I rarely talk about my work here as it often doesn't pertain to the purpose of the blog. For those that don't know, I work as a mental health counselor, in private practice. The work can be both very challenging and richly rewarding.
Many of the people I work with have experienced abuse or neglect at the hands of human caregivers. The very adults charged with nurturing the child are the ones teaching the child that humans are not safe to look after their vulnerable hearts and souls. The child is left to devise ways of distancing themselves from the emotional pain of not being validated, valued or unconditionally loved as a means to survive. It is from this place that coping strategies are established and later in life these strategies become mental health diagnoses.
I ask all my clients about their childhood pets and I am astonished to hear about the incredible bonds they had with their pets. These moments are precious to me, they are truly sacred. I'll be talking with an emotionally shutdown, surly person about the problems they are facing in their lives and after I hear about their difficult childhood experience, I ask them to tell me about their childhood pets. So often with those children who grew up with pets, I see an instant softening in their face as their heart melts. The stories start pouring out, "when I was five, there was this cat that just showed up and always wanted to be with me..." The tears, the joy, the warmth of their heart is suddenly present before me, proof that their beautiful heart and soul remain alive and protected behind a wall, built from the painful experiences of failed human relationships. Thankfully, with these individuals, there is often a pet-door in that wall which allows animals to freely access and nourish their heart and soul.
With all this said, it may not surprise you to learn that I've been growing more and more interested in the human-animal bond, particularly the role of childhood pets in the human attachment process. I'm not exactly sure how to pursue this further from a career perspective, so in an effort to explore possible options, I just signed up to attend the 2013 International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations Triennial International Conference in Chicago!!! This conference is taking place in conjunction with the 150th annual American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) conference, so it's gonna be crazy nuts!
Many of the sessions look amazing! From what I can tell, it looks like I can also attend the AVMA sessions too, some of the sessions on behavior look very interesting. This will be information overload I'm sure, but I can't wait!