Predator Trauma

How long does it take to get over something traumatic? Do you ever really “get over it” or do you just find coping mechanisms? Or do you eventually just become completely inured to the pain?

We adopted one of our dogs when she was just over eight weeks old. She had been dumped at the animal shelter with mom and the rest of the litter at four days, and then put into foster care. She is now almost nine and whatever caused the trauma she has never been able to move past her fear of farty noises. You know, blow razberries with your lips, that kind of thing. It sends her into a terror and she flees the room. It’s a terrible day when she is a little gassy because there is no getting away from yourself.

The chickens seem to have about a 3 hour window for trauma recovery, provided there is no physical damage. As of seven months into having chickens one of the dogs is fine with them and one of them is not. So if the chickens are free in the yard Apricot is locked in the house. It works out fine really, the dogs go out in the morning, then they take up napping positions for the bulk of the afternoon and the chickens are let out and by late afternoon we reverse. But on Saturday the chickens were let out and when we came back from our hike Apricot was happily wagging her tail at the hall window, from the backyard, and the chickens were nowhere to be seen.

One chicken was in a nesting box, ostensibly unperturbed by the presence of the beast, two quickly returned to the coop with the shaking of the meal-worm bag, one dawdled but made her way back and so we were missing only one. Clucking under the deck let us know the flock was whole and Sheila was quick to hop her way back up to the light when my son held out his arms. The girls spent the bulk of the afternoon in the coop yard, not like them at all. When I went out with mango they ventured as far as I was standing but quickly retreated when I left. By the time the sun was sinking in the late autumn sky they had come back down to the deck and were settled in the citrus pots. Life seemed to return to normal. Three hours for recovery and all seemed good.

I suppose it would be nice to have the resilience of the chickens. I suspect that we may have to give up a certain amount of cognitive function in order to also have that shortened memory but maybe not – they do remember me day to day so perhaps is it something about how they hold onto trauma and what they want to focus on. Then again they are chickens.

I was thinking of the chickens as I was reading about the latest case of sexual misconduct or abuse by a person in power. What can be permitted when one is powerful, even when one knows it is wrong. We do what we can get away with I suppose, or at least some of us do. What do we do collectively to get past the little traumas, the ongoing predation, the indignities that are part of paying your dues? We justify behavior with social norms. We minimize experiences by creating a scale of wrongness. We point to the ones who lie in order to dismiss the chorus of truth.

But I don’t think we get over it, I think we hold it deep in our cells and we train the next generation in how to survive whether we mean to or not. It’s just what we do so we can spend more of our time maybe doing the things we like, instead of hiding in the coop. And that doesn’t make it okay.

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