Saturday, January 22, 2011

Shades of Trauma

I found myself with a rare 20 mins to spare between chores and pick-ups a few days ago, so I sat down and turned on the TV. In the middle of the day. Gasp.

I flipped throught the channels a bit and decided on Animal Planet. Animal Cops Detroit. There came a scene where the animal control officer and the vet were checking out a dog in the shelter kennel. The background noise of yips and barks and whines was deafening. Next thing I knew, our little dog Sophie came running in from the kitchen, jumped up into my lap and buried her head under my arm. She was trembling all over.
See, Sophie hails from a shelter. We brought her home from the Chester County SPCA about 2 1/2 years ago. I can remember going there to view the dogs. Amid all the pit bulls and shepherd mixes and mongrels barking and leaping about their cages, sat little Sophie, looking up out of her kennel with those big brown eyes that just melted my heart. She wasn't making a sound, but those eyes said it all.
When she first came home to us she was quiet and kept to herself. Over time she has blossomed and is now a friendly, loving little dog that the whole family just adores. I had almost forgotten about her past. Perhaps she had forgotten, as well.
But, like any being once traumatized, triggers will always remain. Triggers that can at once conjure up memories and emotions long forgotten.
As she sat shaking in my lap, burying herself ever deeper into my arms, I stroked her glossy black fur and told her it was OK. I turned off the TV, rubbed her ears, and scratched her tummy.
She was OK again after a bit. Soon it was time for me to go pick up my brood, so I ushered her off my lap and off she trotted, tail wagging.

It was a solid reminder to me that someone can move along day to day, for all the world looking like they haven't a thing in the world bothering them, haunting them. But when they cross paths with a lost sight or sound or smell, old worlds can come crashing back down on them, leaving them shaking. If not physically, then emotionally. And that emotional shaking can present itself outwardly in so many ways. Often, I miss what it is that's truly at play when I witness troublesome behaviors, acting out.

So thanks, Sophie, for reminding me that there are many things in this world that can trigger awful, unsettling feelings, in a dog or a person. Hopefully my eyes can be open to notice the trembling, in all its forms.

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