Finsterhund
I'm finally finding closure for my very first best friend. I was never allowed it during my childhood because of my abusive birth father.

In 2019 my mother and I ended up repairing our relationship more than I would have thought possible. With this, came her finally letting me grieve Spot by acknowledging their existence.
Mom managed to find a photo and sent it to me. She had never let me see any photos until now.

I was 3 or 4 when I got Spot, likely for a birthday present. I don't remember what gender they were, but Spot was an American cocker spaniel, parti color, and beautiful.
For most people these early years are easily forgotten but Spot was very developmentally significant for me, and what happened was the first traumatic incident in my life that I can remember. I remember multiple things from these years.
I was a very weak, sheltered, timid boy. Spot was largely the reason I talked and I called them "Spot puppy" but was unable to pronounce the "SP" sound so I said "fot" instead. I bonded with Spot immediately. I can remember sleeping with Spot on some sort of chair. I remember us playing. I remember my mom talking to me about Spot.

Spot was neglected and abused by my birth father, and mom was out working long shifts leaving us unattended. Spot became overprotective of me, destructive, and being a very high energy sociable puppy they destroyed things out of frustration. My birth father would do horrible things like tape Spot's mouth shut and lock them up for extended periods to cry. Spot cried a lot but I was told it was because they missed their mom. Spot had to sleep with a small clock because it "sounded like a heartbeat"

It was after Spot began to dig, destroy things in the garden, and attack my birth father that things got worse and Spot was "gotten rid of." I remember vividly when Spot bit him and after a story told to me over the phone by my mother triggered a repressed memory I can also remember when Spot bit a hole in an inflateable kiddy pool. Both resulted in violence. The story changes based on who you talk to but my birth father spent much of my childhood mocking me about how Spot was put to sleep and threatened to have it done to our other dogs if I misbehaved. Mom said Spot was "taken to live on a farm" but is quick to deflect questions with "animals have a special place in heaven" when I press for more details which I think speaks for itself. Mom doesn't remember a lot of things anymore but she thinks Spot was a girl. She is also still very hesitant to bring up Spot. I don't know what is her not remembering and what is her intentionally not telling me things.

I suffered badly when Spot was taken from me and rather than resolve the deeper issue my mother just got another puppy. Fortunately the other dogs in my life lived better lives after that for the most part. But what happened to Spot caused psychological damage. I didn't understand it at first. I think it mostly got repressed and manifested in me as behavioral problems.
I wasn't allowed to have closure. Was punished for talking about Spot around my birth father and my mother would gaslight me about their existence until 2019. There were a lot of issues in that family. I still don't know why she changed now. Maybe for me to let her back into my life? I don't know.
Maybe she thought she was protecting me? She lied about when our other dog Jack died. Said it was to protect me. If she had just been honest and let me grieve I wouldn't feel betrayal on top of loss.

For my entire life I have had severe attachment issues, separation anxiety, and difficulty coping with loss and stress. I imprint too strongly on stuffed animals and dog abuse is a severe trigger of my CPTSD.

I made an imaginary friend based on Spot who I drew and wrote stories about since kindergarten. It was a way to keep them with me even when I wasn't allowed. The character has given me great comfort over the years but I still feel a big pit. Like this was just me coping but not actually resolving the internal struggle.

A check of the Helping a Child Cope with Pet Loss page on this website reveals that my parents did pretty much everything you're not supposed to do in the helpful tips section. The part about "becoming afraid to go to sleep" for fear of dying is especially personal to me as this was something I ended up struggling with for that reason.

I feel an immense amount of guilt. I keep thinking about how terrified that poor puppy must have been. How a dog should have never been in that situation. How my birth father got away with pretty much everything he ever did.
I can't stop thinking about how something so perfect and pure had to suffer. And I blame myself. I don't know why because I was a tiny little kid who couldn't do anything. But I feel that if it wasn't for me this wouldn't have happened.

I wish I could have made everything better. I wish I could have done something.

I feel that people look at me weird for this because it was so long ago and I was so young. But this sticks with you forever if you never get the help you need. I still remember. I still feel the pain and loss. Being able to see the photo helped in some ways but opened fresh wounds in others. I think I might actually be grieving now. I've grieved for two other dogs including Jack, but I was allowed to when they died. My memories of Spot are just hazy enough that them not being strong enough upsets me. I want everyone to know about Spot. I want Spot to be remembered. That's all I can have of them. Dogs are the most important thing in my life. They are the only comfort I had growing up. They are the only constant in my life. The fact that humans and dogs have each other despite how big and meaningless the universe seemst be is sometimes he only reason I have to live.

I have nothing but hatred for what my birth father did. We should have been allowed to grow up together. I'm so lonely and heartbroken. I had the moat important thing in the entire universe stolen from me.

