Changing roles as one gets older…..
It often surprises people when I talk about animals needing to feel they have a specific role within the family. This is something which humans don’t tend to think about. I find that sometimes ‘behavioural problems’ arise when an animal companion either doesn’t feel they have a role or it’s not honoured or that as they get older they can no longer do their ‘job’ as well as they used to.
It’s worth spending a little time considering what role/position/job your animal contributes to your household and for those who have older animals, or maybe those who’ve suffered from an illness or accident, it may be important to be sensitive when it comes to the time that they may need a little help to feel valued in a new role.
I’ve had communications with animals who feel very frustrated when what they bring to the household is not honoured. I spoke with a dog who saw his role as binding everyone together into a close family unit, especially when times were difficult. He felt frustrated when this wasn’t recognised and was suddenly kept outside in a barn – not having much access to the family at all. He was desperate for his family to ‘see him’ again and bring him into the family so that he could feel useful and valued, so whenever he was outside he kept rolling in mud and dirt and anything he could find – to bring attention to himself.
I’ve seen in our dogs over the years, that we always have one member of our dog family who takes on the role of ‘guardian’. This dog will always assess who comes in to our property, and keeps a watchful, protective eye about the place. I’ve also seen several times in my own dog family that as a particular ‘guardian’ ages we seem to somehow attract another dog into our family who will, in turn, take over guardianship. We have this happening at the moment – the process of handing over the reins – to a younger member. Now our older dog has taken a step back and has allowed the younger one to step into the role whilst keeping a wily eye that he does the job well! She is now more the matriarch of our pack of 4 and keeps everyone in line, respectful and harmonious with one another. Her energy has changed and she can now, at 14 1/2 years old, relax a bit, knowing that her new role is honoured by us all, a photo of Nelly is posted in this blog.
Can you identify what role or quality your animal brings to your household? Here’s a few ideas for you: guardian, playfulness, harmony, stability, healer, unconditional love, teacher, joy etc.