A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

A Story About a Man and a Dog

Once upon a time a young man who liked dogs decided he wanted to own one. He had spent time around other people’s dogs and had even checked out different breeds of dogs, so he knew what he wanted. He was amazed by the way that dog owners could show their dogs and make them do all sorts of tricks, and how obedient the dogs were. He liked the fact that the dog did everything it was told and seemed happy to do it. Of course, the owner always gave the dog a treat and patted it for a job well done. A lot of the dogs were even on TV on international dog shows and had won many prizes and had become famous!

Well, as time went on, the young man got attached to a puppy that belonged to someone else and decided that this was the very dog for him. He spent a lot of time sneaking the puppy treats and petting her; it seemed like he treated her better than her owner at times so she really developed a liking for him. So the young man took his puppy home. He had bought a nice big mat for the puppy to sleep on and had placed it in the best place in his home. He bought the best dog food that was advertised, as well as many different kinds of treats. He really enjoyed having his own puppy. In the early days he spent all the time he could at home and would hold his puppy, pet his puppy, give it treats, scratch its ears and hug it. He would put a collar on it and take it out for walks showing off his puppy to anyone who would show the smallest attention.

He began to train his puppy to do all the tricks that other owners had taught their dogs. The first few tricks he really was patient, giving his dog a lot of praise and affection and the puppy would lick his hand and wriggle with delight because she had done something that pleased her master. She learned a lot of tricks and enjoyed the treats and attention she got. But soon she began to notice that he was not as patient with her as he was when he first bought her. But at least she still had food to eat and water to drink and a nice soft mat to sleep on.

As time went on, the young man got used to having his puppy around and it was no longer a novelty. He would come home from a busy work day and instead of calling his dog and giving her the customary pats and scratching her ears and giving her treats, he would head for his chair in the living room and turn on the TV, or go sit at his computer. She would go and sit beside him watching what he was doing, but he didn’t notice her. He would be irritated by something that happened at work or on the way home and he just ignored her. When she tried to comfort him with her presence, he would snap at her and push her away with his foot and commanded her to go lie down and not bother him. So she would go and quietly lay down, keeping her eye partway open in case he wanted her to come and play.

The times when he would take her out for a walk were fewer and farther between. He would get home late and tired and just want to watch TV. Because he had trained her to fetch he would holler at her to bring him the newspaper or his slippers. But when she did, he wouldn’t praise her anymore or show her any affection by patting her and scratching her ears. He began to holler at her when she whined because she needed to go to the bathroom, but he wouldn’t take her out just yet. She was embarrassed because she finally had an accident and had peed on the floor when she was whining to go out. Boy did that make him angry! He grabbed her leash and clipped it on jerking her head and dragged her out of the house calling her a stupid dog and fuming about having to go outside on a cold night when he was tired and work had gone bad. She had barely finished when he hollered at her to go in and dragged her into the house, slamming the door behind him mumbling “stupid dog, you’re just a no good mutt”. Boy that hurt! She wasn’t sure what she had done wrong, but he seemed to treat her like she had done something bad and caused his problem. What was it?

Later that evening as the young man sat bored with the programs on the TV, he called her over to him and gave her a piece of stale sandwich he had been eating. It did not taste as good as the treats he used to give her, but at least he was giving her something. He scratched her ears and in a little nicer voice told her she was just a dumb dog. She sat there beside his chair for a while, but he dozed off. Later, he woke up and saw her sleeping over on her mat and commanded her to come over. He told her to roll over, so she did, then waited for the treat but he didn’t give her any. He just told her to beg, to play dead, to do all the tricks he taught her, only now he didn’t give her anything. If she didn’t do what he said, he began to holler louder, ordering her in no uncertain tones that she better do her tricks or he’d give her a slap on the haunch that stung. So she would do the tricks, but she was not happy about it. When he told her to go back and lie down, she put her tail down and dragged herself into the corner and laid there with an unhappy heart, but kept an eye on him hoping he wouldn’t keep being angry at her. She still didn’t know what she had done wrong.

