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Dogs And Cats And Traumas by Lucille Eckert

Dogs and some cats were always around sporadically in my early childhood. I never knew what became of most of them, that is, whether they ran away, got into accidents or found another home. There is a picture of me with a dog named, "Jack," a fox terrier type, the earliest pet I can remember. He was too big or I was too small to feed him or take him on walks. I don't remember how long we had him or what happened to him. Later when I was an adolescent, in all my letters to Santa Claus, I asked for a dog.

At some point, Smokey appeared, a grayish police dog. He seemed sickly and became a special project for my mother. She fed him oatmeal and cod liver oil and in a few months he was a handsome dog with a beautiful shiny coat. We never used leashes or collars and Smokey wandered in and out of our yard. One day he was gone. My folks were sure he was stolen. Smokey wasn't actually "my" dog, so after that I started finding my own usually a stray dog who just happened to follow me from the butcher shop, smelling the meat that dangled from my outstretched hand. I remember one special, friendly black dog that my mother had said I could not have. I can still see, as if in a photo, the two of us sitting on the grass at night in our yard, tears were streaming down my face. We sat in the dark for hours until my mother made me come in to go to bed. I never saw that dog again. I like to think he had a home he wandered back to.

In the Hallmark section at Walgreen's I have seen pictures, usually in black and white, showing a back view of a boy and his dog sitting side by side with the boy's arm around the dog's shoulder. I have to break away quickly and look at the funny cards because tears still come to my eyes as I am transported back to an evidently traumatic experience.

This recurring emotional reaction I still have after all these years indicates to me how deeply I was affected as a child by what could seem like an unimportant event. Children have very tender feelings.

As a parent, I wonder today what seemingly unimportant experiences may have been burned into my daughters' memories. Maybe if they write about their childhood I will recognize a "like mother, like daughter" theme. But then again, maybe I would not want to learn of a seemingly unimportant experience that I caused or could have prevented. That would certainly be a guilt trip for me. Maybe I would rather not know - it might be too traumatic for me now in my "senior" years.

Originally Posted on Monday, July 01, 2002 - 06:39 PM (140 Reads)

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