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Retired racers, PTSD and depression

Mr Goodstuff In the beginning of January, our family took in a foster child. This boy is a 3-year-old retired racing greyhound. His behavior over the last 6 weeks has reminded me of my own journey of healing and teaches us about the biologic nature of psychological symptoms. There is no doubt that this poor boy suffers from PTSD. Furthermore, the PTSD has caused depression and has prevented him from being able to enjoy his life.

As part of a conscious program to teach empathy and caretaking to the children, we’ve fostered many dogs over the last 4 years. Although each dog had a sad story to tell, none came with the combination of symptoms Mr. Goodstuff suffered. I have never seen a dog as fearful and yet as placid as this animal. In some dogs, fear might be associated with aggressiveness and self defense. Although Mr. Goodstuff is fearful, he lacks completely the ability to defend himself. He even runs from our dachshund who is an eighth his size. I think this shows that anxiety can manifest differently in beings with different temperaments. Since the greyhound is not by nature aggressive, he does not become defensively aggressive when anxious.

Most striking of all was that with all this anxiety, Mr. Goodstuff could not tolerate being alone. He followed us around the house and if he could not see one of us, he immediately began to howl. If we left him alone, he became so distressed that he had diarrhea in his crate. I believe this represents the dog version of Stockholm Syndrome. It is clear that even though humans are the source of his distress, he feels compelled still to seek us out to calm his fears. It is good that we are loving and affectionate, otherwise he would be seeking to have his anxiety relieved by a tormentor. Sound familiar?

I also have never before seen a dog with clinical depression. When he first arrived, Mr. Goodstuff was unable to experience any pleasure. Although he anxiously sought to be near us, he never wagged his tail and showed a complete absence of play behavior. Although being around us made him feel less anxious, we were not a source of pleasure for him. Looking back, it is apparent that his anxiety depleted him of all pleasure and caused his depression. I have seen this picture in humans many times. The fact that dogs experience the same shows us how biologic these symptoms are. They are not related to a psychology that is uniquely human.

All social beings that form attachments are subject to developing PTSD and depression when abused by another who is the object of the attachment. The job of foster mom here is not mine, I am more the foster grandmother. My 14-year-old daughter is the dog whisperer of the family. I am pleased to report that her treatment program has produced much improvement in the symptoms of anxiety and depression. He has gained about 10 pounds and no longer looks emaciated. Seven days ago there was a hint of a wag in his tail. Over the last 3 days he has started to play. He also tolerates being alone and does not mess on the floor when left.

What kind of therapy helped Mr. Goodstuff? He has had a good healthy diet and vitamins. He has been showered constantly with love and affection, and just as important, he has been walked several miles a day.

I write about Mr. Goodstuff for two reasons. First, to encourage you to adopt a retired racer. Mr. Goodstuff is a great dog. Even though he is large, he is no trouble and is very unobtrusive. It is easy to forget he’s here. If you suffer from PTSD yourself, helping rehabilitate, or taking in permanently, a retired racer might be therapeutic for you. You also need companionship, affection and exercise. You can get all of these from a greyhound.

The second reason I write about PTSD and depression in dogs is to demonstrate the inter-related nature of these conditions. Treat one and the other will also respond. Both respond very well to exercise.

Those of us who have suffered at the hands of an aggressor can uniquely empathize with the plight of other beings who have had similar experiences. It is therapeutic for us to put that empathy to action and do good for another, even if that other is not a human.


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When my ex started to see that his strategies weren’t working anymore, and he became more frustrated, he of course would tell me I was being evil and cruel, vindictive and unsympathetic to HIS needs(back child support had stripped him of his drivers license a decent credit rating), not that he ever cared about mine.

To which I would answer, “If you keep abusing a dog, eventually it will turn on you.” He never even tried to point out that I wasn’t a dog. (that is supposed to be ironically funny).

Sorry, that wasn’t my intention to imply that in a broad spectrum, I was just using the old adage. I know several breeds of dogs do not have an aggressive quality, and do shut down and take lots of love to heal…It was not my intention to imply that at any time your dog, or most dogs, would become aggressive in any way. My apologies.

Do you think you can teach children empathy? Or just teach children how to respond to their empathy, providing they have it?

