Special Relationships

01/16/2017

People with disabilities often have a different connection with animals.

I have a friend with Down Syndrome plus physical disabilities. She works in the real world in what can be a stressful job in a hospital cafeteria. She is also plagued by a nosy neighbor. She will often call to vent her frustration and bring me up to date on the latest events in her life and she always, without fail, asks how the cats and dogs are doing.

When she visits, the first thing she does is get down on the floor with the animals to re-introduce herself and they let her know she hasn't been forgotten. Before she gets completely in the living room they are running toward her because they remember her gentleness and kindness...and the fact that she gives them treats, lots of treats. As soon as she can break away, she grabs whatever treats are around and hands them out like it's Christmas.

When anyone needs to go outside she follows them around the yard, even in the rain or snow. One of the dogs does not appreciate the encouragement she will yell while he is pooping and he tries to hide behind a tree, but inevitably she finds him and announces to the world what a good poop he just had! He often slinks back into the house as she follows still praising him.

After an afternoon and dinner of spoiling everyone, saying good bye can take half an hour as she makes sure to talk to each one and sneak them one more treat.

When I return from taking her home, I swear the cats and dogs look a bit relieved that they can have some time to themselves, but they also look behind me, then at the kitchen where the treats sit on the counter and then at me. I just shake my head and tell them they have had plenty. And I remind them if they want to go outside, they can have some privacy.