I took my medicine and I should be asleep but I can't stop thinking. My thoughts are just stuck in a loop. I'd give anything to give Spot another chance. They did nothing wrong. They didn't deserve what happened. I have nobody  in my life that I can talk to about this and I'm haunted by things that are over for everybody else but me.

I found this forum because I need to understand how to feel and how to get through this.

I'm sorry. I just wish I knew when I could be okay again.
You were my leading light
Now you're somewhere free
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Gucci
Finsterhund - You're extremely brave to revisit your early childhood trauma. As excruciatingly painful as it will be, it's completely legitimate for you to grieve, rage, regret, and experience whatever intense emotions arise.

I'm happy for you that you were able to reconnect with your mother, and can speak openly about your dear Spot. As a child, it's impossible to understand complex adult interactions, and your confusion and trauma were a natural response to the bewildering context you were in.

It sounds like you have a fairly good grasp on what your issues are, and if you're able to find support group for that (therapy, online forums, support groups in your local area, etc.), it will help.

If you're interested, I'm recommending a writer named Pete Walker, who's a specialist in CPTSD. His website is: http://pete-walker.com/fAQsComplexPTSD.html

He's also written 2 very well-received books, the titles of which are on the site as well.

I wish you all the best as you begin to process your traumatic history. It's a very emotionally gruelling road, and having good support will be critical.

Warmest regards and sending peaceful thoughts your way.
 
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BorderCollieLover
Finsterhund:

 I'm sorry that you and Spot had to endure the wrath of an abusive father when you were growing up. You sound like a very intelligent person based on your writing. I hope that you are able to come to terms with all of this as you move forward in life. Do you have friends that you can talk with? If so, that may be one of the best salves that can be used to help in your healing journey. If you don't have anyone to speak candidly with, have you possibly considered seeking the help of a trained counselor or therapist? Regardless of which path you take, I wish you much success. You're a good person and deserve to live a fulfilling life free of the shackles placed upon you by an abusive father.
I agree with you completely. Dogs are the best thing in this crazy, chaotic thing we call a world. When you feel up to it, please let us know how you are doing. Everyone in this Forum understands. Take care.

Jim
  
Jim Miller
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DogMom86
I'm so sorry about your early childhood trauma and that you had Spot taken away from you. Unfortunately, many people don't treasure dogs as they should. I wanted a dog my whole childhood. My mother would have loved to get one for me, but we rented and the landlords wouldn't let us. The closest I had was my sister's and her husband's dogs. I grew up with Bud and Totsie (pit bulls) and remember Bud having to be put down for cancer and the same with Totsie. My sister all had Chihuahuas and they did not fare well. The first was Raton. Raton ran away and we think we found him and tried to get the person to give him back, but he refused. The second was the first dog I really bonded with deeply, Guerra. I was the one who potty trained her, loved her, fed her, even made her a little sweater out of a sock (I was about 8 or 9) When I was eleven I went with my sixth grade class to an educational vacation to Washington D.C. and I didn't know Guerra had died while I was away. Guerra had a molera or soft spot and my four-year-old niece dropped her on her head and it killed her. Boy did I bawl and bawl! Tito was shot in the side with a BB gun and as much as I begged my sister didn't let me take him to the vet. 

I had suffered with depression and anxiety for a long time (I also have Asperger's) and when I was in my 20s I was in the deepest hole you could get. I finally was allowed to adopt a dog and I got my first dog, a Chihuahua! I had wanted a Chihuahua forever and I named her Mija. She helped pull me out of my depression and to become more social and all around helped me. She was my ESA (she passed away on Dec 30th). I have a Japanese Chin named Tami which is my ESA and I plan on  adopting a Chihuahua around my birthday in June as my second ESA.
Mija, Chihuahua: 2004-2019
16 years
London, Golden Retriever: 2005-2020
15 years

Mom to Misty, Sango, Tami, Abby, Kawaii and Pepita the Chihuahua

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Finsterhund
Thank you everyone so much for all of your kind words. Your comfort has given me something warm and welcoming to wake up to.
I managed to fall asleep several hours after my post fortunately. It was far from a full rest but it was something.
These past 24 hours were very hard on me emotionally and physically, but I've managed to keep my head above water. I feel in a better state this afternoon than I did last night.

I am very thankful this forum exists, as I don't have too many people to talk to about this. Not a lot of people in my life understand. I always fear I will overburden my friends with my mental health issues, as it can be exhausting for others to be a therapist for their friends. I have two particular friends online that offer me a lot of emotional support, one who does understand many of the things that haunt me from childhood but they often are dealing with their own issues, and one who is very supportive of me but he doesn't get to talk all that often because of his very busy job. When they are available for talk it definitely helps me process my own feelings, and fortunately one of them had a lengthy discussion about this topic earlier today.

