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07 January 2010

It's complicated

Not the movie.

Headache is better, thanks. One of the things i love about getting CranioSacral work is that the migraines usually last a short time (whereas before they could go on for days).

I appreciate everything that folks wrote about poor Bear. I agree with Alane in that i think the person who really failed Bear was my FIL. But i have to say that it honestly never occurred to me that my MIL hated the dog as much as she apparently did. I know that sounds really stupid, especially in light of the comment about considering letting him drown, but i guess - even tho i was shocked she would even say such a thing - i assumed it was some sort of joke. Somehow i just didn't "get" that she really, truly, thoroughly hated the dog. And so, i doubt my FIL did either. I am very, very thankful he was not abused as in beaten or kicked or whatever.

But honestly, this issue is so intertwined with other stuff it is hard to untangle.

I think i've written of it before, but i had two dogs as a child. (Well, three dogs, actually, but the first one my parents got rid of when i was 3-1/2 & i barely remember her.) One of my dogs was a beagle mongrel i named Spot. I loved that dog dearly. I had him for about 6 months when i was 6. We lived on a busy highway & he was run over by a car. The second one i got when i was 9. He was a Scottie/cocker spaniel mix. And i loved that dog with all my heart. We called him Scotty. He lived for 5 years & then was hit by a car, right in front of me. Essentially i never got over that. My parents had other dogs, (mostly shelties always named "Lady") but i never considered any of them "my" dog. My parents have had two other dogs run over by cars. I don't consider them good candidates to be pet owners, either. FOUR dogs hit by cars? What does it take after the first one? They evidently consider it normal & natural for a dog to chase cars & then some day be run over.

My parents were "farm folk" & no animals in the house was a big part of their beliefs. Pets stayed outdoors. The problem was that their shelties were NOT working dogs, they had been conditioned to be companion animals/pets. Those dogs sat outside our sliding glass doors (often in below freezing weather) & watched the people with whom they wanted to be near. It was HORRIBLE. I felt so guilty the poor dogs were outside wanting to be with us but i could do nothing about it. I didn't even want to like those dogs, but i felt so guilty.

Having Bear banished outside these past 8 months was shades of that from the past & i hate it.

Since the Bear incident, i've decided i'm not a "dog person." I've never given this a lot of thought before because i like animals & i like dogs. I love visiting with the neighbor's dog Buddy, & with Kim's (the PT, she brings the dog to work) Boycee. Of course i liked Bear. The reason i didn't have a dog for so long is the place i lived for so many years allowed me to have cats but not dogs. But the fact is, i find dogs very "needy." My cats have some "dog traits" but over all they are pretty independent & don't require my constant attention. I don't care for dog kisses, but i also don't care for the amount of guilt that a dog seems to elicit from me.

Duane didn't have a lot of attachment to Bear. You see, he HAD a dog, Rocco. Rocco was a rottweiler. He had originally belonged to Duane's sister Laura who was killed in a car accident some years ago. During a period of time when there were a number of incidents of dogs attacking people, the insurance companies made a unilateral decision that they would not insure homes in which pitbulls or rottweilers lived. It didn't matter that Duane's family had been covered by this company for years or that Rocco was a well-behaved, non-problem dog. He had to go.

Duane drove him to the country where some distant family lived; they had agreed to take him. And he lived there for two or three years. Then Duane's mom married his step-dad & Bear was there. Which felt unfair when they couldn't have Rocco.

The worst of it was that the folks who had taken Rocco went on vacation & didn't want to be bothered with arranging for his care & had him put down. They didn't tell Duane's family for a few months. His mother had told Duane, but he was in the middle of something important on the computer. She assumed he heard her & didn't want to respond but the fact was that he didn't hear her at all. The day we got engaged & went to tell his parents his mom made an off-hand comment about Rocco's death. Duane was devastated. In a small way, i think it was like Laura had died again.

Duane agrees that Bear wasn't treated well. We don't disagree. But he didn't feel a lot of attachment to him because it always felt unfair that FIL could have Bear, but Duane couldn't have Rocco.

There is yet more.

A couple of years ago my ILs bought some property in Branson, MO. My MIL thought it was for an "investment" but now my FIL wants to build a big house there & spend part of the year there. To finance it he wants to sell the house they are in now. She is not very pleased. She appears to have little say in the matter.

Last summer my FIL decided to put the house on the market, not really planning to sell it but seeing if they got any interest. It was during that time that Bear was banished for she had to keep the house pristine & told him if she had to show the house a lot she would NOT be sweeping up Bear hair (he did shed a lot).

Duane's take on it was that she felt that she had very little control in her life & what was happening & she was taking it out on the dog. NOT acceptable & we didn't feel it right, but to some degree i did understand that.

Over all, while i said she doesn't "get it" about Bear being depressed & lonely, at some level i think she realized she was being cruel to the dog. I think that is why she was so very angry with me when i said that.

