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Anna was a great dog.  Bossy, gorgeous, youthful.  A talker.  She lived with a single woman, but they’d recently been joined by the woman’s 20-something daughter, who’d returned to the fold after a brief marriage and painful divorce.

I met the dog and found her enchanting.  A canine in charge of her destiny, it seemed to me.  A strong personality: confident, amusing.

My daughter thinks I need another dog, the client told me.  She’s sure of it. Anna and my client had recently seen a second, beloved dog pass.  The daughter thought Anna was lonely and wanted a friend but the client was skeptical.

I don’t want another pet, she told me.  But I want to be sure.  Can you talk to Anna?

I talked to the dog.  She skirted all around the topic; she didn’t even want to talk about it!  On top of it she wouldn’t look at me.  She was avoiding the subject.

An animal companion just didn’t seem necessary but there was something else, something around the edges that asked for my attention.  I waited and soon the picture changed:

There was the daughter, just outside the screen in my head.  She faced the dog; her mom and Anna sat looking in the other direction.   I studied the pair and saw that they were content, self-contained.  There was no sense the picture might be incomplete.

I saw that Anna was very pleased with herself.  She was pleased with her life.

Oops!  There was the daughter’s hand, reaching into the frame.   I watched the girl take the dog and reposition her.  Just a little tweak, but still.  Turned the dog in her direction.  The dog looked annoyed, then shuffled her butt around until she’d reoriented to her person.

Now, my job was to look at the dog and technically we had the answer to the question, does Anna need an animal companion?  But Anna wanted me to see the source of the confusion and there it was.

lonelyI took a very cursory look at the daughter and saw she was lost.  Her movements were restless, distracted.  I could see there was something asking for her consideration but when it arose she’d begin to tinker with the dog once again.

I heard, denial. I remembered the young woman had recently divorced.  Then I saw she was the one who was missing something.

Aha!  Projection!   With some reluctance I contacted the client.  It’s not about Anna, I told her.  Your daughter is lonely and she’s projecting it on the dog.  Anna’s fine, I said.  In fact she likes that the two of you are these strong, confident single ladies together. She’s happy.

The client corroborated this.  I knew it! she told me.  She went on to say, my daughter’s been really sad lately, missing her family on the East Coast. She’d felt that Anna was content being the only pet but she just wanted to be sure she wasn’t missing anything.

Projection. We all do it.  But it can be very hard to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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