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The sociopath, dogs and manipulation

Editor’s note: The following another essay by the Lovefraud reader Quinn Pierce, who writes under a pseudonym.

By Quinn Pierce

The first thing I did when my husband and I moved into our first home together was adopt a puppy. I had grown up with many pets, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a dog. I always felt dogs made a home more complete. So, I was thrilled when Ellie, a Border Collie, Golden Retriever mix arrived at my door step, literally.

At the time, I was working as a veterinary technician. I had graduated from college in May, gotten married the following fall, and decided to explore my childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian. One morning, when I arrived at the veterinary hospital to begin my shift, I was greeted at the door by a squirming box that made the telltale sounds of puppies that had been abandoned sometime that night. Unfortunately, this was not an uncommon occurrence. What was unusual, however, was opening the box to find eleven of them.

I remember taking Ellie home thinking my new husband would be as delighted as me; he always seemed to speak of his childhood dog with fond memories. It’s difficult to explain his reaction. He wasn’t angry, just more disappointed. He made statements that led me to think he was going to accept this because I wanted it, but he was not pleased. Ellie was most definitely ‘my dog’. I accepted this with a slight unease that I quickly dismissed. Instead, I put my energy into enjoying my adorable new puppy.

My first baby

We had Ellie for eleven years. She was my first baby, and she was the furry nanny to my boys who were born a couple of years later. I became a stay at home mom, working from a home office and running a new business that my husband and I started together. Ellie and I spent every day together.

When she died of DM, the canine equivalent of Multiple Sclerosis, I was devastated. I could barely get through the quiet of the day. I remember vividly when my husband came to me a week later and said, “I know you can’t be without a dog, I know Ellie kept you company during the day and this must be awful.” I was grateful for his compassion and understanding, and felt I was truly lucky to have someone so caring who loved me so much. A week later, I adopted a new puppy from a local rescue organization. She was a small mixed breed, and I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her.

The new dog

To my surprise, my husband never really bonded with her. I couldn’t understand why he seemed constantly annoyed by this cute little pup. I slowly watched as his annoyance escalated into anger, and within a year, Lucy was a nervous dog who showed constant anxiety, especially when my husband was home. One day, to my complete surprise, he grabbed the cowering dog by the back of the neck and began yelling and swearing at her. I froze for a moment, and then pushed his arm aside yelling at him to stop. I was crying and asking what was wrong with him, why was he acting like this. He replied with clenched fist and scowling jaw that he never wanted another dog; he claimed that I went and adopted another dog without asking him.

Another dog? Was he upset about Ellie? I tried to make sense of the statement, but I really couldn’t. I reminded him that he told me to get another dog after Ellie died. He insisted that he did no such thing, he was just consoling me and never said I should get another dog. The implications of this conversation took a while to set in, but they would be monumental. I spent several days replaying the conversations in my head. It finally dawned on me that he never actually said I should get another dog. I interpreted his words at the time to mean that he wanted me to get another dog.

The set-up

I did not yet know the manipulative techniques of a sociopathic mind, so I was unaware that this was essentially a set-up and gave him justification for belittling and controlling my actions by making it appear as though I was the one who did something wrong. It wouldn’t be until years later that I would go back over the countless apologies I would make for his behaviors. And this was no exception. I had been trained, in a sense, to accept responsibility for things I hadn’t done. Mostly, it kept me off balance enough to question myself constantly. In those moments of uncertainty, he would pounce. It was a carefully calculated craft, and I had become the perfect mark.

As the physical and verbal abuse of my little dog escalated, I started to see my sons mimic the taunts and actions of their father. Sad and confused, I felt I had no other choice but to give Lucy a new home where she would be safe and my boys would not grow up thinking it was ok to abuse animals. I would be in for another shock once she was placed in a new home.

My husband gave no indication that I should keep her, or that his behavior was wrong, but when I returned home without Lucy, he saw his opportunity. I was sad, confused, and disappointed with myself. The perfect state of mind for an abuser to assert control. He started yelling uncontrollably, accusing me of upsetting the boys and making them feel like they had done something wrong. He reprimanded me for leaving him alone with them when they needed comfort, and he continued the tirade telling me how selfish and horrible I was. I was stunned. Was he blaming me for upsetting the boys when it was his fault I gave Lucy away? For some reason, this was not sitting well. I think he sensed my reaction was not what he wanted and backed off, but the damage was done. I was now questioning my weakness for not protecting my dog the way I should have.

Beginning of the change

I wouldn’t say this was the defining moment as far as me wanting to end my marriage, that would come a few years later, but this was definitely an important moment. I spent the next couple of years trying desperately to recover the unrecognizable bits of myself that I had lost along the way.

Eventually, I would begin my own recovery, which would send my marriage into a fiery explosion after which, I would ask my husband to move out. Not surprisingly, he did not agree to this request. For six months, I tried to convince him to leave without getting the police involved. I didn’t want my children to be exposed to this type of action, and my husband used that to his advantage. So, I continued to look for ways to get him to leave peacefully.

