I recently wrote a post where I wondered if I would be able to handle having a dog.
I grew up in a house where my dad hated pets, so we never had one. He thought they were dirty and annoying. So I grew up thinking the same thing. I didn’t like when dogs got near me.
But I’ve softened over the past few years, and started to think that I might enjoy the companionship, the fun, and the emotional bond.
Well, my husband and I got a foster dog recently and I’ve had my first experience ever taking care of an animal.
I’ve been experiencing things that most people have probably known for a long time. It’s like when some long lost jungle tribe is discovered that doesn’t have communication with the outside world, then they show these people things like cell phones and indoor plumbing and zippers and the tribespeople are just blown away. That’s me with this dog. I’m blown away by basic dog ownership stuff.
But I digress: this blog is about high sensitivity, not the effects of my weird pet-free childhood.
I feel so much empathy towards this animal. When we brought her home, she wouldn’t sit or lie down. She barked and freaked out all night long. She just stood next to me all the time.
When I told other people this, they said it was normal. She just needed to get used to things.
She’d been surrendered from her owner, then spent a night with another foster before coming to us. She was probably so scared and confused! Can you imagine?
Anytime I left the room and closed a door between us, she barked like crazy. Then when I came back, she was almost bursting with excitement (or relief?).
I felt for this little girl. Her needs are basic. Food, water, shelter, and interaction (i.e., love). But these little creatures have to depend completely on *us* for their needs. That’s so scary! I would have anxiety all day if I wasn’t sure I was getting food and water when I needed it, and if I was worried that my caretaker was going to leave me forever any time they left the room.
Then when I chastise her a little (get off the couch!) or I accidentally do something that “offends” her, I can sense she feels a bit betrayed. I’m supposed to be her friend, her protector–why am I being mean?
It also warms my heart to see her getting used to things. She just walks herself downstairs to access the food or water at will. She’s learning not to whine when I leave the room. She’s finally sleeping in her little bed.
(I’m not trying to say I’m special for having these feelings–this isn’t about “high” sensitivity, really–Having empathy for animals is pretty common. But it’s new to me.)
I also had no idea that having a dog was so much fun! When she runs around in a frenzy or does silly stuff, I have a huge grin on my face. Watching her tool around the dog park is great.
The thing that melts my heart the most is this picture here. When she curls up in her little bed and falls asleep, I look at her and think of how helpless she is. All she really wants is love and attention. THE FEELS.
Further reading: This author talks about how having a dog helps her depression.
She looks adorable in her bed. I hope you guys decide to keep her. My highly sensitive husband grew up pet-free also. He tolerated pets for the kids and we had many. Now that we have an empty nest we have decided not to adopt.
My sensitive daughter likes having house rabbits. My grand bunnies always eat all their vegetables.
Good luck with your foster.
So many things to like about your comment–grand bunnies?? Too cute!!!
I am curious why you have not decided to adopt. Did your husband get used to having pets, or does he like the “freedom” of not having them now?
I don’t think we will adopt her, but there are times I definitely feel a pang of love for her in my chest. It is fun to know that any time I want, I can go to her and she’s excited to hang out with me. At the same time, I still have the nagging sense of wanting to be alone, and even though she’s ok by herself, I can’t seem to stop myself from worrying/wondering how she’s doing. I also can’t stop looking at her every 60 seconds or so. 🙂
Fostering a dog is an interesting process. I appreciate that you have opened your heart and home to the sweet girl. You touched on great points about the huge vulnerability of animals. Good luck with her forever placement, Kelly.
Thank you!! It HAS been an interesting process. I vacillate between wanting to keep her and being ready to have my old life back. I’m grateful to have had the time I had with her!
I adopted a bohemian shepherd a few months ago. I won’t lie, it didn’t quite turn out as planned. She’s not exactly huge, but she started to display frightening levels of aggressions towards strangers in the street. I called in a behavioral therapist ASAP and he gave me guidelines on how to distract her (because her aggression comes from feeling intimidated), but walks were extremely stressful for several months. People would sometimes even beg me to stay away. I seriously contemplated bringing her back for a few days and I think the only thing that held me back was the pre-emptive sense of guilt. I’d looked forward to owning a dog so much and now I was miserable.
But we learned how to manage. I still can’t just turn corners in the city center without paying attention and I’m still cautious wherever there are cyclists. When there are a lot of people around, I make her wear a basket muzzle and there have been times when I was glad that I do so. But we’ve spent hundreds of hours training by now and seeing her make progress has been one of the best experiences of my life.
I guess you should ignore some doubts and really listen to others? Or maybe it’s just “when you know, you know.”