Helping for Traumatized Animals

Helping for Traumatized Animals

I met Rosie when I visited Sugarshine, exploring the similarities between animal and human trauma. I spent 20 years as a psychologist, but as an undergraduate, I studied zoology. But is a recognition of animals’ inner life and their experience of psychopathology, consisting of trauma. In Sugarshine, traumatized animals are given liberty to find a company or solitude as they wish.

Rosie continues to be at Sugarshine for a few months now and is more settled, drifting its gullies, farmyards, and shelters, even though based on Kelly she is still anxious.

She prefers the company of Bobby’s calves, wedging herself between them as they are located on the ground, getting contact, falling asleep, and start the procedure.

I first linked animal and human trauma on a trip to Possumwood Wildlife, a center outside Canberra which rehabilitates injured kangaroos and abandoned joeys, wallabies and wombats.

When joeys were brought in their maintenance, Steve told me, they had been “inconsolable” and “dying in our arms,” while physically unharmed, with food and shelter available to them.

But this reaction made sense when they recognized Joey’s symptoms as reminiscent of post-traumatic anxiety disorder in people: intrusive symptoms, avoidant behavior, disturbed psychological states, heightened stress and hypervigilance.

Researchers at the University of Western Australia have developed noninvasive means for measuring tension and mood in animals and are currently working with sheep farmers to enhance the well-being of the animals. PTSD was identified in dogs elephants, chimpanzees, and baboons.

To rehabilitate from trauma, people and animals require feeling secure and far from cues that induce somebody’s threat response, deactivating the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-flight response).

Progress, from then on, requires the development of a safe connection with at least one other caring and accepting person or creature. Often, this “other” is somebody new.

In mammals, consisting of us, this activates our affiliative system: our strong desire for connections for safety, soothing and equilibrium. We go into a calmer state of being that the reattachment process can start.

Possumwood utilizes 3 phases for trauma rehabilitation.

Young animals are kept to reduce noises or sounds that might induce their fight-flight response. They have the opportunity to develop kin friendships of their choosing.

Subsequently, the carer spends as much time caressing them to create a bond and feeding.

Kangaroos are social creatures, not able to live in the uncontrolled unless part of a mob.

So players move to a large garage, and after that finally to an outdoor yard, gradually creating bonds and being exposed to kangaroos.

They’re released into the wild after a mob grows to 30 or so animals.

The principles are the same

The similarity between human and animal trauma isn’t surprising. Mammalian brains (birds also seem to experience trauma) discuss the primary structure involved with experiencing trauma.

People, and indeed the primates, have a capacity for manifestation, which can be both a hindrance and help.

A feeling of service (freedom and control over their options).

To feel secure.

To develop a trusting, affectionate bond with at least one additional monster.

Reintegration into the community in the trauma victim’s discretion.

And such as Rosie, for our cousins, we’d do well to keep in mind they do feel, and they do hurt.

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