Another dog

All this time, Lucy was never far from my mind. I felt so much guilt for letting her down and not protecting her; also, I was angry at my husband for all the abuse we had experienced, including his abuse of a small helpless animal. And so, I decided I needed to reclaim my home and make amends for some of my bad decisions.

When my husband went on a three-week vacation to Europe with some friends, I contacted a rescue group and adopted a new dog. But this time, I didn’t get a cute defenseless puppy. By the time he came home from his vacation, we had Sammy, a five-year-old Great Dane. By now, I had figured out enough to know there are certain traits of all bullies that are universal. One of those traits includes not challenging anyone stronger than them.

Introducing him to Sammy was one of my greatest moments. I watched the flash of fear in his eyes with great satisfaction. I smiled a knowing smile that said, “Go ahead, hit her, I dare you.” I may not have been strong enough, yet, to stand up to him, but Sammy lent us her strength, and that was enough to turn the tide. He moved out shortly after. I made the wrong choice when I sent Lucy to live somewhere else; I wasn’t ever going to make that mistake again. And so, my slow road to recovery had begun, thanks to the dogs that rescued me, Ellie, Lucy and Sammy.

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39 Comments on "The sociopath, dogs and manipulation"

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  1. brightest says:

    I was married to a sociopath for a total of 18 months. 4 months into the marriage, after he’d calculatingly rid me of all my possessions, including a car, furniture, home and job, my daughter, a teenager (14) asked to get a small dog. He came up with all kinds of excuses..he was allergic, he was afraid of fleas, etc…but she found an answer to all his objections and she got and paid for herself a small 4 pound havenese/yorkie mix…named kiwi. He “acted” like he liked the dog, but as time went by, i noticed every time he came by her, she scowled, and crouched down, tail down. She never ran to him, but hid behind furniture. This made me very uncomfortable and I ended up taking kiwi with me everywhere i went if i knew he was going to be home. At the height of our departure, during an injunction which was quickly granted, he snuck into the house (we knew he was doing this because he “left” items like a knife out, a photo with hateful words in sharpie marker all over it, etc…). When i came back to the house one morning, and had left kiwi there, a bowl was in the middle of the floor…another item he “left” to show his presence…and to my horror, a very sick little dog. He had poisoned her intentionally. She threw up blood, I took her to my dear friend, a vet technologist, and she did save our precious kiwi over the next month. The toxology report came back and it was indeed poison. I could never nail him on this since his (very expensive) attorney called it “heresay”. We were very fortunate to have her alive, and are now enjoying our life in peace, away from this dangerous man. We left with nothing, got nothing because of a prenupt, but are in peace and rebuilding our lives…lesson learned. Thanks for this site..I’ve referred so many…and wish I had read about this type of person before I married one.

    • Quinn says:

      I’m so glad you were able to escape (all 3 of you) and what a horrible experience to have endured! your daughter sounds very brave, I think it’s wonderful that she was not intimidated out of getting Kiwi. Thanks so much for sharing and for reading. Your comments mean a lot to me :)
      Quinn

  2. eurohorse says:

    To Quinn Pierce,
    Your words are like elixir to a soul (mine) that has been damaged…..I resonate with nearly every word. I am still engaged with my ex-sociopath, because of a child (now teenager) we ‘share’. Interesting how we see so clearly when it is another’s story – yet our own story? We doubt. A toast to strength generated by honesty, and sharing. Two toasts – one to our grief, and one to our courage! (from one of my favorite movies – Hanging Up, I think was the name – Meg Ryan). A toast!

    Thank you.

    • Quinn says:

      Dear eurohorse,
      thank you so much for your encouraging words and compliments. I accept both toasts and offer them back :) I’m glad that my story resonated so well with you, and that it could help you to feel some relief in knowing there are others that connect to your situation and can reinforce your strength and healing. I share these experiences for this very reason – so you have validated me just as much, thank you!
      Quinn

  3. Kit says:

    My xspath burned our house down with my 4 rescue dogs inside when I told him we were through…he then proceeded to tell me they got out and let me look for them for days until the neighbor told me what I already suspected..he had found them in the house even after the firemen couldn’t find them and had them in trash bags borrowed from the same neighbor. She told me I went around the back of the house looking for them and he loaded them up in his car…the fire Marshall told me later he had to know where they were because they couldn’t find them. But he was never charged with arson..not in a million years did I think he would hurt them. He acted like he loved them as much as me. I see now getting back at me meant more to him then anything..it kills me to this day!

  4. kaya48 says:

    This is just awful what happened to your dogs. As a dog and cat owner I can feel your pain. It’s unbelievable, just pure evil. Be assured that he will get punishment some day for such actions. And yes they manipulate the pets also. I adopted a little mixed terrier dog, and my soon to be ex knew my son and I love that dog. He did not hurt her, but he ignored her, called her terrible names and blamed me for adding more problems to the family. My soon to be ex was the entire problem. Well I did not give in and this dog is the best one ever. Do the pets miss my ex? Absolutely not. Shortly after he left us, he came back to get sone things from the house. Well the pets didn’t even look at him. They know that he is evil. And in this divorce he can try to take all material things and money from me but I have my son and my precious pets. That’s all that matters. I am so sorry for the pain he caused you and your dogs. Keep your head “above the waves” even when “oceans rise” .

