Wednesday, November 22, 2017

It is time to include animal companions in the genograms

(A letter that was rejected by TODAY and later by the STRAITS TIMES)

"Boy-Boy" is a little chocolate-coloured toy poodle prancing excitedly in a playpen in the living room.

His "mummy" was resting in the bedroom, tired from a terminal illness.

I asked his "daddy" if "Boy-Boy" was let out of the playpen. He nodded and said, "Only when I am home."

He continued, "Some of my friends said that dog's hair was harmful to my wife, so I keep Boy-Boy away from my wife."

I told him that was not true and that the presence of the dog close to his wife was therapeutic. I googled photos of dogs sleeping with patients in hospices on my mobile phone and showed them to the couple.

The wife said, "I miss Boy-Boy so much."

The husband looked relieved with the information.

I recalled a similar situation a few years ago when a small breed dog was locked in a room. The husband of a woman with terminal illness said, "We have so many relatives asking us to give up our dog because they said the dog would harm my wife. My wife is no longer able to decide but I will not give away this dog. He is part of the family. However to appease the relatives, I keep him apart from my wife."

Perhaps it is time to include animal companions in the genograms and appropriate counselling be given to keep the family together when facing pressure from advice such as "they all say that animals are harmful and we should give them away."