Dogs and cats can be people too © Martyn Carruthers
Few people treat human beings as substitutes for pets, yet many people treat pets as substitutes for people. Family pets may be substitutes for missing children, absent partners, missing siblings or missing family members. We can also help you sort out your emotions and relationships with pets.
Healing Relationships with Pets
You may feel loved by pets in ways that you may not have found in other relationships. Pets can do wonders for your physical and mental well-being, and pets can help people who suffer from physical or mental diseases. Pets can be loyal and friendly when treated well, whether they are sleeping by your feet or walking by your side.
Pets can give their owners love and loyalty. A pet can help fulfill your need to care – and provide a sense of belonging and sharing. Relationships with animals have many of the responsibilities of human relationships. You can enjoy the emotional rewards of caring for pets.
Caring for animals can improve your health, reduce anxiety and help you control guilt and stress. Caring for animals can improve a child’s health, social competence and learning. Companion animals are common in families with children and with people who want children.
Scientists at the University of New York at Buffalo studied the effects of the presence of pets on stress. Their findings were published in Psychosomatic Medicine.
God-father or Dog-father: Substitutes
Do you grieve for someone? Many pets are substitutes for children, especially for infertile or childless couples, or following miscarriages or abortions. Some pets are substitutes for loving partners. And some people choose pets as substitutes for friends, after judging other human beings to be less trustworthy.
We help people explore their relationships to find compassion and understanding. Healed hearts have the courage, strength and space to love again. If a pet is a substitute for a missing person – a relationship with a pet can be a profound and important experience.
When our dog was killed by a car, I asked you to help our grieving son. We were surprised when you suggested a family meeting. In our meeting, you helped us realize that our dog was:
- For my wife – a substitute for an aborted child
- For my young son – a substitute for his dead grandmother (big surprise!)
- For my sister – a substitute for a child that she always wanted
- For me – a faithful security guard who could “father” my son
You helped us express our feelings and appreciate each other’s needs.
Our tragedy became a healing for our whole family and gave us insights into the loving depth of your systemic work. We are all deeply touched. Rijeka, Croatia
When is a Pet a Substitute?
Love and friendship with pets can enrich lives. Loving pets as substitutes for dead or missing people can also create relationship chaos and suffering. For example, if a pet is a substitute for a partner or child, the motivation to enjoy human partnership or parenthood may drop.
When a pet is a substitute for a missing or dead child, some children may demand that the pet have special treatment.
My veterinarian friend said that dogs and cats can carry emotional problems of their owners,
and that dog epilepsy is common if their owners have huge nervous tension.
Similar to children, in my opinion. Zvolen, Slovakia
Sometimes a pet who is a substitute for a person may exhibit (or predict) characteristics of the person being replaced … or try to fulfill some emotional need of the owners, perhaps a need for distraction, a need to care for a special child or a need to sort out some conflict.
My girlfriend’s dog is hyperactive and has attention problems, although he is a smart dog and understands orders. Last week I took her dog for a walk alone, and to my surprise, her dog was absolutely different … seemed older and calmer. Ostrava, Czech Republic
When a Beloved Pet Dies
When a pet dies or is killed, the trauma can be severe for people who felt close to the pet. A pet’s death, whether by disease, accident or old age, can create a sense of loss and grief, and the pain can be intense. Few people seem prepared for suffering the loss of beloved pets.
After losing a loved pet, create a healing space for grief and pain. Perhaps you can review your love for your pet. We can help you replace your suffering with healing.
When my dog died, my suffering was unimaginable. I became ill and I wondered if I would die. We found that my dog was a sort of replacement for my mother’s abortion before I was born. Once I could grieve my dead (I think) sister, I could relax about my dog and wish her well in whatever doggy afterlife there may be. Boston
Your next Step?
If you lose an animal companion, we can help you through your feelings of loss, anger and depression. As you gain insight into your relationship, you can validate your loss, relieve your pain and explore new possibilities for happiness.
We can help you work through your grief at your own pace, as you explore your life lessons that you learned with your animal companion.
Relationships that share love connect you to your core. These connections amplify the sense of loss that is felt when a loved one or loved pet leaves or dies.
Contact us for compassionate support?