More days like this would go by, and sometimes he came home from work, and she could tell just by the way he walked up the entry steps and slammed the door that he was going to treat her bad. She would just go hide behind the couch or under the table, or back in a corner. She could hear him beefing about things, but now he always seemed to take his frustrations out on her. He would say things like, “stupid bitch, filthy animal, and stinky dog”. If she didn’t hide quickly enough, he would kick her; if she didn’t get out of his way, he would throw a shoe at her or anything handy. She learned to stay away when he come home. She would wait until he was sitting in his lazy boy chair and would carefully approach him with her tail lowered or between her legs so he could see that she was not sure how she needed to act. Sometimes he would almost seem like the first days and he would tell her to “come here” and he would give her a bit of a scratch behind her ears and a few “nice” pats and talk to her as though he wasn’t angry with her. But boy, those times were fewer and further between.

It seemed like nothing made him happy any more. Sometimes when he brought home one of the big Macs and fries he loved to eat, he might give her a few leftover fries or a small piece of what that had fallen on the floor. That tasted good! But mostly he would sit there eating and tell her that fries and greasy hamburgers were not good for her and would just watch and smile while she licked her chops hoping he would give her some. He seemed to enjoy watching her sitting there hoping he would give her something. Anything!

One day he read about a dog show in the neighborhood. Convinced he could have the best dog prize, he come home all excited and brushed her coat and put a new dog collar on her, and a new leash. “Sit still and quit cringing, I’m fixing you up nice and beautiful so I can show you in the dog parade,” he said with clenched teeth. She wasn’t sure if she was going to get another hard slap, a kick or what, so she was trying to be ready to run or escape if he hit her. But he kept going on about how she wasn’t keeping her coat as clean as she used to, that she hadn’t really been eating right, that she was getting flabby and should get more exercise. He kept telling her that she was a careless stupid animal and that she wasn’t doing what she was supposed to do. Whatever, she was just glad for a little currying, he hadn’t done that in a long time, but it sure hurt, and he didn’t seem to care when she winced. He just hollered at her to sit still and couldn’t she appreciate how much effort this was taking him to make her look good.

He spent an hour angrily making her do all her tricks, and she did her best. But he was convinced she was being lazy and that she was just not cooperating and that it was going to make him look bad. He hollered at her and jerked her collar and forced her to do every single trick he had taught her, but when she did he told her it was not enough and had to be better. He wouldn’t even give her an encouraging pat or a treat. She was just supposed to do everything just because he said so! He slapped her harder than he ever had and threatened to take her to the vet and have her put to sleep. He kept reminding her of all that HE had done for her when he first bought her and brought her home. He kept telling her he was treating her good and she should be more appreciative and groused because she was not responding the way she should.

When they got to the show, he clipped the leash on her collar and told her to heel. She did her best to heel, but he kept walking ahead through a crowd of people and it was hard work keeping up with him. He kept jerking her leash and saying heel, and she noticed at the same time he was smiling at the people. He even stopped and when an observer commented on his dog, and he began bragging about how he had the best dog around and that he was sure to get the first prize, and with another command and a jerk of the leash they would move on.

Well, it was time for each owner to show his or her dog and to get judged for points. She did her best to look perky, because if she didn’t she knew she would be blamed and a lot worse. She was really hungry and thirsty, though. But she did her best to walk, to stop, to sit, to beg, to do all the tricks she knew and do them right when he told her to, but she could tell by the tone of his voice that he wasn’t happy with her. It wasn’t good enough. With everyone watching he pulled a super nice treat out of his pocket and gave it to her. WHERE DID that come from? Well, she better enjoy it. It had been ages since he gave her anything. So because she got a treat she was thinking that maybe things were changing for the better. Boy was she stupid. She knew good and well that it was part of the show. He was showing off how good of an owner he was and people were clapping. He was standing proudly looking around the crowd slowly so he could soak up all the praise he was getting. Then he jerked her leash and walked her away;

The judge gave the dog a second look as the owner waved at the crowd. The judge looked right into her eyes and he knew things were not right. He could see that her fur didn’t have the deep softness and luster of a well cared for coat. He felt her ribs, and saw that her eyes were sad. He saw her tail dropping down low. He knew things were not right, but what could he do?

After they got back into the car again, the owner started shouting at her for being such a stupid dog. “You should have sat up straighter when you begged, you looked pathetic, you’re no good”, on and on and on. She had made him look bad. He should have got first prize and would have if she had not been such a “dumb bitch”. She could tell that when they got home she better run and hide quickly.