My MIL, in general, is a very nice lady & i'm lucky in many ways. It could be so much worse. (My MIL from my first husband seriously threatened to kill both of us.) But Duane's mom at times has trouble taking responsibility for some of her actions. A couple of years ago she invited some of the Jehovah's Witness cousins to a birthday party but neglected to tell them that it was a birthday party. They were pretty angry with her. She feigned ignorance about why they were upset & acted like she was the injured party. Frankly, she knew perfectly well what they were doing because that family has been JW for about 35 or more years. She just wanted them to come join the rest of the extended family.

Well, this is quite long & it is getting late. It just seems that the last few days have been very twisted with my feelings, Duane's feelings, & his mom's feelings & it all seems very complicated to me.



Land of shimp said...

Hey Kathryn, it is a complicated issue. and the fact is nothing ever exists in a vacuum. When you consider the situation with Bear, you aren't just considering it as an isolated thing, and only factoring in the situation with Bear. Partially because it is next to impossible to do so.

One thing that keeps standing out to me is that your MIL was evidently expected to clean up after the dog. The dog she didn't want. Yeah, I can see that building a ton of resentment.

I'm really not sure that your MIL's feelings about Bear are at the root of the issue, as much as a sense of powerlessness in her own life, in her own marriage might be.

I try to imagine my husband bringing home an animal I did not want, and expecting me to clean up after said animal, and take care of said animal. It wouldn't happen, Kathryn. Our relationship doesn't run along those lines, never has, and never will. My husband would probably say (and has said) that I'm the person who is in charge, but truthfully, we've got an even arrangement. Neither of us makes big decisions without a sit-down in which we both have the power to veto. Things are either done by mutual agreement, or not done at all.

Now, your MIL grew up in a different time, where having a "head of household" was more common. I think the situation with Bear is really reflecting a larger issue in her relationship altogether. For instance, being expected to keep a home in show condition, but having no voice in whether or not that home was placed on the market.

Nothing does exist in a vacuum. In talking about this, we can focus in on what happened to Bear -- who truly was simply a victim of the people around him, and had no actual voice in anything, he was fully dependent -- but to do so is to ignore the many factors that went into something.

I have no idea how your relationship with Duane is structure, Kathryn but it is very clear that you have a happy, loving marriage and that Duane treats you as being a very important person to him, and you return that.

Nothing can be done for Bear at this juncture. He was a true victim, and I feel for the poor, faithful dog, because he was simply being a dog, nothing more or less.

Something else struck me. You said that no one truly realized that your MIL hated the dog, but it seems all the evidence was there. A big part of this, I would think, is the "No one listens to me." factor for your MIL, and it goes to that larger frustration with a sense of powerlessness in her life.

I guess I have a lot of compassion for that situation. I'm very aware that only the time period in which I was born determined that it was a given that I would have an equal voice in my own marriage. Move my birth even as little as a decade earlier? I might have had a very different dynamic, and it would not have sat well with me.

My MIL is a lovely person, and unfortunately she's very ill. My FIL died in an accident quite suddenly seven years ago, but when I first met my MIL, I commented to my husband that she had a very disconcerting habit of saying exactly what she meant, and then following it up with seemingly inappropriate laughter. For instance, "Of course, he's a raging drug addict. Hahahaha!"

There's also a story about how, for a time, my MIL had her "imaginary husband Steve". "My imaginary husband Steve never forgets my birthday! Hahahaha!" It was this very interesting thing, where she was clearly, clearly trying to communicate but choosing this very passive-aggressive manner. To communicate in her own relationship, she created Steve. When Jerry forgot her birthday? She used the Steve-construct to tell everyone who would listen, how much that hurt her.

Land of shimp said...

don't know how many people actually got that, but it's just an example of the lengths people will go to when trying to figure out how to have a voice in their own life.

So that's my suggestion. Stop focusing on Bear, and take a look at your MIL. Are there other factors, far beyond "how she feels about animals" at play here that might help you understand, and in understanding, perhaps find some peace with it yourself?

I'm just saying, in reading your blog post about the matter, I spotted a bunch of other factors, including the fact that your MIL is expected to follow a traditional structure, wherein her wants, needs, desires and opinions are secondary.

Dump decades of that one someone's head, and yeah, angry, sometimes cruel behavior can result.

To be really clear, I am not calling your FIL any kind of unfeeling monster. He is also a product of his time, but that dynamic began to change because it led to so much unhappiness for both genders. It's easier to have a happy marriage when you deeply care about the feelings of your spouse, regardless of gender.

When you don't...people are unhappy. Unhappy people act out in ways that even they can't explain. It's just a thought, maybe I'm really off base, but I thought it was worth throwing out there.

p.s. Sorry I had to cut this into two. It's an interesting subject and I got wordy. I always get wordy, I'm sorry!