At any rate, this story reminds me of that Star Trek episode – “Dagger of the Mind”, and the “neural neutralizer” – a machine/medical apparatus that can be used to almost instantaneously create a Stockholm Syndrome effect.

As for dogs turning – I think many can be unpredictable in the right situations. But it definitely has a lot to do with the BREED. The fact is, that genetics plays a big role in that. And some breeds were specifically bred to be aggressive. Moreover, some are just born unstable from the start.

That said, most bitches with pups have the propensity to turn nasty, unexpectedly, under the right circumstances involving their offspring, regardless of breed.

However, My Sociopath owes several thousands of dollars in child support. The district attorney has deterants set-up to encourage payment: Negative credit rating, loss of drivers and business license, loss of passport etc. He has not paid and is subject to all of the above consequences. To which he blames me for. The fact that he owes the child support is of his doing alone.

I refuse to accept responsibility for his failures. I actually closed the case at one time. He promised to pay his arrears, took 50% custody of our son, then, as soon as the ink was dry, stopped taking him and didn’t even do as much as visitation, and did not pay the arrears he owed. I reopened the case with the District Attorney. Now he is trying the same tactics he did previously to get me to close the case. I gave him an opportunity, and he “kicked” me. Now he is playing the blame game and turning it on me (again). The “abusing the dog and it will turn on you” is only a figure of speech. I have not turned on him, I am not vindictive. I literally can’t care about his situations, feelings, or hardships anymore. As that is what being victim to a sociopath is all about.

I am really touched by this story. Liane, on behalf of Mr. Goodstuff, let me say thank you to you and your family.

I know what a comfort my dog was to me as I was in the midst of the trauma with my sociopathic ex. It’s good to know that we can return the favor.

I love your dog!! Is he the sweetest or what?!!! Look at that face! My dogs, have both been a comfort and security to me…they stay in my salon when I do hair…I thank g-d for them…some times weirdo men come into my shop knowing I’m vulnerable and these dogs really do protect me! Plus they get me up to walk in the mornings! I don’t know what I’d do without my cute-ums!! I literally eat them up, kiss and nibble their cheeks…I lay on top of them and sing to them, and tickle their arms too! (So I’m weird-so what!) I just ache to kiss them!

It is so true – having a dog come into your life during this experience with a S is so therapeutic. 8 months into my relationship I was already knowing I needed to get out and I was spending alot of time at his apartment. I decided to get a dog because it got me out walking every day and I couldnt spend weekends at his place, no dogs allowed there!

I got a rescue dog from the shelter that was slatedfor euthanization simply because she’d scratched her hair so thin because of fleas that no one wanted her. 18 months later, she is a beautiful yellow lab named Libby (liberated) and my best companion. In these healing lonely weeks – its wonderful to have her snuggle up on the bed and lay snoring blissfully asleep next to you.. who could wake up lonely with that! She has been my best friend through this and I suggest this remedy to everyone who has the time and inclination to have a dog in your life. They love you unconditionally, they dont lie, they look you in the eye and they are there happy to see you no matter what. That’s more than my S could have given me!

Liane: From reading the Hare book, I got the impression that sociopaths are simply incapable of those emotions. And that the higher emotions associated with empathy & conscience, as sociopaths don’t have, are centered in the ventromedial frontal cortex and amygdala.

As for addiction – I don’t think all addicts are necessarily unempathetic people to begin with, and that’s why they become addicts or something. In fact, that seems counter intuitive to me.
I think it’s the drugs that deaden emotions like empathy like an anesthetic.
And if a person continually takes those drugs, naturally those emotions will not be present for days, weeks, or even years on end.
There is, of course, evidence that long-term usage of some drugs can have long-lasting damage to the brain.
But the fact is, that many alcoholics who quit drinking become almost immediately like different people. Thus the whole “Jekyll & Hyde” metaphor.

That’s not to say I think bad parenting would have no ill effects on a child. It’s certainly true that it does play a role in the formation of a personality. As demonstrated by Attachment Disorder, etc.
And I think abusing a child is certainly going to effect the child emotionally in a way that the child may then seek out the emotion anesthesizing effects of drugs & alcohol.

But I think it’s unfair to suggest that all addicts and sociopaths are the result of failure of a parents to try to teach conscientiousness to their children.

