I brought Damien home a week ago. He mostly stays in his crate, but he does come out to eat, to drink, and to use his wee-wee pad. (I’m very grateful that he always pees exactly in the middle.) He’s not house-trained because he’s scared to go outside. His crate, food dishes, bed, and wee-wee pad are near each other in my bedroom. He spends most of his time in his crate. I tried spending time in the room with him, sitting on the floor and reading, but then he started staying in his crate all day, so I realized I was overwhelming him.
I’m pretty sure he has PTSD, that’s why he can be easily overwhelmed. He also startles when I make an unexpected move.
At his foster mother’s he slept on his bed in the living room. After a while, he discovered the kitchen and would go over when Karen was cooking. I found that when I was cooking, he would come out of the bedroom and as far as the step down which is a couple of feet from the door. It isn’t any higher than his bed at home, so I know he can come down it. I’ve tried enticing him twice, but he’s not ready yet. Lately, he’s been coming out to the edge of the step at various times. I’ve been rewarding him with a treat whenever he does that.
I didn’t realize, until I brought him home, how lack of physical contact would be very hard for me. He backs off if I try to touch him. His lack of response is also hard. He responds to treats, but not to me. The amount of pain I feel tells me this is a replay of being neglected by my mother and her lack of response to me. He, too, was neglected and possibly abused, so his actions can activate my own trauma. Yesterday I actually got very depressed. I began to think maybe it was a mistake to take on this very frightened dog.
I realize I haven’t felt that level of depression for a long time. It feels like even the most simple acts are too difficult, and why bother anyway. Also, my body feels like it’s full of some heavy grey substance that slows me down and darkens me. Luckily, I called a friend who was willing to listen to my misery and let me know she loves me. Another friend called and we got together for a cup of tea. These two events changed my day. I came out of the depression, like coming out of a dark place into daylight.
I also realized that Damien is depressed. One of the hardest things has been looking at Damien’s eyes and seeing the eyes of a soldier in Vietnam. The footage was part of the movie Dakota 38 in a section pointing out that depression is a common result of being in battle, watching people get killed. There’s a kind of blankness and deadness in the eyes.
My friend Elizabeth had told me about a Hawaiian healing practice, Ho’oponopono. I had heard the story of the therapist who cured an entire ward of the criminally insane by this process. It rests on the idea that we are not separate. If I see someone behaving badly, or suffering, or both, I try to identify the parts of myself that are like that. Then I speak to that part of myself saying “I love you… I’m sorry… Please forgive me… Thank you.” It was very easy to identify the parts of myself that are terrified and depressed. In fact it turned out to be very emotionally rich for me, even though I wasn’t sure what the words meant as I said them. I’ve been doing this several times a day, and trusting that it is making a difference.
Reading the material over again, I see that the therapist is looking for the part in himself that created the other one’s illness. I don’t see how I created Damien’s illness except insofar as we all are part of the energy field of PTSD. It still feels like what I’m doing is “real,” though I have yet to see that it’s making a difference for Damien. It is making a difference for me.