Animals as Victims of Abuse
Meet Sasha the Dog: An Abuse Story
© 2017 Sherryl N Weston MA, MSW, LCSW (pending in CA)
Sasha is a sweet girl. An Entlebucher Sennenhund, the smallest of the Swiss Mountain Dogs, Sasha is a rescue.
Turns out she had come to the shelter after being found running loose in the street. As we browsed the pens, my husband said, “What about this one?” I reached toward her. Wide-eyed, she licked my hand. We thought this was a good sign. We asked the staff to let us meet her. When they brought her to the meeting area, she had her head down and refused to walk. She had to be carried.
Sasha was estimated to be 9 months old because she didn’t have all of her teeth. And she was bony, had full teats, large flabby sacs from just having had puppies! We were flabbergasted. The staff said that she was in that condition when she was found. She had been in the shelter for a week.
When I drove her home, she immediately jumped out of the car and ran for the street. I had several issues with her taking off over the first couple of months of owning her. Dodging cars to save her happened far more than once. Loud noises scared her. She ducked when we reached toward her, as if she was expecting to be hit. And if we needed to do something like give her meds, a bath or any other normal thing, she would lie on her back with her paws in the air. She showed all the signs of being scared. She didn't know what to do with toys.
I researched the breed (which I had never heard of) and found that it is an expensive breed that was indicated as “not for the first-time dog owner” -a challenge to train and control- and “not good for small children” because of the herding breed’s tendency to jump up. She is not the least bit aggressive. She seems especially cautious with men. She is only openly friendly at first encounter, toward puppies, small breeds of dogs and children.
She is healthy and in great shape now. She is affectionate and gets along great with our cats, although she has to be stopped from chasing them sometimes. Very smart, she was relatively easy to train, but stubborn when she doesn’t want to do something, like take a bath or put on a leash. But she still often lies in that subordinate position in situations like those. At 47 lbs., she is an effective sack of potatoes. With our persistence, she gives in.
Sasha shows all the signs of being abused. There are clues toward her having come from a puppy mill, which, given the cost of one of one Entlebucher, clearly full breed and in perfect form, someone could easily have made a couple thousand dollars on her litter. Money was more important than the fact she was a perfect baby. I imagine the breeding process is part of what made her the way she is…
I will never forget the time when I was in my early adulthood, as I was walking in my neighborhood. I could see someone in the shadows across the street punching their large dog with their fist. I was alone. I was scared. I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do. I swore I would be an animal advocate after that. I have always rescued, and not bought from breeders. But I had a lot to learn about what was incorrect common practice and what was really good practice as a pet owner.
Shelters are full of unwanted pets for a reason. Things like de-clawing cats and swatting a dog with a newspaper for soiling the floor were things to unlearn. It costs to give them shots, feed or groom them, especially if they are like Sasha and have special dietary needs, as well as allergies. It’s just like what people do when raising children or choosing how to treat a wife. If you learned the wrong thing by example, something very specific needs to “undo” certain practices. For some people they resist new learning, but with willingness it is possible. Then less animals will suffer.
Human victims of violence can be very much like Sasha. Wikipedia says, “Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive or experience subjectively. ... In modern Western philosophy, sentience is the ability to experience sensations (known in philosophy of mind as "qualia"). In Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that require respect and care.”
Does everyone believe that all breathing beings are equally valuable? That women are as valued as men?
Victims are fragile but can trust again or learn some version of unhealthy coping. Humans may return to or defend their abuser. They give in, rather than fight. They aren’t so sure about themselves. Have you heard people blame victims who stay with or won't report their abuser?
I can imagine that someone trying to train Sasha would get frustrated, and like many people still believe -though research has been proven otherwise hitting is teaching. People still believe in hitting children or validate reasons to hit each other. Many especially believe in hitting dogs and cats. Sasha still seems to cringe needlessly sometimes. There is a connection between hitting and her behavior. There is also a human element you may not be aware of.
No Boundaries for Abusere: The Link Between Cruelty to Animals and Violence Toward Humans
What was going on in the house that Sasha ran away from? We will never know. Maybe they wanted to make a lot of money. But Sasha’s behavior indicates more than just that. Let’s pay attention to animal cruelty and the connection it has to violence in human beings. It's time to do something about the abuse that has been "accepted practice" in some manner that needs re-evaluation.
You might be able to do something to save someone.