On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What Grace the Dog says

Of course, as a dog, she really only says, "woof!" which probably sounds more like, "RRRRrruFFFFF!" because she's a lab and her bark is loud, commanding and startling.  But she's a big lug.  And a wee bit dumb.

OK, she's a lot dumb.

Par for our life, we adopted her from the ASPCA. A beautiful black lab, not a mutt like our precious Hope was. When we laid eyes on her we thought who would leave such a gorgeous animal at a shelter? Then we brought her home and said, Oh. Now we understand. She may be beautiful and have all the attributes of a Labrador Retriever [1] but our Grace is appropriately named. She needs lots of grace.

On many occasions she has run full-tilt through the house and slammed her head into a wall. Which doesn't help her cause.

Not very photogenic - she's afraid of the camera flash

Grace licks. According to the vet, it's her way of saying "i submit to you". She licks and licks and licks. You can't pet her for all the licking.

She also hugs. She'll jump all 62 pounds of herself into the recliner and land in The Dad's lap, put her front paws on his shoulders and lick his chin all the while her tail is thumping so hard on the foot rest you're certain she'll break it - the foot rest that is. Her tail is made of steel apparently.

Since Hope's passing, Grace has slept in our room. Most mornings we wake up to the sound of her steel tail thumping a whole in the concrete slab our house is built upon.

She eats her chow off the ground, a new development in her dietary habits. We're not sure how it came about but about a year ago she refused food in her stainless steel bowl. So we put it in plastic containers which she still refused. Now it's on the ground and it has been that way for a year. She simply won't eat food out of a bowl.

Aunt Jenn takes much better pictures

She recently got a clean bill of health from the vet: no more heart worms. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief since the worms were one of the contributing factors to Hope's death. A year ago I would have told you Hope would outlive Grace, now I am confident that Grace has at least two more human years to add to her eight, if not more. Most likely, hip dysplasia will make her senior dog years difficult.

But I don't think even that will stop the licking.

WG and Gracie chillin' under the trampoline

The day after Hope died, Sissy was in the yard doing a "dirty discipline" for whatever behavior she did. Her chore was to move some decorative garden rocks. We did not keep both eyes glued on Sissy the entire time, like we usually do, leaving her alone in the yard for a few minutes with Grace. When we returned maybe two minutes later, we observed her beating Grace on the head with her fist. Sissy has not been allowed unsupervised time with ANY animal since then. [2]

Maybe it was the hard knocks to her head, maybe it was Hope's death, maybe it was the long months of recovery from the heart worms, but Grace is terrified of Sissy.

When Sissy screams, Grace cowers.

When Sissy reaches out to pet her, Grace is reluctant.

When Sissy rages, Grace hides in our room and balls up her body into the tightest ball she can make. In fact, Grace doesn't lay stretched out if Sissy is awake in the house.

Grace is even cautious about licking Sissy.

We've tried telling Sissy that her behaviors are frightening our dog. There's no way that would be enough motivation for her to stop her nonsense. That would be like asking a drunk to quit the bottle because the gas prices are going up.

Grace has passed through the worst of her grief about Hope. They were dog mates for seven years. We've tossed around the idea of getting another pet to keep her company and because we miss owning two dogs but our biggest hesitation to our decision, is Sissy. How could it be responsible to get another animal when Sissy so greatly impacts Grace's doggie life?

It wouldn't be.

[1] as i type this, I'm drinking from my Black Labrador Retriever mug which says, "The Labrador Retriever was developed in England in mid 1800s. The beloved Black Lab is playful, loving to people and hard working. He can be counted on as a true friend anytime, anyplace, and is highly respected for his prowess at many jobs: as a guide dog for the disabled and as a search-and-rescue dog. The Black Lab has consistently proved his worth in all fields and has truly earned the title "all around dog." It was once said the Black Lab 'was so intelligent that it seemed it might speak at anytime.'"

Oh, if only that were true about our Gracie.

[2] UGH. In december while in the hospital, Sissy apparently told the staff that she's not allowed to be with the dog unsupervised because we think she's going to hurt the animal. So at discharge the doctor told me all about how Sissy doesn't have the motor control to adjust the pressure in her hand movements and that is why she needs to be taught appropriate petting - that it's an occupational therapy issue. I didn't bother telling the doctor Sissy POUNDED the dog with A FIST. Whatever. Let the doctor think I'm an ogre of a parent for not letting her alone with animals. I know the truth about Sissy even if Sissy doesn't. I'm certain Sissy left out the little detail about killing her fish ...


FosterAbba said...

Kids and animals are supposed to be a good mix, but with traumatized kids it's often not the case.

Lisa said...

Ugh is right. I can completely believe the doctor thought he was helping you by informing you of this. Poor Gracie...she sounds like a sweet, very sensitive dog to be affected so deeply by Sissy's behaviors. Our two (very elderly) cats died a year ago and we will not be getting any new kittens until a few ragers are out of here. Our precious dog, a rottweiler (whose butt-wagging knocked over many a preschooler around here lol) was so in tune with some of my children that she was another set of eyes around here. She was killed by a truck several years ago and while we'd love to get another dog, with the hope of a relationship similar to the one we had with her, we just can't chance it with violent, hyper kids. I know pet therapy is great for traumatized kids, but I don't think it's right for mine. My kids stressed our cats out so badly, they would hide in my room until the kids went to bed at night!

Mama Drama Times Two said...

I keep as close an eye on my pets as my kids - and now I can no longer leave my pets alone with my kids for everyone's safety...mostly for my poor animals. The supposedly "adorable sweet" 4 year old boy we recently fostered was observed by us and our neighbors twice kicking our gentle cat and stomped our Golden Retreiver's front leg bone. OUCH.