She has a dog tag on her neck. It never comes off! It has her name and his address. She wants to run away and never come back, but when she tried it once, the people saw the tag on her neck and took her right back to her owner. He smiled and thanked them, telling them how grateful he was that they had brought his prized and loved dog back to him, and he would show her some affection while the people handed her back over to him. But as soon as they were gone, boy did she get it for three days straight, “you just don’t appreciate me and all I do for you. You deserve to have me angry. It is your entire fault. If you weren’t the way you are, I wouldn’t treat you like this. I really am a nice guy.” Then he would command her to come and sit by him on the couch. He patted his leg and ordered her to put her head in his lap. When she licked his hand he jerked it away and slapped her and pushed her away. She didn’t know what she could do to please him.

He took her to the dog trainers and told them how well he was caring for her and what kind of food he gave her, etc. “I treat my dog well, but my dog isn’t obedient. Blah blah blah.” The trainers told her that the Good Doggie book says that good dogs obey their owners. They would run her through her paces and remind her that if she did it just like that her owner would be happy and there would be no more problems. Frankly, she was hoping they would take her tag off so she could run away, but no such luck. When they give her back to her owner they tell him to be sure to keep loving his dog and spending time with her and feed her this special kind of diet, and he tells them he is and will keep doing that.

Nowadays she can hardly move. She doesn’t want to. All her bones and joints ache. She just hopes her owner doesn’t make her sit by his chair because he isn’t careful how he rubs her fur, and he doesn’t remember which joints are painful. He gets irritated when she shies away from him. She knows she must be a bad doggie because she doesn’t want to do this anymore.

P.S. She ran away for good! She is staying in a special shelter where she is loved, fed, and cared for. Her fur is starting to shine, her bones ache less, and she doesn’t jump at every sound. It feels so good to be SAFE and LOVED!

***

This post was written by the father of an abuse victim. Many thanks to him and his wife for sending it to us. 

19 Comments

  1. Psalm 37

    I have read this before, but something hit me as I just finished reading it again. The abused dog in this story longed to have its collar taken off so no one would return it to its abusive owner. Sometimes though, a person will see a pathetic, neglected dog walking somewhere, and even though it has an identifying collar, the person who found it has the sense to know that under no circumstances should the dog be returned to the owner. That’s what happened to me. My “collar” was thrown in the garbage and I have a new (last) name thanks to a loving and caring man (my husband).

    That should be the end of the “and they lived happily ever after” story, but unfortunately it’s not in my case. In my case, the abusive owner keeps tormenting the dog by having a judge help him put a muzzle and choke collar on the dog. The rescued dog can’t enjoy its wonderful life with its new family because the abusive owner constantly makes his threatening presence known in a multitude of ways. The abusive owner almost killed another dog that lived with him in the past, and he got away with that. The psychologically damaged dog wonders why God won’t do anything to stop its suffering and fear.

    • The rescued dog can’t enjoy it’s new life. I thought that was the case for me. Then I woke up and realized my new life was like the old in too many ways. Thinking of facing judges that don’t get it and all the change AGAIN is overwhelming. How do you prepare for such things. It’s just what it is and really just facing all of it has to be better than fearing the worst. It’s going to be hard. I keep thinking of Psalm 3:3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
      It’s His battle in every way. I pray I’m equipped with the Holy Spirit while I go into the thick of it all today.

      Thanks for the post.

    • Yes, the way abusers leverage the court system to continue to abuse their separated or divorced ex-partners, is terrible.

      If the church were doing its job as salt and light in this earth, Christians would be lobbying their governments vociferously to close all the loopholes in the legal system which abusers exploit. But as it is, they scarecely even know about this injustice, because the news media are forbidden by law from publishing stories about family court cases.

      • KayE

        Christians and churches do know that abusers exploit the legal system to continue abusing their victims, because the victims tell them. But they do nothing.

      • true, KayE. My statement above didn’t mention that very important fact. Thanks.

  2. Seeing Clearly

    What a tragedy for parents to raise their daughter and now see her in a place that is destroying her, absolutely being destroyed by another human.

  3. poohbear

    Psalm37, that is what I fear the most…sometimes I feel what I’m going through is not as bad as what I will surely go through, if I try to leave.

    I’m sorry for what you are going through because I know what it feels like… I’ve forgotten what safety and peace and a sense of being loved, even feel like. I pray that you may find rest and safety from your past and your abuser.

