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Pets and recovery from sociopaths

Cade and Beau

Our visiting dog, Cade, left, reminds me of Beau, right.

For the first time in 12 years, we’ve had a dog in the house. Terry and I have been watching our nephew’s dog while he and his parents are on vacation.

The dog, Cade, is a frisky 15-month-old mix. I don’t know what breeds are in the mix, but Cade looks a lot like Beau, the dog I had while married to the sociopath — and the dog who kept me company as I recovered from my ex-husband’s destruction.

I’ve been having flashbacks.

Cade follows me around the house the way Beau did. He curls up in the same spots on the carpet that Beau liked. And he gets in the same kind of trouble that Beau did when he was young.

I’m loving every minute of it (okay, I could do with a little less chewing).

Cade touches that part of my heart reserved for furry friends who want nothing more than to be by my side. I remember how much I needed that unconditional love and loyalty while coping with the betrayal of the sociopath.

When I left James Montgomery, I took all five of our animals with me, even though Montgomery had brought four of them into our household.

Beau was mine — I’d had him for several years before I met the sociopath. The other pets were Herbie the African pygmy hedgehog, Chuckie the chinchilla, and Donald and Jamie, Australian sugar gliders (who were eventually replaced by Hope and Mojo).

You can see photos of the pets here.

Montgomery liked exotic animals. Of course, with the short attention span of a sociopath, he brought them home, but I was the one who took care of them all.

Stability and support

When I finally learned the truth of my husband’s deceit, and my life crashed down around me, the pets provided me with a bit of stability and lots of unwavering emotional support.

Their need for me to care for them was what created a bit stability in my life — I couldn’t ignore them and wallow in my own misery 24/7. They were my family, other living beings in a house that would have been lonely without them.

They comforted me. When I collapsed into tears, time and time again, Beau did his best to lick them away. Even the little pets cuddled with me.

Unlike humans, the pets were not judgmental. Their love was pure and simple, with no strings attached.

In the moment

When we discover that we’ve been thoroughly betrayed by a sociopath, we typically go into mental and emotional overdrive. We dwell on everything that the sociopath said and did in the past, trying to figure out what else was a lie. We obsess on what the sociopath is doing now with his or her new target. And we despair about the future, fearful that we will never get over the pain, and never feel okay again.

One approach to getting through this firestorm is to focus on staying in the moment — not dwelling on the past or projecting into the future.

Pets are great for this. Animals want to be fed now. Or walked now. Or petted now. Yes, sometimes their antics in search of attention can be annoying — but I think they may know that we’re in pain, and are doing their best to distract us. Giving in, and focusing on them, gives us a bit of respite from our troubles, at least for a few minutes.

Bringing joy to our lives

As I’ve written many times, I believe that, as bad as it is, the betrayal of a sociopath presents us with an opportunity for internal growth. I believe the best way to deal with the painful emotions is to allow ourselves to feel them, so that we can purge them from our system.

Releasing the emotions creates an empty space within, and the best thing to do with the space is to fill it with joy. But in the midst of the trauma, it’s unlikely that we’re feeling much joy.

And that’s where the pets can help again. Even just a few moments of unconditional love from a furry (or feathered, or whatever) friend can be a soothing balm for a broken heart. Pets can also offer us a safe place for us to learn to love again.

How about you? Did a pet help you recover from your devastation by a sociopath? Please share your story.

 

 



12 Comments on "Pets and recovery from sociopaths"

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  1. Jan7 says:

    Cade & Beau look so sweet! Thank you for sharing this story & your personal photos Donna. it really is amazing how our little ones show so much emotion and it is truly not until we are an emotional wreak do we notice that they are even more human than we think as they understand emotions and show empathy, kindness & compassion.

    Big hugs to Cade…hopefully he won’t chew to much up so he gets another invite for a little vacation at your home.



