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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Security in Rituals

Bernadette has to have her teeth trimmed every two weeks, due to a malocclusion. She has become so used to it that she sits calmly on my lap at the vet, admired by all who come in.

Today she had a lot of anxiety. She climbed all over me, digging in her nails. She could not stay still except to climb under my arm to urinate...very unusual for her.

At first I thought it was because I was tense...the holidays, the traffic, forgetting the office would be closed until the last minute and having to rush.

I was really concerned. She is almost two and her brother died of bone cancer. Anything off in her makes me antsy.

Then I realized my behavior in the office was different. Instead of sitting on the bench in front of the front desk, I sat in a chair and looked at a magazine. Change can be enough to throw any of us off, especially in a potentially scary situation.

Over and over again, I have noticed how important ritual is to least to rescued rats. The only change they seem to enjoy is new toys and a clean cage.

Anything new in Bear's routine takes him until the second time to become comfortable with. The first time I put him in my lap to tickle him, he was confused. The second time, he got it...we can also do tickles in mommy's lap. When I let him run around in the bathroom while I dress or bathe, he knows exactly what my last move will be before time to leave. Right beforehand, he will clamber to get up my leg and onto my I don't leave him behind? All of them seem to be as relieved to go back to their tables as they do to get off of them.

Though sometimes I'm off with the timing of meds or dinner, I make sure to do everything in the same order right down to who gets their dinner bowl first. I can feel the anxiety in the room, if I don't. Bless their hearts...born into lives of chaos and danger, they cling to every measure of security and safety. Don't we all?

Next time I take Bernadette, forget the pleasure of People magazine and a plush chair. I will take my seat on the bench, where everyone who comes in can see her, and she them...where she will feel safe.

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