Our dog of two years, Alfred, has been with us since he was approximately ten weeks old. Alfred sees virtually every long-handled tool–brooms, mops, shovels, rakes, not to mention those mechanized beasts, vacuums–as a threat.
A broom can be resting, immobile in a corner on our deck and, if Alfred takes an interest in it, he will rush the static broom, nipping at its inactive bristles, until the long-handled tool finally comes crashing down.
All alone. By himself. Alfred has created an animated, demonic creature bent on getting him. And, sometimes, when he nips the bristles just right, the broom does smack him as it lands in a crash on the deck.
Before we had Alfred in our home, he spent two interim weeks in the home of a woman and her son, who were fostering him informally. They had collected Alfred from his birth home a few blocks away where, according to his foster mom’s report, Alfred was being abused. The children of that home/neighborhood were taking turns (politely) throwing Alfred (abusively) against an outdoor cement wall which ran along the edge of their yard.
Given Alfred’s singular relationship with long-handled tools, we postulate that this poor dog was most likely abused by an implement such as a broom or mop during his initial weeks on the planet. This is an experience held deep in his memory.
One reading of this narrative renders the mental image of a dog battling his inner demons by taking on an inanimate mop or broom almost comical; although, it is not comical. In reality, this is a profoundly heart-breaking story. As Alfred’s roommate, it is difficult to witness Alfred’s continued struggles with the live ghost of a memory which is over two years old.
Yet, in a larger sense, this is a tale about the manner in which many of us live our daily lives, battling the demons and ghosts of memories long gone by. How we view and interact with the world is not only impacted by our basic disposition, but it is also filtered through our deep and multi-layered life experiences.
As adults, the most important work we can do is to ensure that our old injuries heal over. Then, once healed over, we have an obligation to massage the ropiness out of these deep tissue wounds. It is the only way to emerge from the fire of life intact and be able to release the desire to do damage to someone or something else as a result of the pain we carry inside.