  4. healinginhim

    What a tragic story but the analogy is so true. Thank you to the parents for sharing this and I pray that your lives will find healing.
    The timing of this post is incredible because for the past six months I’ve shared with others how I feel like a little lost puppy desiring a home to live in. Yes, I have been given all the comforts of a dog house but it is very lonely without anyone to cuddle me. I’ve been told I’ve been a very good puppy, obedient and reliable, however, as I got a little older and someone started hitting me, I guess I barked which was not allowed. 😦

  5. Scaredmomma

    I spend any spare time I have reading self help books, therapy, this blog, and the bible. I’m frustrated that I am spending so much time/energy to Basicly fix all the problems he is the cause of. Why do I even need any therapy? It its his problem, if I could just get rid of him things would be perfect. Well, reading this I realized why that it will not be that easy.

    The story is so much like what he does. We have a dog , and he treats her very much like the dog in the story. ( treats me and kids like that way too). But as I read, part of me hears a different message. As I read it, I hear his voice in my head saying “yeah he does these thing, but you are just as bad as him, really worse.” I hear him saying “you never give the dog treats when she goes out any more, all I do is pet her”. I hear him saying “Remember, how you stepped on her tail.” His voice tells me I hurt her more than he ever has ( she was underfoot trying to get away from him). I hear him say, “You never take her for walks” He takes her for 5-10 mile walk everyday even in 100 degree weather. Him telling me I rarely treat her and use the lame excuse that the treats make her sick. I “make” her sit by me when I watch tv and all I do is pet her.

    I need therapy to get his voice out of my head. Because, although these things do/did happen, they are not the same as what as when he does these things. Its hard to put in words, but even when I do almost the exact thing it is different. I want to say it is different because I don’t intend to hurt the dog, but that is always his excuse. He is always “trying”, he’s just not perfect. He didn’t intend to hurt the dog, it was an accident. But, I think most of you understand what is different even if I can’t find the right words.

    • yes, we understand. The abusers brainwash us for so long, they drill into us their blame-shifiting and false-accusation, that part of us comes to believe those lies.

      Rejecting the lies, and getting angry about the lies, is a big part of the awakening from the fog.

    • Have you read Lundy Bancroft’s book yet? I recommend that over all self-help books.

      And did you find a study bible yet?

      IMPORTANT NOTE: While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the ‘healing retreats’ Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his ‘Peak Living Network.’ See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.

    • Anonymous

      “I’m frustrated that I am spending so much time/energy to Basicly fix all the problems he is the cause of.”
      Scaredmomma – Your statement sums up my feelings perfectly. I feel like I’ve wasted and continue to waste years of seeking ‘support’. The only positive is that the apathy of others especially the ‘c’hurch is proving God’s Word to be true. Man will forsake us but the Lord and His true disciples will be there for us.
      Keep being encouraged by ACFJ and the words of counsel who understand. I know it has greatly benefited me. Praying for you.

  6. Moving Forward

    “He kept reminding her of all that HE had done for her when he first bought her and brought her home. He kept telling her he was treating her good and she should be more appreciative and groused because she was not responding the way she should.”

    This really hit home and hurt. I have heard this over and over and over again. It’s all about how much he has done and how poorly I have treated him, and how he has give 100% and I don’t appreciate all his efforts. He spent the last few years using the Bible and marriage books to make sure I understood perfectly what my role was and how much I was failing in that role. It was so painful. Now in divorce meetings he is the hard-working wonderful parent and all I do is undermine his efforts. My lawyer saw through it and strongly questioned the validity of his claims, but he’ll never get it. And the children suffer because of the courts insisting on generous parenting time for both, no matter what. How my heart aches for them.

  7. Scaredmomma

    Barbara,

    The self help books I’m referring to are lundy bancroft books, currently reading daily wisdom, also cry of justice, your book and
    Splitting : protecting yourself while divorcing someone with borderline or narcissistic personality disorder / Bill Eddy and Randi. I guess not what most people think of self help books, but I’m finding them very helpful. 😊 The fog is starting to clear. I recognize the voice as his and that it is all lies, however I still act like his fantasies are real. Lawyer sort of yelled at me to stop listening to anything husband says. He said husband is a class A jerk and everything the man says is a lie. Haven’t figured out how to do this without putting kids in harms way yet though. If I act differently, he punishes the kids. Yearning for the day we can leave.