In fact, I wonder if good parenting just makes more cleverly acting sociopaths who have an easier time blending with the rest of society, and are better able to manage to get away with what they do.

But you seem to be suggesting you can take a sociopath, and “exercise” a part of the brain to get it working again? Or at least exercise it in the beginning, and then it’ll work, and the person won’t be a sociopath?

wp:

I agree with your comments and my sociopath had the Jekkyl & Hyde” syndrome.

Dr. Leedom:

However, I find it interesting that my S was raised in a seemingly loving family and other siblings (5) do not seem to have the sociopathic characteristics and tendencies. My S is an identical twin, and I have only met the twin 3 times…(of course a broken relationship) so am uncertain if the twin is a S, but it would make for an interesting study. The only distinguishing difference between the twins is that my S had insufilitis as a child (at 3) and was hospitalized for several months…I wonder if this could have contributed to or caused the sociopathic behavior by altering his brain? Also I know for a fact that his biological son is a sociopath, so there are certainly some hereditary factors.

My sociopath did not have addictions, in fact he was a body builder, did not drink, smoke, do drugs or even eat sweets. He was very disciplined. Perhaps he is an anomoly to the conventional S? I don’t know. He did have a history of rage and abuse (physical, emotional, and verbal) but hid this very well with me, with the cycle of verbal land emotional abuse occuring with me only every couple of months (he never physically abused me), although he had a history of assault in his young years and used to physically abuse his wife.

The entire study of the sociopath is fascinating; it’s enlightening to figure out the “puzzle”.

I enjoy this website for it’s enlightment and the intelligence and concern of the participants. Thank you.

My family has had a very similar experience recently. We have a lot of stray cats in our neighborhood. My neighbor has adopted one of these strays and bought him a cozy electric heated bed that she keeps on her porch. Another stray kitten started staying in the bed and it started all kinds of cat trouble. My neighbor said she was going to bring the kitten to the pound the next day. I decided to take the cat in. After a few days, I seriously thought about getting rid of the cat. He wanted nothing to do with our family, showed no signs of wanting or giving affection and when we fed him he growled, shook his head from side to side, and his tail fanned out like he was going to attack. We were all kind of afraid of him. The odd thing was he seemed most comfortable with my oldest son (who shows a lot of traits like his sociopathic dad). The cat always sat next to my son on his bed. My son acted like he thought the cat was a pain in the neck, but you could tell he really enjoyed it. After a month, the cat’s stomach started to swell and one day he had blood in his stool. I took him to the vet and found out that the kitten we thought was a male, was a female cat with five kittens inside! A week before she gave birth, my two youngest sons were playing knee hockey in their bedroom. The pregnant cat was watching from under their bureau. The cat couldn’t resist the temptation of joining in on the fun. She would run out just as the ball went by and swat it with her paw. She actually got a few goals! She started coming closer and rubbing against our legs. The growling and tail flaring finally stopped, and her favorite spot was nuzzled up to my 15 year old in his bed (and he did not push her away). The four kittens that have been born have brought so much joy into our home. All of my children have shown respect and empathy for the mother cat by not picking the adorable little kittens up. I noticed all my children (including my fifteen year old just watching the mother cat with her kittens). It truly is a miracle watching the whole process. When I relate the tale of this kitten showing up at our door and the end result, some people respond by saying”what a bummer. You tried to do a good thing, but ended up with four kittens. I don’t see it like that at all. It has truly been a blessing for my family.

To Dr. Leedom,

I have clues from my ex that perhaps something was not right with his Dad either. He said his first memory of Daddy was being kicked by a hard shoe. That is sad. And his parents were teenagers.

I work with teenage girls right now in a Group Home. It is so difficult to tell the difference from teenage Narcissism and real Narcissism. I guess when you have children, it is up to the parent to cultivate empathy in the child, especially if it seems lacking.

peggywhoever: The difference between a sociopath’s “jekyll & hyde” behaviour, and actual Jekyll & Hyde behaviour of an alcoholic… Is that an alcoholic turns into Hyde when they drink – the alcohol does something to them – like Jekyll did when he drank his potion. With the sociopath – it’s all an act, drunk or sober, they act whatever way they think is best whenever they need. Some sociopaths have addictions, I’m sure, but I don’t think the 2 necessarily go hand in hand.