In 2019 I have finally gotten a family doctor and have been going to regular medical appointments, which is how I was prescribed medicine for my night terrors and medicine for my anxiety, depression, and trauma. I will be seeing a psychiatrist in the new year and after a suggestion from a friend will be looking into grief counseling as well. The process for recovery has been very slow, but it is moving forward. When it's day time and I'm less alone with my thoughts I can acknowledge that things are going to get better and go easier for me with time.

Finding the strength to talk about Spot has been difficult, but has become easier as time has progressed. I went from mentioning them once or twice over the past five years being careful not to trigger past traumas to actively discussing and seeking out closure in 2019 and onwards. I feel that Spot is integral to my core identity as a person and that omitting them from aspects of my life has been holding me back. Immortalizing them has been very important I think.

Gucci -
Thank you so much for calling me brave. I struggle a lot with feeling brave in my daily life that it can be hard for me to remember how much growth coming forward and speaking up about trauma takes.

Thank you for sending me a recourse as well. I have always been heasitant to trust "Dr. Google" so being reccomended genuine helpful recourses is very important to me. I will try to check out some of his books as well. I know I am also going to be starting Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and was reccomended a book on that too.

BorderCollieLover -

I'm touched at your compliment. I've always felt that I only come off as smart because of my interest in writing, but I guess if I weren't smart I wouldn't have anything important to say. Heh. I've addressed most of what you've asked above already but it is very comforting to be told that I deserve to live a better life. I think I will be able to hear that a hundred times and every time it helps me feel that little bit better. Hopefully I internalize it soon. Training out negative thoughts is half the battle.

DogMom86 -

I feel you on landlords. They're a massive problem where I live. Finding a place that allows dogs is next to impossible and my roommates tend to sacrifice that for their own interests in a place whenever we've moved over the past five years. It's heartbreaking, as for me life without a dog isn't much of a life at all.

Hearing about all the poor dogs in your life, especially those mistreated chihuahuas is so tragic. I couldn't imagine someone not taking a dog to the vet after being shot. I would have gone during a damn hurricane if my pup got so much as a limp. The end of the world wouldn't be able to stop me.

No one should ever underestimate the comfort and independence that SDs and ESAs can provide. I trained our last dog as an ESA and she's pretty much the only reason I got through high school. I wish more than anything that she could come live with me (she's currently living with my mom and is treated well but I obviously miss her) Dogs have this magical cosmic gift to realize you're hurting and radiate love. The fondest memory I have of all my dogs was when you were upset and they found you. They intentionally sought out where you were to just give you their presence. Jack was especially good at this. He followed you everywhere you went and just looked up at you lovingly or jumped up to lay down next to you. He rarely licked and didn't like to be picked up, but you could just feel how much he loved you by his presence alone.  He would just quietly spend time with you for hours. Never demanding anything just basking in your warmth and keeping you company. Toy breeds tend to get a bad rap but a lot of that I think is due to people not treating them right or training them properly. People go off about how Shih-tzus are yappy and rude but that couldn't be further from how my three were. I'm fortunate that at least two of them knew a life free from my birth father. I am comforted knowing that Jack's last years were peaceful and safe.

I've been trying to get a psychiatric service dog for years now. Unfortunately all available nonprofits who train PSDs for trauma disorders don't accept applications from those who weren't EMTs or in the military which is very disheartening. I know I could be capable of self-training, and can afford a dog all by myself but where I live it's not as accessible as the United States with their ADA. They put landlords above the accessibility of service dogs. Service dogs basically need to pass a public access test before being legally recognized and thus allowed universal lodging. You even get a government-issued ID that's designed like a drivers license. For a dog trained by a charity or nonprofit this isn't an issue, as they do all that for you and have the resources to do so, but self-training means you need to live in a place that allows for the dog to live there before being certified. I get that it's to prevent abuse of the system, but in my experience I have only ever seen one dog that didn't seem to be performing a service, and the pup was in no way obstructing, distracting, or otherwise causing issues for anyone. It seems like just a law to keep dog-hating landlords happy.

I use writing and drawing to this day to help me cope with trauma, and one of the big things that I have been looking forward to receiving the photo of Spot is to draw them. I don't think I've recovered from the initial reveal of the photo yet, but it's something I'm looking forward to in 2020. Lots of self-indulgent happy art. Especially of things that we never got to do together. The rainbow bridge poem was actually a massive inspiration for my writing. Rainbows have always had a ton of importance in my life, and I permanently associate them with dogs. The fact that this whole community is built on the foundations of the poem makes it feel like that much more of a safe place.

I'm dreading tonight, because I know that things get harder when it's late and I'm trying to sleep, but I'm very happy I've found this community and have people to talk to who understand what I'm going through.


Thank you so much everyone for helping me feel better.