    I did get my study bible few days ago. Thank you Jeff. I have found it difficult to find time to listen to sermons, but found most have pdf versions. I have more time to read than listen so am reading instead, not as nice but easier to make time for.

  8. Annie

    I’d been thinking of getting a pet recently for the kids. I ‘ve been feeling they needed the positive vibes from having a pet.

    Our last pet some time back. I’d been the one responsible for taking care of her. My husband in ten years never help with its care. When I said something about that after she died he said I got her for you and the kids and not me. Seriously, he believed he didn’t have to do anything to help and he didn’t. So I decided no other pet would come into our home again unless I wanted it and I wanted to take care of it.

    For awhile the kids have asked for a pet and I would always say we’re too busy but maybe someday. And I meant that. I hoped we got to the point we could. These same kids told me on several occasions that when they would ask dad about getting a pet he would tell them I didn’t like pets.

    So anyway, I braved discussing getting a pet with the husband. I had to endure accusations I wasn’t expecting. He accused me of neglect with the last pet. He yelled at me that I didn’t know how to take care of a pet. Told me the way I treated the pet was shameful. Demanded to know why he should believe I could take care of a pet. He wanted to know why I never took care of the other pet. I endured this berating because I knew an argument would result in him saying no. I simply answered after he demanded an answer several times that I did take care of the pet and that I did the best I could. I was raising kids and I had no help. At that he switched gears and tone and went into the I love pets mode and how he believes all families should have pets. Ah yes, he such a good guy.

    The nice guy façade he puts on outside of the home he also puts on when he out and encounters other people’s pets. Oh, he just loves them. And he’s such the expert on pets. This is another reason people think he’s so great because he’s so friendly with their pets.

    We have the pet. And we are having fun with him. My husband works long hours so we barely see him and I don’t care if he helps or not. In fact, I’d prefer he didn’t because he really doesn’t know that much about taking care of pets for all his talk.

    • Still Reforming

      Annie,
      I can just see your husband saying all of those things – as clearly as if I were a fly on the wall watching. I used to get the “you love that dog more than you love me” line. Or complaints about how much money we spent on the dog when it was he who offered the dog to our child and me in the first place (since it was offered free to him from a co-worker). He left it up to me to make the decision, then always blamed me for making it (a pattern that continues to this day). Still, isn’t it remarkable how abusers can take something as pleasant and simple as a pet and spin it around to make it all about them (the abusers)? Remarkable.
      Like you, I’ve gotten to the stage where I would be grateful if he would just leave us out of his life and we could walk away. I would drop everything if we could just walk away and never see him again. Women may lament that men don’t pay child support (and of course, they should), but I think sometimes that if the alternative is running on this endless hamster wheel, I’d rather live without it and the money. I find myself counting the years until that support period ends. I’m hoping (perhaps naively somewhat) that I can be well and truly done with any obligation to him once child is out of high school, which is a little less than a decade away.

  9. Still Reforming

    Replying to KayE’s comment that states “Christians and churches do know that abusers exploit the legal system to continue abusing their victims, because the victims tell them. But they do nothing.” (I didn’t see a reply link under her comment.)

    KayE, this is why I like to occasionally qualify the word “Christians” with the adjective “professing” because the longer I live, the more I question if those who say they are Christians (meaning, the church-attending kind, not just the average-Joe-on-the-street who answers a survey about what religion he may be), well, I question the veracity of their profession.

    I think that true blood-bought, Spirit-filled, redeemed Christians would indeed be interested in truth, both seeking it and defending it, but for some reason I keep bumping into professing Christians whose acts, behavior, and words deny their very profession of faith.

    In a very unexpected encounter with a few professing Christians recently, I found myself sitting in a pastor’s office where very unChristian words and behavior commenced, and I was taken aback by the visuals when I walked into the pastor’s office who participated in this ungodliness. What caught my attention was a huge photograph portrait (one of those studio prints) of the pastor seated, in nice suit and tie, with his wife and children standing around him, and the pastor’s hands were on an open Bible as he gazed lovingly at it, head tilted, and a faint smile on his face, as if he were thinking, “How I cherish this Word.” the wife and children in the shot did the same. It was so manicured and polished. And….. it really put me off. It was just such self-aggrandizement. And it was huge – like …. the size of a small wall TV.

    • KayE

      Still Reforming, I completely agree. And I can’t stand those big smug photos of pastors and their wives and families either.

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