And yes, how can parenting be even 10% of the issue when one child turns into a sociopath and the other siblings are normal conscientious loving altruistic people? If it were bad parenting, the other kids would be screwed up somehow too – and that’s NOT always the case.

At any rate, Leedom, I see that you’re in the camp that also sees a difference between the IDENTICAL conditions of psychopaths & sociopaths (which are synonyms according to the experts I’ve heard of), so I think we’re on two totally different pages in completely different books on this whole subject.

I looked it up… and the problem with that “temperament” to “predispose” – is that the temperament they’re talking about, that is the same in SOME addicts and sociopaths, is THRILL seeking – or sensation seeking.
NOT all addicts are thrill seekers – many people become addicts trying to DULL sensations – quite the opposite of a sociopath. So how can that be explained?

I maintain that it is very dangerous to compare alcoholics to sociopaths or think that they’re somehow similar. If you don’t have a conscience, guilt, or deep feelings, why would you need to medicate those feelings with booze?
Or how about the abused woman who’s husband beats her for years, and she takes to the bottle to cope? I suppose she’s a sociopath too?
Makes no sense.

My 2 dogs have been a comfort to me during my recovery. They are both rescue animals and I think we help each other with our love and companionship. Thank you Liane (and everyone) for your post…this site is an inspiration. The only bad thing about it is the knowledge that there are so many sociopaths running loose in the world. It scares me to the core.

Dr. Leedom,

Hares-good one!

“Sociopaths are high novelty seeking, low harm avoidance and low relatedness.”

So, if my 14 yr old hasn’t showed these traits by now, I don’t have to worry about sociopathy?

He has had trouble with anxiety and seems to have more of my temperament. He has lied to me a couple of times, but I think it classifies as normal teenage stuff. I have no question his dad had conduct disorder as a child and teen. example: waiting for someone to open the door to the paperboy and shooting him between the eyes with a bb gun

I have already talked to him about drinking and how he needs to be careful because alcoholism runs on both sides of his family.

ps
Don’t forget cats! We have a border collie and a kitten from a shelter. Their unconditional love has been comforting many times.

I found a 2 week old pup, barely alive, while hiking in the mountains. The rest of the litter was dead. He’s with me now, 6 years later-deaf and mildly epileptic. He is a rare gift that has educated me re. the UNSPOKEN language of love. I have to be watchful of myself because he reacts to my reactions-especially my inner feelings. When he’s jittery and nervous around me (for no obvious reason) I become aware that inside me, the pressure is building. I know then to slow it down, breathe, clear my mind and move with deliberate, gentle slowness. And begin to visualize internally, peaceful scenarios. When his ear set is relaxed, I take him and my other rescued dog for a walk. We come back refreshed & relaxed and begin again. I pay close attention to his reactions to people upon meeting them. The ones he shows curiosity, (usual dog behavior) then relaxes, are always good people over time. When he shows immediate red alert behavior, I proceed very carefully & its rare when that individual shows goodness over time. When he was 2yrs old, I became a foster home for deaf Australian cattle dogs. They were all extremely fine-tuned to the inner, unspoken language. They helped me in my journey to trust my instincts-not be afraid of my true feelings. I stopped discounting myself, and began loving the real woman inside. No longer fearful to be who I am. I value truth, above all else-no matter how painful it may be. Sociopaths don’t have a clue about truth & it gets easier and easier for me to see the lie-sooner than later. I owe a lot to these powerful “deafies”. I was raised by a crazy-dangerous sociopath mother. Gave birth to a crazy-dangerous sociopath daughter-the two bonded up like glue. I felt like I was trapped in their pin ball machine-me being the pin ball-for many, many years. Trying to please the unpleasable. I questioned everything about my life. I bought their lie, hid from myself, gave in to their craziness. I became involved with sociopaths who treated me the way I came to believe I deserved to be treated. And then one little deaf dog helped to begin change in my course forever. Its hearing what isn’t spoken. Words are meaningless without truth, love & related action. I ended my gullible, desperate need to be needed. I stopped picking up “lost boys” to fix (hoping to fix myself) and picked ME up, instead.

