Pets or New Pets Can Calm the Parental Alienated Family
A pet, new or familiar to the family, can help improve the alienated parent as well as bringing calm and improving their relationship with their children
I’ve grown up with dogs and cats. Over the years, I’ve owned more dogs going all the way back to my earliest childhood. Many reading this today can relate to our childhood experiences with our pets. Generally, most of my dogs have been mixed beagles. I’ll never forget the feisty little beagles who howled and bayed often. I could even discern a happy, a tired, or even the lonely baying from my hounds.
Nearly thirteen years ago, my friend gave me an amazing little cockapoo. She’s all black with a hint of grey on her chin. She has always been always a loyal companion. I was grateful to receive her during the bitter part of my custody case.
My daughter Alexis, whom I have been alienated from for well over twenty years, named my dog Jenn. Many years ago, my daughter realized our newly formed family was her, my dog named Jenn, and myself.
Early on, I noticed Alexis wanted to spend more time with Jenn and me. We spent many summer days at the park, just the three of us. During school days, in a rush to get Alexis out the door on time, the morning often consisted of my attempt to put her hair in pigtails while she called Jenn to sit close by.
I also noticed my daughter ended her pleas to return to her mother upon arrival at my home when she saw Jenn. This hadn’t been the case from before the arrival of Jenn. At that time, I received a rash of choreographed announcements from my daughter’s lips which sounded as if her mother was talking to me that very moment. As alienated parents, we are familiar with the agitating parent using the children as mouthpieces for their anger and spite.
As my custody case emerged in the early years, I was granted every other weekend. Much later, I received Shared Physical Custody. While Alexis was in my care during the weekends, we often watched movies. Usually this included Finding NEMO or a Veggie Tales cartoon and. another popular choice. She often asked, “Dad, can you make sure Jenn lays beside me?” And Jenn was always happy to cuddle up next to my little girl.
Over the years, I’ve become friends with over 45 parents who are alienated from their children. In each case where there wasn’t a pet in the home, the introduction of a new pet seems to help bridge a gap between the alienated parent and child. For this reason, I’ve been a huge advocate for pets in the alienated parents’ home.
When choosing a pet, some may limit the consideration to dogs and cats, but I don’t. One of my alienated friends lives in a NYC high rise and they chose a long-haired bunny with big floppy ears. Another chose to adopt a 25-year-old cockatoo. The child and parent taught the cockatoo to say the child’s name. Now the child is 13 and they often mention how they helped to teach the cockatoo to announce the son’s name.
My dog Jenn is pictured above. I’m profoundly thankful she’s in my life. I remember the first night she stayed with me. The next morning, she went to the kitchen, grabbed her dog bowl, and jumped upon my bed while I was asleep! She had placed the bowl on my back so when I awoke, it was to her looking into my eyes and I could feel something was on my back. It was her silly way to tell me she was ready to eat.
Many years ago, whenever Alexis returned to her mother’s care, Jenn always stayed close by me, lending comfort on the dark days without my daughter in my life.
A new pet can bring untold love and support to both you and your child, or children. I encourage you to find a pet while your child is in your care. A pet can help to promote care and responsibility and also be a source of cuddles and comfort during a scary time.
In closing, in early January 2023, I will post a long story about my friend Renee and the love her dog Lilly, shared with Renee and her boys.
A pet added to the lives of an alienated family will likely elevate love and kindness during a time of uncertainty, grief, and transition.
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