Archive for July 21, 2013

The Need to Dominate

 I have a new puppy, just old enough to leave his mother. Sammy’s all black, a standard poodle, full of fun and mischief. He’s making a surprisingly easy transition from his litter to our family.

He’s such a contrast to our previous dog, Luna. Luna’s fatal flaw was her need to dominate. We never did manage to break her of this bad habit. She’d see another dog and go after it to bring it down. If the other dog rolled  over and submitted, that usually ended the encounter. She wasn’t angry. She just needed to dominate.  She did whatever she needed to do in order to be top dog.

Luna was one year old when we brought her home. She started life in a puppy mill. A woman who just wanted a cute pup for cheap bought her. You can imagine the new owner’s dismay when her cute pup grew into a German Shepherd Dog. By the time we met Luna she was ruling the household. She ate off the dining table, pushed the two little boys out of their beds and generally had positioned herself as the Alpha in her pack. (Dogs are pack animals. That’s what makes them loyal family members.)

You know what happens to children when they realize nobody’s in charge! They become anxious, out-of-control, badly behaved children who refuse to accept the authority of the adults. It’s the same with dogs. The first months with Luna we were spent constantly letting her know the humans were in charge. My body was black and blue from Luna’s nips as she tried to dominate me.

Over the next five years, Luna went from a skin-and-bones, out-of-control, badly behaved dog to a loving, happy, absolutely gorgeous family pet – with a couple of exceptions. In spite of all our efforts, we never fully managed to curb the barking that drove our neighbours crazy and caused us grief.

Her worst flaw and the one that proved her undoing was her need to dominate other dogs. For that reason we never let her off her lead when we went walking. But one day, she managed to jerk the lead out of my hand and went for our neighbour’s gentle, peaceful dog, tearing holes in its side. That was the final straw for Luna. We had her “put down.”

         Back to Sammy the new pup. It’s not by chance that he’s so easy to get along with. He comes from breeders who poured their caring and their knowledge into producing litters of good pups. They care deeply for their dogs and even bring the pups into their home so the pups will grow accustomed to the sounds in a house before going to the new owner. Sammy yelped all the first night, as puppies newly separated from their litter do, but after that he yelps only when he needs to be take out of doors to relieve himself. Sure, he chews on things he shouldn’t and leaves puddles on the floor – but he’s learning fast – and he accepts and trusts us as his guardians.

Sammy’s good start in life is something I’d wish for all dogs – and of course – for all children.

Is a Group Right for You?

Almost anywhere you live, you can find a group for people who have been sexually abused. But how do you know whether a group is right for you? And how do you know whether the particular group you’re considering will be a positive experience?

The Pros: Those of us who have been sexually abused as children tend to think we’re one of a kind. It’s a huge relief to be in a safe group and discover that all of us who were traumatized as children share the same issues. “You mean I’m not the only one who feels shame? Can’t trust appropriately? Has trouble being a normal sexual adult? etc. etc.”

The Cons: Groups can be triggering. You may end up being re-traumatized by hearing others’ stories. As a result of childhood trauma, we tend to be very easily influenced by others’ stories. It’s easy to confuse someone else’s story with your own. (We’re also easy to hypnotize. On the positive side, we’re very creative with visual imagery etc.)

Finding a Good Group: Check out the group’s rules. Is your privacy assured? How does the group strive to create safety?

Women Recovering From Abuse (WRAP): This is a professionally run group out of Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. Besides being in the company of others who share your issues, the leaders emphasize education about living with trauma and give you tools for healing.

Their website is http://www.womenscollegehospital.ca/programs-and-services/mental-health/women-recovering-from-abuse-program-wrap.

The Lamplighter Movement: This came to my attention through Shelagh Stephen a contributor to this website. This is an international movement for incest and child sexual abuse recovery. The purpose of the network is to empower and support victims and survivors.

The movement has three chapters in Canada (Kitchener, Thunder Bay and Vancouver.) If you’re not near those centres, you can be a “stand alone chapter” – a chapter composed of just one person. To be a stand alone member, email Margie at margie@thelamplighters.org. Margie will pass on your information to anyone asking to join the Lamplighter website. The same contact will connect you to Kitchener and Thunder Bay chapters. For the Vancouver chapter, email lamplightersofvancouver@gmail.com. Shelagh founded the Vancouver chapter.

Their website is www.thelamplighters.org.