this is so true!

my dog, who I adopted in September, has really gotten me through this.

this fall, as i walked and walked with him, he brought me to flocks of bluebirds, new friends, golden leaves and hope.

he is sleeping at my feet now as i write this. he is my angel with a tail. he was sent to me from heaven and i really feel like he will pull me out of this.

if you are struggling, feeling alone, and if you can, please consider adopting a dog who is grown and needs a home. but first, i have a little advice.

what really made a difference for me in my struggle to get free from my S, as unusual as it sounds, was spending my Friday nights watching “The Dog Whisperer” on the National Geographic Channel, well before I adopted my dog.

I not only learned about dogs, how to have a balanced animal, but I found it to be one of the most empowering messages I have ever received. I am now a “pack leader,” not a victim of a S.

I don’t walk my dog – I travel with my dog. I LEAD him, and he trusts me and follows. He looks to me as his leader, and wow, when I am traveling, my chest held high, shoulders back and with him at my side, I can handle anything.

I smile a little to myself when we travel and pass a dog who is pulling its handler down the path, and the handler grunts out in defense, “he’s friendly.” I say “I know, but we’re traveling right now and we need to keep moving.” We just move in rhythm, right on by the other dog. It is VERY empowering.

I have often thought, over the past months, that I want to contact my local women’s shelter and extend an invitation to the women there to come and travel with me and my dog. He can bring them flocks of bluebirds, rolling streams, and hope.

For the first time in five years, with his help, I know I will get out of this.

I find that with dogs, a “job” is the icing on the cake. If they have a job, like carrying small packages from the car to the house or keeping squirrels away from the feeder, it really makes them feel fulfilled. Those are retriever type jobs. I guess other chores might be better for other breeds.

It sounds like Mr. Goodstuff is a great dog. all the retired greyhounds I’ve met have been sweet and calm. My husband resisted when I asked to adopt one, so I didn’t push. I still think they’re a really good choice.

A dog breeder once pointed out how the different breeds relate differently to their masters. A terrier, for example, chases off after prey. A retriever goes out to bring back the game to the master: poodles, labs, goldens. Herd dogs are always checking in with the master, but they are also independent thinkers — I guess you’d have to be in order to be in charge of 300 sheep or cattle.

I bet your dogs are smarter than my dog!

Seriously, I realize sheep dog are sharp cookies. We’ve admired them, but noticed they often have a lot more energy than we Conley’s do.

Our golden is always at our feet. She’s a worrier, and the first few times I took a drive she’d hide her face in my armpit. It’s a good thing I don’t drive a manual transmission vehicle any more. When she was younger it seemed like helping her work through her phobias was a full time job. Now she’s pretty sane, but every once in a while our chicken-dog dives for cover. She seems a bit claustrophobic, but not unmanageably so. She approaches anything new and all transitions with a high degree of caution. I wouldn’t call her independent. Not by a long shot.

She’s never, ever, ever run away or failed to come when called. For a puppy, I’d say that’s almost weird. They do that, as a rule.

Our most significant training issue has been getting her to greet us calmly. She used to overwhelm us with her enthusiasm. This was a problem because our son’s middle ear disease had made his balance a bit off. Punkin could knock him down, and we were afraid he’d get hurt. She caught on pretty quickly. When the family gets upset, she gets very anxious. The challenge is to correct her with the right balance of firmness and gentleness. Overly harsh, and she forgets what’s going on so no learning takes place.

It turned out that studiously ignoring her until she settled down did the trick. Who knew? Not I.

Elizabeth Conley: My dog Neuphy (110 lbs) can leap over the fence surrounding my yard. Where does he go? 5 blocks away to my friend’s house, barking underneath his window which is Neuphy’s way to tell my friend to take him on one of his famous long walks.

I realize my dog is out of the yard, immediately, I’m panicked as my boots and coat go on, I’m grabbing my keys … and the phone rings … “Wini, Neuphy’s over here … I’ll be walking him back after we have our breakfast … then go out for him to play and get his exercise”. Of course, I walk over there … and my friend comes out with me to walk Neuphy for about 2 hours. Neuphy is sneaky like this. He loves when people pay attention to him. My family and friends all love him.

