I didn’t know it at the time, but adopting Addie has been an affirming experiment in attachment. In the world of relational therapy, attachment is huge. Healthy attachment occurs when someone has a safe and secure person who encourages them to explore the world around them. This is usually a parent figure, but can also be a romantic partner. This secure person is stable, loving and warm. When attachment isn’t healthy, lots of problems can (and often do) occur.

When I adopted Addie, she was scared of everything. Noises scared her. New people scared her. Her entire environment scared her. This broke my heart because my sweet baby girl had obviously had a troubling life before she came to me. Over the past year, she’s grown exponentially. She makes eye contact with people, she allows strangers to pet her and when she does get frightened is able to recover rather quickly. Tonight, she had a huge breakthrough. I brought her to the dog park and instead of hiding behind the bench as she often does, she began exploring. Each time she’d come back to get scratched and to make sure I was still there. And then, my brave girl made her way to the middle of the park and initiated an interaction with another dog. Now, to some of you this may seem trivial. But this was a big moment, a turning point if you will. After a year of endless love and affection, my pup is exploring and much less afraid. All she needed was someone to believe in her and not be deterred by her special quirks. Imagine friends, the immense meaning this holds in our lives and in our interactions with others. I’ve seen how much healthy attachment can positively effect relationships between lovers as well as parents and their children.

The really interesting part of all of this is that Addie and I have been doing animal assisted therapy. The basic premise of animal assisted therapy is that the dog becomes the secure base for my clients. The thought behind this is that animals are nonjudgmental and love unconditionally. When a person is struggling with the aftermath of insecure attachment to an important person in their life, they can use Addie to help repair that injury. The thinking on this is that the connection to a secure and unconditionally loving object (in this case the dog) can help a person explore feelings of emotional safety both in and out of the therapy room.

How cool that this is something that Addie herself is working on everyday? Research has shown that people who have experienced trauma can connect easier with rescue dogs because they know that the animal has overcome adversity and is resilient. My rescue dog has benefitted greatly from a healthy attachment to me. My only hope is that others will have the same benefits through their positive relationship with Add.

I am so jazzed about all of these connections.

Today I am grateful for:
healthy attachment.
Paying it forward.
How intertwined life can be.

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