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People love the concept of animals as healers and it does not go undocumented on cable TV.  In popular culture, cats save babies from burning buildings as rottweilers bravely alert the authorities.  Precious as these stories are, they in no way represent the real work companion animals are doing every day to help us to heal.  The stories are legion and not always pleasant.

She was a bichon frise; tidy, tiny and white.   Recruited as a lap dog but she’d proven to be aloof and that was of some disappointment to her person.   Not only did the dog fail to provide a physical connection but there was a far more troubling problem and overall it was hard to see what she was offering.

If her person didn’t come home at the expected time the bichon tinkled on the rug.   But she waited for my client to walk in.  The dog watched her person watch her tinkle, while crouching and cowering in guilt.  Her person was gentle; she would scold and clean and the pattern would repeat.

In the reading the dog presented the usual material and I thought well, this is unremarkable.  I recorded the reading and sent it off, then we waited for the bichon’s behavior to shift.

The results came in after a week.  No change.  Nothing.  Remotely, I checked in with the little dog and she took me straight to the beleaguered rug.   She squatted and began to tinkle, then looked up at me sheepishly.   “I know,  it’s terrible,” she said.  “But I have to.”

Why?   Evidently it was none of my business.  She ignored me and went back to work.

In those days if I couldn’t make a dent I’d try another tack and so I gave it a shot.

Yeah, nothing.

I finally called the client and said, what’s going on in your life?   Her story was unfortunate, but as she talked I knew we were no longer stranded and I could help shove that boat back into the current.

The person was the sole support for three able-bodied adults and some children.  She shopped, cooked, cleaned, worked, babysat and otherwise tended to these capable souls and now, she was cleaning up tinkle because no one would help her with that, either.

As the horror story unfolded I knew:  The bichon was trying to alert the person to the sheer inappropriateness of her life.  For her housemates to refuse to help or even acknowledge my client, in a sense they were tinkling wherever they wanted.

I asked her, where will you draw the line?  Even the dog treats you with disrespect.

I heard, “.  .  .  oh“, and it withered away into a sigh.   I waited.  It wasn’t what she’d thought, it wasn’t even close and yet here she was, confronted with her life.

After awhile she said, “Katie, it’s been like this my whole life.   I don’t know how to do anything else.”   We sat some more.

Just before I hung up she admitted, “I don’t know if I’m ready to confront them.”

“That’s all right,”  I told her.  “Now at least you know.”

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