Here is my sweet baby. I know Spot is in my icon but the icon is pretty small.
spot photo 1.jpg 
You were my leading light
Now you're somewhere free
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Mistysmama
Finsterhund, blessings for your healing journey. To heal we need to embrace the grief, yes. And we must remember that grief usually means love too. And those things make indelible marks on our Souls, bittersweet.

I remember when I was a teenager, our family dog (a very gentle girl) was killed most horribly by another dog who lived chained and had escaped that day. I never blamed the dog, but her humans for their lack of responsible management of their dog.

Anyway I saw the whole thing happen.

And what happened? A neighbour brought round some whisky. We all had a drink, even me at my age. My mother cried for about a minute, and after that it was all over. Never mentioned again.
I didn't grieve. I got on with life. I didn't process the emotions which must have been overwhelming.

Our dog was not buried in the garden or had any memorial to her anywhere. She was cremated I presume in a communal way by the refuse collection at the vet's.

All unthinkable to my True Heart.

Not processing that grief affected me very very badly in ways it was hard to relate to the death of our dog....for many years.

Now I am not in that environment of emotional repression, and do what my Heart dictates, and have done for many years. I have cried rivers of tears. I have loved. I have given my Heart 1000%.
No disrespect to my parents here, bless their Souls. They couldn't help it. That was their own conditioning.

Blessings to your dear dog, Finsterhund. Love knows no time schedules, and remains no matter how many years have passed. Souls remember forever.
Hold the love like a little light. It is all you have, or will ever have, to find your way home.

Misty's Blog..a Dogfight with Cancer http://www.mistysblog69.blogspot.co.uk

Misty's life after death: http://www.dog2spirit.com
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Gucci
Finsterhund - If you commit to dealing with trauma, it takes courage, strength, and is often exhausting (much like grieving can often be). Kudos to you.

I wanted to mention that the Pete Walker book 'The Tao of Feeling Fully' is a superlative resource when it comes to the necessity of grieving early childhood losses/wounds. He provides excellent practical strategies, as well as explaining the myriad ways in which authentic grieving can help regain an authentic and holistic sense of self.

Warmest regards, and peaceful thoughts your way.
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Finsterhund
Thanks again MystysMamma and Gucci for the advice and kind words.

I've got the Amazon page for The Tao of Fully Feeling: Harvesting Forgiveness out of Blame open right now and I'm seeing that it's free with an audible trial. I've never signed up for the service before but I do love audio books so it feels like this is a sign to put this on the top of my reading (or listening) list.

MystysMamma -
I checked out your website in your signature and it had a very powerful impact on me. Throughout the first few years after Spot was taken from me I felt them come to me just like Misty came to you. Everyone dismissed it as imagination or a make-believe friend but hearing someone else describe their experiences makes me realize that it was Spot trying to be there for me despite our new physical distance. I don't believe in any religion, but I do believe that there has to be more to our living spirits than what ends at death. I don't doubt for a second that Spot is still out there somewhere and that's something worth holding onto.


This has gotten easier for me over the past week, but I feel it just as strongly as I did when I first made this post.

Today I received more photos of my precious Spot. This time from if the writing on the back is to be believed, the December of that same year. But the built-in code on the back of the photo print actually says one year later. The photos are clearer and Spot is much more recognizable to me. The little curling tuft of tail, the odd-shaped blaze across the forehead, the little speckled toes and nose. Seeing these photos I broke down again, awash with tears. I miss them so much. It hurts so much to not have Spot with me. I CAN remember, and it all comes back so strongly.

I feel a weird sense of disconnect between the two photos. I know for a fact these new ones are definitely Spot, but my paranoia is telling me I might be being tricked somehow. My friend says that it's my grief making me think weird things and that Spot in the June photo was just younger and didn't have a haircut. That I'm in a weird denial right now. I guess the way my memories work is it's more of a feeling. Spot was with me and alive. And photos are a frozen image flat, two-dimensional. My other dogs have looked drastically different in various photos. But I was used to that.

  [EPGni3oXUAAZDpY][EPGnFLAWAAAfc68]   [EPGnFKxWoAEeuuM] 
Anyways, I keep trying to move forward. Here are the newest addition to my keepsake album. My favourite one is Spot asleep next to the tennis ball.
[EPFvgQnXUAEUPaP] 

I am comforted in the knowledge that I loved that little dog with every fiber of my being. Even if nobody was there, I was. And I will still be here to remember them.
You were my leading light
Now you're somewhere free
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Gucci
Finsterhund - What an absolutely adorable creature Spot was! I know you loved that wonderful dog with all your heart and soul...two innocents connecting and sharing unconditional love and acceptance. I have no doubt your keepsake album will help you on your healing journey. 

I will be sending you a private message with another suggestion for resources that may be of interest to you.

Sending you warmest regards and peaceful thoughts.
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