting once again on life with a dog.   I feel that I am only now beginning to step back and reflect on life with a dog.  I know I could re read this post and likely want to re write it or start over.  Writing the post has propelled me in to thinking about it from a different perspective.  This post reflects where I am now (or where I was as a wrote it).  In my commitment to writing on a regular basis, I will share it for all to see.  Know that even now, I see it with a new perspective and possibly an altered title.  It is what it is: life with a dog, 11 months now and counting.

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