Thank God for good friends that live close.

Peace.

My boy dog is a fast runner, and he can put more miles under his paws faster than I could imagine. He also had a knack for knowing just which second to use to push past someone who was answering the door, and be off and away on a lark. For awhile he got a little too well acquainted with the doggy patrol. I had my phone number in a pocket on his collar, and I once got a phone call from a bar downtown, several miles away. He had shown up, all eager to make new friends. I wondered if he tried to order a Red Dog Ale, but they didn’t serve him, because of course he was underage.

I did appreciate the time he got “rescued” by a professional dog walker. He ran up to her front door, and she let him in and they got to be good buddies. I think he and Neuphy knew the same trick!

What’s really amazing, though is when the dogs work to figure something out. Instead of the command “stay,” I say, “You wait.” (I thought it sounded more polite.) Often the dogs consider my commands to be sort of guidelines, but they try to humor me. So, I took my girl-dog to the vet, and the vet tech got my dog up on the slippery stainless scale, saying “We’re going to get your weight.” She was unhappy and nervous but she obediently stood on the scale, and stood, and stood . . . Until I realized that she thought she had been told “You wait!”

Rune: Neuphy can hear me inside the house. He knows if I’m standing at the door watching him through my back door, or if I walk away and get busy doing something else.

I fixed him … I stand there and watch him in the back yard … the big sneak. And, he is a sneak. He loves to mosey away if I am talking with someone. He does his cow routine and roams … away. Like a 5 year old … all the time, he knows when you are paying attention to him or if you are engrossed in a conversation.

I feel bad for him. I’ve only taken him around the block for his walks due to the heavy snowfall we’ve had this winter. I have taken him to his favorite acreage … but, not every day … when I tried, he was walking on top of the snow … drifts about 4 feet high. Last time he escaped, it was about 6:00 a.m. in the height of a huge storm. I threw my boots, coats, grabbed my keys … walked into the back block of my house … and followed his footsteps … until I looked up and saw him a block away from me. I said “Neeeeuppppppppppphie … get over here” … his head went down as he walked slowly towards me. He knows, they all know when they are doing something right or not.

Big sneaky baby. But, I love him. He’s so mellow too. A Big Sneaky, Mellow Neuphasoid. (LOL).

Peace.

You ladies have some real characters on your hands.

Punkin’s game is keep away. When she wants attention she snatches something she knows we’ll chase her for. One day she got fed up with my preoccupation and snatched my reading glasses right off my nose. She pranced around me with an outrageous sashay, wagging her tail and rolling her eyes. It seemed she was saying “Ignore me now!”

She is an extremely dainty eater, and very skinny for a Golden. She holds out until we get worried and drizzle grease or canned fish juices on her food. She can hold out for days! Don’t tell the vet, but we usually fold after 36 hours.

Elizabeth: I’ve done some research into brainwaves, and have come to acknowledge that we both send and receive information along certain frequencies in our brainwaves. The slower waves, the ones we are more “conscious” of when we sleep, or meditate, or even pray, are also the ones that — when we train ourselves to use them or to trust them — can conduct telepathic information.

I’ve concluded that my dogs really do telepath. I remember one night when I got a clear image of the dog bowl in the bathroom — not something I would ordinarily think of on my own! I detoured from my path to bed, and sure enough, the water bowl was empty. That might also explain the behavior of Wini’s sneaky pal.

Telepathy doesn’t seem far fetched to me. That and premonitions. I think brains, human and animal, are a lot more capable than we yet know. If we don’t have telepathy, then we have incredibly sensitive subconsciouses.

People and animals alike know things they logically can’t know. It’s more politically correct to call it intuition, instinct or a hunch. Fine. I admit that I don’t know how people and animals know what we “can’t” know. I just accept it. It’s goofy to pretend something away just because we don’t understand it. What is, is.

Elizabeth,

I had a border collie once who was a jump-up-on-you “greeter” and I taught him to come to me and SIT when I came home. He was so happy to see me that he would JUMP UP AND DOWN IN A SITTING POSITION but never up on me.

