Oh man, I never thought I’d let anything melt my frozen heart. My whole life, I’ve been cold towards everything; children, old people, babies (oh, I’ve hated babies), innocence…but this little man has been slowly melting my heart over the past year.
My husband got him last year for me as a present, and I’m sure you all remember my struggles in the beginning – I couldn’t stand the “stupidity” that he brought into my life. He wasn’t house-trained, and the stress of taking him outside and training him to poop on the back alley was almost too much to take, and the sheer frustration that I endured when I’d taken him out for hours only to come back in and have him pee a puddle by the door was overwhelming.
I was scared of my anger.
I was scared I’d hit him or hurt him. I almost lashed out on him on a couple of occasions and I got really afraid of the uncontrollable anger that was lurking beneath my calm expressions.
I am a walking contradiction (as I’ve discovered in therapy) – on one hand, I’m a former animal rights activist, a hardcore vegetarian environmentalist who hates suffering of any kind and can’t even watch a movie with blood, but then on the other hand I’m full of anger and rage and could actually cause pain and suffering and I know I am capable of hurting people and animals. I have hit my mother, and my ex-boyfriend, for example. And my brother too.
I think that now in this therapy I’m finally able to discuss these extreme contradictions in my life and start making some sense of them. My therapist says that it’s normal that all people are capable of both good and bad. In my mind, I always thought you were either good, or bad, there was no middle. I have never tried living in the grey area but now I guess I have to start trying, to become more normal.
I think having this dog, Bolt, is a kind of therapy for me. I really think animals have a lot of healing powers and we have to allow them to use them on us for us to heal – let me explain: Bolt is both lovely and annoying, and for me to learn to live in the grey area, I need to learn to exercise my good and bad sides in the right doses at the right times to socialize him the right way.
When I was a child, I got punished (or my mom got punished) for random reasons that didn’t always correlate with what had happened, so I’m not sure I learned the right way for rage and anger, and I think I still struggle with what anger is. So when Bolt does something really bad, I feel that I can’t punish him because he doesn’t either understand, and starts disliking me because I was bad to him and it’s bad for me to be bad to him, or that he can’t associate my punishment with the bad act and just doesn’t clock what it means when I punish him.
So it’s all these emotions that I have to go through, having a pet, and deciding what it means to “raise” him and educate him and socialize him and make sure he is happy and healthy. I want him to love me unconditionally because it is heart-melting to receive that kind of love from a furry friend, and just the way he is is so funny and beautiful. He doesn’t have boundaries, he doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him, he’s free.
I also know that dogs are like children – you could hurt them but they’d follow you around because you’re their whole world and they love you even when you cause them pain, and I am very mindful of that. I want to make it right with this animal. I don’t want to use him to my advantage, I want to offer him a good life where we live in a symbiosis, both benefiting from each other.
My husband M and I both love Bolt unconditionally, and I think it’s been a strange and weird journey and during this year I have become a lot more understanding and caring. I never thought I’d actually care about anyone or anything! I have been really self-centered and self-oriented my whole life, but with a puppy, you have to take care of it and take it out and feed it and look after it even when you’re tired.
I honestly think all survivors should consider animal therapy of some kind; horses, cats, dogs, rabbits even. Furry, needy, loving. Childlike, innocent, careless. They push a lot of our buttons, sometimes in the wrong ways, but to survive taking care of an animal can really be very healing.