  5. echospeaks says:

    My ex-p’s treatment and reaction to my cherished fur babies was for me too, a turning point. Since I was not ‘allowed’ to have children, my pets were my children. Indeed, I have devoted my life to animal welfare, it is my greatest passion. He never objected to me having animals, but I now see that he viewed them as very effective leverage against me.
    There were constant fights about the pets. My first dog was hit by a car while being cared for by family when we were out of town. His reaction was almost imperceptible. No tears, or even sadness really. I chose to view this as stoicism and strength. But now I remember that he didn’t really comfort me at all and I felt ashamed of my grief. I actually sought comfort with my Dad who held me and cried with me (hugely sensitive animal lover). I wrote a poem about Cleo, which the x-p threw away.
    My second puppy was with me only a year. The x-p insisted on rehoming Chelsea, because he couldn’t stand her slower than usual housebreaking process (she was the runt & sick when I adopted her and I suspect had suffered some brain damage as a result of her untreated (by the breeder) infection as a baby. She was such a sweet dog, just not bright. But she had to go (something I could never do now!). I was rewarded with a return to the idealism phase for a very short while.
    My third dog during this marriage was a sweet and goofy Doberman – Gretchen. High energy, the ex constantly yelled at her and berated me for not keeping her calm and behaved (she was 4 mos old!) I was determined to keep this one though, so I guess he thought he had to step up his game.
    The turning point came during an argument we were having (a daily occurrence by this point)when he picked Gretchen up (by now 60 lbs)by her collar and threw her down the basement stairs (be assured gentle readers that she was not physically injured, or psychologically, that I could tell.) The major effect was on me. Despite the many cruelties inflicted on me (that I quickly rationalized and assumed the blame for), this act of abuse toward my innocent and loving dog, was impossible to rationalize. I could NEVER abuse an animal, I am incapable of that kind of thinking and behavior. I knew then that he had changed, or dropped the mask, as I now see it. At that point, my resolve stiffened and I (internally) declared a state of war and ceased my apologies and accommodations of his ridiculous and selfish demands. As you can imagine, the end came quickly after that. I now see that I crossed over to the land of narcissism myself, and no longer had a desire to work things through with him. I was stubborn, argumentative and steely in my resolve. I felt nothing but contempt and anger toward him. In this state of my own reactive narcissism, I was out to hurt him in any way I could -with lying, infidelity and drug use. I never felt any guilt….until after the relationship ended. Then I was consumed with regret and self recrimination for violating my own moral boundaries. Him, he continued to be righteous, cruel, arrogant and blaming. No ethical boundaries = no pain, I guess. I have never forgiven him for his abuse of my loved ones. It is one thing I find unforgivable in anyone, and truly sick.

    Despite all this, I still had hope that he would see the light and deal with his problems (as I tried to do with mine). Obviously, this never happened and we eventually split (devastating to me, after 16 yrs and all my unacknowledged kindnesses and sacrifices on his behalf.) A couple of months after our separation, despite claiming to be destroyed by grief over MY behavior, he left town and I never saw him again.

    There is some stunning irony to end this story. My x-p eventually moved back to our hometown. He is an entertainer and now performs at the annual Humane Society fundraising galas! I worked at this Humane Society for a decade and left in disgust and alienation after recognizing the narcissism, abuse and undermining of management toward staff. I also had strong philosophical objections to the corporatization of their direction and the cavalier killing that only increased during my employment there.
    So, after 10 yrs of life altering dedication to the organization, I resigned with a less than amicable relationship with management. And now the x-p is their darling! I am amazed at the way life can deviously inflict these complex and twisted harms, even many years after disengaging with the narcissist.
    AND! Mr Entertainment also does the galas for the local Mood Disorders Association! If they only knew the vicious shaming, mocking and derision that my (reactive) depression elicited from this soul-less cretin! Oh, the irony of it all!

  6. revjanice says:

    We had two pet guinnea pigs when I was pregnant with our second child. Throughout the pregnancy my ex begrudgingly cleaned the cage. But when I ended up pregnant a year later with our third, the first time I asked him to clean the cage he told me he was done. He picked up them up and carried them outside an let them loose in our back yard which butted up against a park. He ignored my tears and pleading. He then placed the cage alongside our garbage that was being picked up that day. He told our then 7 year old daughter that he had given them away, because he thought they were making her brother sick (He had a lot of health issues at the time). I have never told her the truth about what really happened to them. I am sure a cat or something ate them, they starved or froze out in the elements, but they could not have lasted long outside where we lived. In the end what it was about was he did not want to have to soil his hands cleaning the cage while I was pregnant and afraid of getting some disease that would harm the baby.

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