My Border Collie, now, “Boss Dog” comes and sits up before me (his own trick he made up) and I also taught him to “show me your teeth” (this is COUNTER instinctive for a subordinate dog to show teeth to a “superior” so it was difficult to teach him to do this because instinctively he didnt want to do it.) He now does it really well and has this “toothy grin” for attention. I never use a leash on him as he “heels” 110% and is 110% obedient.

He doesn’t know it yet but he is getting two goats on Wednesday which he will think are his VERY OWN! Actually they are milk goats so my son C can have milk (he is intoleratnt of cows milk, and I am now developing lactose intolerance) so Boss will be really happy that he can herd goats again and not just the cows once in a while. He loves the demos for the kids at schools.

I am with Liane on this one, DOGS have depression, a sense of fairness and though many breeds have “types” of dispositions which have been bred into them over many many generations for use for various purposes, they also have anxieties and fears. Boss is terrified of storms and gunfire and thunder, I would try to calm him and he got worse, I heard from a dog trainer to SCOLD them instead of trying to “pacify” them for their fear and guess what, IT WORKED! He actually calmed down as I was telling him it was “not okay” to be afraid. He is much less afraid of thunder now.

“That’ll do” is the universal sheep dog command for “that’s enough” or “stop it” and it means, depending on when you use it, “Okay the goats are where they belong, stop herding” or it means “stop barking” or “stop acting afraid of teh thunder” and so I found a new “trick” for myself.

A very timid dog that is afraid might have to be handled differently, but for Boss, who is very subservient but not timid (if that makes any sense) it worked for him. With the collies, we GROWL at them too, to scold them, or in rare instances of definance, to BITE them on the ear. (like their mother would when she was weaning them.)

Rune, I also think there are “frequences” of brain electrical activity that animals and who knows maybe some humans can “pick up on” (Intuition?) I know the Bantu people of South Africa and the Bushmen of South Africa seem to have more intuition than a telegraph and can send and receive messages across vast plains “instantly.” I have observed this myself multiple times. Their eye sight and sense of direction is much much more acute than Europeans’ and ones who have also grown up in the bush as well, so it isn’t “training” but some form of “intuition” that we either have lost or don’t pay attention to.

The Bushmen call it a “tapping” in the chest when they are “getting a long distance message” from someone and will sit down and “listen” until the message is “tapped out” and ALWAYS their message when we would get back to camp was correct. It might be something as simple as “don’t worry about meat for supper, we already killed an antelope” or something more complex like “we don’t have to hurry back to camp the boat won’t come tomorrow to pick up the animals we have caught” Sure enough, the boat never showed up, and at the time we “got themessage” the owner of the boat didn’t even know he wouldn’t be coming and he was over 100 miles away. SPOOKY! But I believe! I have SEEN!

Last year when I went to put my old horse down, my son and I drove down to the pasture where she was with some feed, just like always, trying to make sure she didn’t “pick up” on anything being different, but as I approached her, she RAN from me. She had never run from me in the 20+ yrs I had had her, SHE KNEW! I’m not sure if she smelled something different from the stress sweat I was doing, or “heard” the waves of my brain and my grief, but SHE KNEW! It made it harder for me too, but it had to be done and humanely done.

That is also why I will never take a cow/steer to the butcher and leave them there, I stay with them because I don’t want them to be afraid. The cattle that go to slaughter are not “pets” so I am not emotionally attached to them, and they seem to find comfort in my presence as they go into the chute, like they are just going to get a vaccine (which they have done before and know what to expect.) I also stay to make sure the butcher’s herdsmen don’t use electric prods on my stock either. But even the old oxen walked in without fear or anxiety. They are living creatures and I think they deserve at least a pain free and anxiety free death if we can give it to them. I hope I am as fortunate when I die as the animals I raise and love are.

Liane, I think the rehabilitation of animals is a great way to give your children a chance to practice their empathy! Good for you!!! And good for the dogs too!

PB,
“Do you think you can teach children empathy? Or just teach children how to respond to their empathy, providing they have it?”

Yep, I do. Not only that, but I think you can shut down a child’s empathy too. It’s a scary power.

Both of my children are very empathetic, my son particularly so. They’re also easily influenced by roll models and peers. I monitor what’s going on very closely. No bullies, mean girls or phony mentors allowed. I don’t care whose knickers get twisted in a knot. I think bad company and bad role models are dangerous.

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