Posted by spoc on May 10, 2004, at 11:49:53
In reply to insanity all over a dog, posted by smokeymadison on May 7, 2004, at 22:35:05
> the day after i got it, freaked out, got very depressed, felt like i couldn't handle it... what is wrong with me that i felt nothing but dread over the dog?
> so now the dog is gone, and i miss him a lot now. my emotions are so screwed up... i just don't understand why i felt like i did when i had the dog. it was a mixture of numbness and dread. any thoughts?
Back to the emotional aspects of getting/having a dog for a minute. The sudden and big responsibility of caring for a dog is of course most key, but there are other nuances of why a person shouldn't do it if they aren't sure they are up to it mentally.
Dogs can be soooo sensitive to your mood, maybe some breeds more than others. I swear, some even take things personally! Such a statement made anywhere except around dog lovers and those familiar with dogs may only be seen as paranoid and delusional, but those of you "in the know" will get it of course. Amongst other behaviors, a dog can kind of seem to blame himself if you are not in the right frame of mind!
I got a toy dog, a Yorkie, a few months before I graduated from college. Shortly after, I ended up going into a rough transitional phase where I was depressed and having a lot of creeping, blanket anxiety. And I moved and went from having a roommate and several other people around sporadically to also play with her, to it just being me (and no yard). She was extremely sweet and adorable but did have that nervous energy and "hypersensitivity" of a toy dog.
Anyway, boy, could she read my moods. She started having "sympathy anxiety attacks." I remember how much it would freak me out even more when I'd be all clammy, trembly and sensing impending doom; and she'd pick up on it and go nuts climbing and clawing and crying all over me, trying to suck some assurance out of me that the world wasn't ending. Don't laugh, it's true, she TOTALLY knew something very bad was going on and that things were out of control, even though I may have only been sitting on the couch trying to watch TV.
I couldn't fake her out -- if I wrapped her up in my arms and stroked her and talked gently and pretended everything was fine, she wouldn't be fooled. I could throw her toys around and she would try to go along with it but ultimately when we'd stop she still knew something was wrong. Shortly after that, I would sometimes realize I hadn't seen her in awhile and go looking for her, and may find her hiding somewhere just shaking like a leaf!
I can't tell you how much, having been consumed with anxiety and self-doubt to begin with, this would almost make me pass out or want to. I felt almost abusive due to my inability to give my dog a sense of peace. (I think I may have had transference -- or counter-transference? -- on my dog, because when I was growing up I felt exactly as she seemed to be feeling!!)
And then what made it worse was that all the things I was supposed to do to get my own life on track at that point -- start a career, get more involved in things -- were things that would take me away from her even more. So by the time I'd get home at night she'd been waiting for me all day, so for her it was supposed to be her long-awaited play time, whereas I just wanted to collapse. This would give her anxiety too, followed by depression!
OK OK so I'm pushing it now, but the point is, of course a person's mood and life stage can impact their dog's happiness and adjustment. And if whatever mood or anxiety problems you have result in you feeling horrible about and being hypersensitive to its effect on others, your dog can become a tremendous source of guilt.
At one point when I had had her for less than a year, I went to visit my family for what turned into a few months. I brought the dog on the plane with me in a carry-on case, and even though she was on sedatives from the vet she was going nuts in there as if she was being killed. But it was against policy for me to let her out of the box. I was consumed with guilt and anxiety and my sympathetic seat-mate couldn't convince me that this didn't all mean I was a horrid, cruel person. I think she and the flight attendants probably wished I would take some of the dog's sedatives myself!
Anyway, my parent's last elderly family dog had just passed away, and they were very very sad and "vulnerable," and immediately took over my dog. And I could see it would be for the best to let them have her, as they wanted. For 16 years she was the grandchild they never got, and she had a nice yard and people to spoil and fawn all over her. But to this day I worry about getting a dog again unless I feel like an emotionally strong and consistent person, and probably also have someone else around a lot who is more of those things than I am!