We have had many issues surrounding pets with both Donald and Daffy. Obviously Donald’s issues have been far worse (I posted a little bit about that here), but Daffy has certainly faced her own struggles with being agressive particularly with the cats. Along with her therapist, we worked out a plan that she could earn her own pet with the hopes that being able to claim ownership of a pet would allow her to believe that living with us IS permanant and also give her a sense of belonging by having her “own” animal, not just the pets that lived here before she came in January! Initially we had planned to let her earn a fish, but her therapist suggested that a fish wass not cuddly enough to meet Daffy’s needs, so we altered the goal for Daffy to be able to earn a hamster instead! This has been an ongoing goal for about 4 months with several set backs and delays (mostly due to her attentional issues, but also due to some inappropriate handlings of the cats). This morning, Daffy finally set her mind to it and finished the last few things she needed to accomplish to make the long awaited trip to the pet store (namely, washing the cage since it was a hand-me-down).
Tonight, Mickey and I took Daffy out to pick out her hamster. Her eyes were wide as we walked in. I think she was stunned that they day had finally come. The store had many different types available and she checked each option carefully. Finally she decided on a white hamster which she promptly named “Snowball.” Despite the fact she has been working on this goal for a long time, I suddenly felt like I hadnt prepared her at all.I really want her to be successful, even though she has many odds stacked against her, primarily her impulsivity and her attention issues, but also the fact we have 2 cats and 2 dogs who would love a hamster snack for themselves. In her own mind, the biggest challenge her hamster faces in her brother, Donald. (Daffy previously wrote a letter to the team expressing her fear that Donald will
harm kill her hamster when he returns.)
On the ride home from the pet store, I reminded her about what the pet store employee had told us and the conversation went a little something like this:
Me: Ok, Daffy, remember what the guy told us. Snowball needs time to get acclimated and to settle in, so you can’t be handling him all night long.
Daffy: I know!
Me: Remember when you moved to the group home? You needed some time to get settled in and to learn to trust that the people there would keep you safe. Well, Snowball needs the same thing.
Daffy: (Quiet for a moment) I was so scared that first night.
I didn’t push for details, but she made her point loud and clear. She “got” what I was saying on a very primal level. I thought I was brilliant (lol!) to be able to tie together the need for the hamster to settle in with Daffy’s personal life story in a way she fully connected to! I am excited that she has finally earned her own pet and hope that this will be an amazing tool to many more lessons along the way.