Rescue Journal

PTS in the animal world

Carol  ·  Jun. 9, 2013

not "put to sleep" but "post traumatic stress"

we rarely consider the actual emotional suffering of animals suddenly homeless, helpless and finding themselves in shelters overflowing with unknown people and animals. where every sound, smell, touch, taste, sight is alien and unfamiliar.
every support structure they have ever know is gone, they can't speak the language and no one can speak their language either.

so they there are isolated in a seething sea of unknowns and they absolutely have to find some way to be safe..just until they can figure things out..just until they can make some kind of connections to this new incomprehensible reality that they do not yet understand.

I think as humans we really do not really understand the level that these animals truly suffer when their worlds are ripped apart and they themselves are tossed upon a alien sea. it is a wonder that most of them don't drown and sink.

I am watching sporty buddy and he is currently over bonding with me. this is not really a very good thing.

we as humans get all warm and fuzzy when shelter animals single us out as someone really special. we like the feeling that someone loves and needs us exclusively. but the fact of the matter's not healthy. a healthy relationship is not built on unhappy need or is not built on fear or loneliness. it has to be built on a foundation of something more solid.

so...this means I have to help sporty find again his personal power. that place where he is ok and can make his decisions based on what brings him joy. not on what makes him feel safe in the eye of this current helpless storm.

animals should have a choice in who they love. it can't be because we as humans manipulate and take advantage of them when they are down and alone.

who wouldn't bond to the kind and caring person who came to our side and kept us safe during a terror filled moment. who wouldn't bond with a person who seems to have the power to keep us safe when we are afraid?

I live in many tricky moments...I need the animals to bond with me so they feel ok. but that bond can't be so big that re-homing them will break them again. it has happened a few times before with animals I can't get back out the door but I do try to minimize this as much as I can. sometimes it is not so much me that they attach is this odd saints place. some find that freedom to just be themselves so liberating that they really don't want to have to leave. I think, they have finally shed the shackles of having to fulfill human expectations and needs and choose not to return to being emotional slaves dependent on our inconsistencies.

you look at dogs like al...he chose his good friends here but they were not critical to his daily contentment. being able to do what he wanted, when he wanted, was more important to him. he enjoyed human company but he also enjoyed his freedom. after many unsuccessful human homes, al finally decided, he alone was his own true home.

so many animals live in that circle of one traumatic loss of love and home after another. if their response to that stress doesn't fit with what we deem as normal ad acceptable behavior..they won't get a second or third or fourth chance.

my question to us as supposedly intelligent, compassionate human beings much trauma and heartbreak to we think these animals can and should take?

why after all they have been thru to we get to decide how they should feel and act?

in sporty buddy's case..i guess it is because ultimately, I want the best for him. I want him to feel that he doesn't have to settle for me because that is all that is currently available to him. the problem is..i don't know how many times sport has had the rug ripped out from under his feet. maybe enough times that he decides rugs just aren't all that great or even worth the risk.

in the meantime, I need to get him to connect to some other things himself.... whatever may come....he too one day can make a choice.

PTS comes from being a powerless victim...of trauma, of fear, of lost love and safety, of unpredictable human life.
we have to stop making animals our victims, they are not just the discarded and continually recycled toys in our fucked up lives.


Brenda Mc

Tammy; I just want to say thank you for all your time and effort put into organizing and collecting funds for the new SAINTS shirts - they're very nice, and I especially like the darker colours - highlights the logo very well! Good job.


jenn took some today and I believe renee posted one on our facebook comments page.


I saw Sporty Buddy for the first time today. He's actually very cute, but looked completely overwhelmed. Marta & I were carrying a bag of hay when we stopped to meet him through the fence, and he was growling at the bag - he obviously saw it as a threat. Poor little guy. Hopefully he manages to settle soon at Saints and makes some friends.


Very important post Carol - hope everyone truly understand what are you saying.

Paula C

I so agree with this post, Carol. People have ways to communicate their emotional needs (although some find this harder than others) that other people understand and accept. When animals face emotional stress, it's totally understandable that many react in ways that people don't want to deal with. They have no control over what happens to them, yet we blame them for their reactions to changes in their lives. This is so unfair. My husband and I have 4 cats (3 from a very young age), one of whom was adopted last year from the SPCA as a 4-year-old. His first night home he was SO needy I barely got any sleep. He couldn't settle and rubbed up against me all night. Poor guy - he then spent a few weeks hiding from the other cats in the closet if no people were around. Now he's well adjusted, but it was easy to see the change of living situation was strange for him. And this was a positive change! I can only imagine the negative effect being left suddenly homeless would have....

another Doreen

Great post Carol! People don't realize that animals also have emotional issues like PTSD. I took in a friend's lab and it took him a year and 2 visits to his old home before he could let go and accept living with me. He behaved for me, but every evening he would find something to destroy in front of me until he finally accepted that this was his new home. Then he stopped destroying things.
And I took in a senior Springer when her senior human parents went into care. That poor dog never stopped grieving. I'd say it she died of a broken heart (but it was cancer) a couple of years later.


This is a timely post for me. I have been struggling with these thoughts for awhile now. I am currently looking after a friend's daughter's chi/jack russell. She is on the island visiting her boyfriend. She had this dog when she was living with a past boyfriend in a 6th floor apt. in downtown. The dog came from a rescue. We tried to talk her out of getting him but no luck. Now he is a very insecure dog, fearful, has bitten one person, barks frequently and is so attached to me, it is sad. Most people would think its cute or flattering how much he loves me, but I recognize I am a "port in the storm" of his young life. His person works full time and he is alone long hours while she socializes. I work from home and walk my own dog twice a day with lots of play time. Its not hard to understand why her dog wants to be with me. She has asked me to take him but I told her the rescue has to be told first. Sorry for the long post, but yours really was written for this little guy. More than one person has dropped the ball for him.