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How My Dog Makes a Difference in Our Family
People get dogs for all sorts of reasons.
To be a companion for their children,
Watchdog for house and home
Exercise, hobbies, sports…
Dogs will generally fulfill whatever role you have in mind for them, with a tongue-lolling grin and a wag of the tail.
In my home, we have gotten dogs to protect livestock, to herd sheep, to keep our family safe, to play with our children.
However, one of our little dogs came into our lives without a purpose, and then accidentally found one.
Sophie is a shelter dog; a mixed breed whose owners didn’t want her back. The scars on her head and her history of being a repeat runaway told a story of abuse. After she had been home with us for a while, I was watching a program on TV about animal rescue workers. When our Sophie heard the sounds of the dogs yelping in the animal shelter, she ran across the room, jumped up in my lap, and buried her head in my arms as she trembled. It seems that between her abusive first home, and her time spent “behind bars” in the shelter, she had some trauma to deal with.
Our family is no stranger to the issue of trauma. Three of our six children are adopted, and were old enough at the times they were placed in the orphanages to remember the abuse. Their years in the orphanage were not easy, either, and when they finally joined our family at the ages of five, 10, and 13, the memories of their traumas were here to stay.
Sometimes, just like with our little dog, when these kids appear happy and well-adjusted, it’s easy to forget what they’ve been through until something triggers memories of darker times. Sophie made it clear to me, because dogs don’t pretend. The sound of the crying dogs triggered a memory of a traumatic time for her, and she came to me for comfort. With my kids, it’s rarely so obvious what’s at play, but Sophie’s actions help me to look a little more closely at what’s going on, and to question what might be happening under the surface.
Besides being a good reminder to me of what to look for, she is also a fount of unconditional love for the oldest (and most traumatized) of my adopted children. The two of them share a very special bond that can’t be put to words. If he is sitting on the sofa watching TV, she is beside him as he strokes her velvet ears. When he starts up the stairs to go to bed, she is right behind him. They sleep together in his bed every night, both haunted by dreams of days past, but comforted by the warmth of the one snuggled against.
Friend, companion, therapist. Sophie fills many roles in this family, and for one special boy in particular.
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