by Nancy Thomas
The joy of being greeted with a wagging tail can be overshadowed by the sadness of discovering the family pet wounded or killed. This happens all too often for families of children with attachment problems. Unexplained ailments and injuries seem to plague these poor unfortunate animals.
Foster Cline, MD has called pets of families with these children, “an endangered species”.
Releasing the pain in the heart of the child with powerful Attachment Therapy can unlock the hidden doors in the child’s mind–often revealing the causes for the previously unexplained canine/feline traumas. This admission to inflicting pain, raping, maiming, or killing a cherished family pet often has appalled the family. The reaction of the family, at discovering that their companion animal has been a silent victim to the child’s rage, often re-traumatizes the child. The resulting feeling of parental rejection can leave permanent scars on the developing bond of the child.
The inability of unattached children to transfer nurturance to an animal is fairly obvious. How can they transfer something they never internalized? The memories of a nurturing mother that reached out with love to her crying child are not there. During infancy, when the needs of a helpless, hopeless baby were met with pain, and neglect – rage was internalized. Upon interaction with a puppy or kitten, the inner repressed rage is re-activated on a subconscious level – often causing the child to lash out. During the first year of life when the conscience was being developed, this child was left with little or no conscience foundation to feel remorse for his actions no matter how severe.
The human/pet interaction can be very therapeutic. Over the past 20 years this has been documented by various studies on companion animals used as an aid in the treatment of physically and mentally ill people. However, when a child has attachment problems, the child and the pet must be protected. A child with Attachment Disorder should not be expected to feed, control, care for–or even be left alone with any animal, until they have shown complete recovery for at least a year! Each time a child causes pain to another living thing it creates a deeper regression into his own pathology. It is certainly not good for the pet either! A healthy/healed child that learns to care lovingly and compassionately for a pet is less likely to abuse his or her own children later in life.
Some misguided parents purchase puppies or kittens for toddlers under the guise of “teaching responsibility”. A living animal is not a good tool for any child to practice on! Starving or roughly handling pets to learn how to do it right is not good for either victim. It is better to have a child start practicing being responsible and nurturing on a houseplant. A favorite choice is the spider plant. The least effective plant is the cactus due to its minimal care needs. Lots of excitement can be shared around the home at new arrivals of ‘babies’ from each ‘green leafy adoptee’. When the plant has thrived–not merely survived–for three to six months, a graduation to goldfish or guppies is made. At the successful growth and nurturance of the ‘gilled adoptee’, with NO parental interference (other than empathetic funeral services) for three to six months, another graduation takes place. This time, research is done by the child to decide on the finances needed to be earned and necessary care required for a bird, reptile or rodent. Again, no parental supervision as the child grows in self-esteem at the completion of each successful phase.
After completion of three to six months with scales, feather or fur – and the research and funds accumulated – a dog or cat can be purchased by the child. The investment that the child makes is important and should not be interfered with by a parent wanting to give a gift. The local animal shelter often has a great selection.
The benefits of unconditional love supplied by a cold nose or a soft paw are boundless. My pets bring much joy and laughter into our home.
Here are two photos I thought you might enjoy. Strider Mousekowitz (above) is a doggie of leisure, and Harlow (at the top of the page) is a party animal!
The unconditional love supplied by a family pet has been some of the fondest memories of many childhoods. The wagging tail or purr of love offered, no strings attached, warm the hearts of all who can experience it.