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  2. Thanks Jan7. I am enjoying Cade. He hasn’t chewed anything really important yet. Hopefully he’ll soon grow out of it, so he could visit again without requiring round-the-clock supervision.



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  3. 4mydaughter says:

    Unfortunately, my daughter’s Ex kept the dog from my daughter. Then when it became ill, he neglected it. The poor dog was so sick that it was unable to walk, and the sociopath/Ex would leave it in the bathtub all day while he went to work.
    His parents eventually took the dog to a the vet. But the poor thing had been neglected for too long and died. Yet the sociopath’s parents covered up for him, as they usually do.
    The older of the two children was witness to all this and has been emotionally scarred from it.



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  4. Andi62404 says:

    I don’t like medication. I hate the way I feel on it and it gets in the way with my job. I finally advocated load enough for my third therapist to listen. I have PTSD from the abuse of my ex. I can’t take meds. What is there? My dog isn’t just my best friend, bed mate and cuddle bug ( bare in mind he’s 140lbs and still growing ) he’s my prescription. With him I can do things I haven’t been able to do for a long time. I can’t sleep without him within reach without nightmares. If I do have one I wake with him pressed against me, sometimes licking my face, and sometimes whining softly. When I go to the stores I can take him too…he’s not fully trained…and I start to panic he can sometimes stop it, but if he can’t he’ll cuddle me as I try to pull it back together. He is my shield and my safety after years of having neither.
    When I’m sick he won’t leave me for a moment except to go outside. He taught me not only how to love someone else again but to love myself again, because there must be something awesome and absolutely lovable is such a sweet and loving soul loves me as much as he does.



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  5. Erdelyi says:

    I haven’t been “involved” with anyone after the last spath turned on me in 2004. And that’s my choice. Between that time and now I’ve become a farmer. Granted, I’m only a “hobby” farmer, but it’s challenging and rewarding. I recommend “farming” for anyone who needs to occupy their “recovery” time with something positive. I decided to focus on egg production. After working with chickens for a period of years and fighting Zoning issues in my formerly bucolic town gone ungreen- I realized that the “tame” chickens made really good “pets” and could be “trained”. So I started grooming “supermodel” roosters and hens and now I have a little tribe of chickens that are “professional talent” and appear in commercials and advertising. Some chickens make good pets! This is not for everybody as a cuddly kitten or mutt does the job just as well, but I needed extra challenges! That’s what the last spath begat. And about a year or so ago the jerk actually had the nerve to call me after he saw a feature on me and my chickens in the news. Know what he asked me? He wanted to know if I wanted to date him! What did I say? NO. Well then he wanted to know if I could set him up with women I knew! Honest. Only a sociopath would have the nerve. No thanks- I have a different kind of cuddly cock now, one that crows.



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  6. EricA says:

    The worst day I have ever had with my dog is exponentially better than the best day I’ve had with my “person”.
    ♡ to all of yall!



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  7. Stargazer says:

    Donna, I had no idea you’d had exotic pets. I love sugar gliders, but would never have one because they are so much work! I had cats most of my adult life, the last one dying in 2012 of natural causes. She was almost 19 and was born on my bed. My cats were always my lifeline, and I still regard them as the loves of my life, especially my Siamese, who died in 2010 of kidney failure.

    I am down to one pet, and she’s a snake. I’m attached to her but not in the same way as my cats. Still, it’s good for me to have something to take care of besides myself.

    The sociopath was like your ex – he had poor impulse control with animals. He collected 10 large snakes (boas) over a few short months. This is a ridiculous acquisition of animals, especially since he was not allowed to keep them in the army barracks where he lived at the time. Also, he kept them in his toddler’s room, which was very unsafe.

    The one telling story about my ex and pets, however, is when he was first courting me, he held one of my boas around his wrist. The snake was fairly small at the time. With no provocation and for no apparent reason, it bit him in the face. The snake had never done this before with anyone else and never did it again after. I take it as a sign – even a reptile knows who is good and who is bad.



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