The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog

This book by legendary RAD expert, Dr. Bruce Perry, is a must-read for any parent dealing with a child with attachment issues. Perry manages to explain complex neurological systems and disorders while captivating the reader through an excellent narrative comprised of stories of former patients.

The book is organized by chapters studying one or two of Perry’s previous patients with detailed, yet simple to understand, explanations of how they came to be unattached. Each chapter is a miniature story in and of itself. Although upon casual observation the book may appear to be arranged in a haphazard fashion, it is anything but! Each chapter’s case study and accompanying lesson in human development, cognition, and attachment behavior is carefully crafted to build on previous chapters’ information.

The cases discussed in the book include the infamous Waco, Texas, cult survivors, a foster child who never bonded, an internationally adopted child, and a full blown psychopath. Each child mentioned suffered unnecessarily and Perry treats them with respect and dignity, even on the pages of a book far removed from the actual children. The stories that spoke the most to me were about a boy discovered at six years of age, having spent the previous five years in a dog crate, treated as a dog, and a little boy cribbed in a Russian orphanage for three years before being adopted. Both these stories resonated with me because of the children’s similarities to Ana.

I will most definitely be exploring the strategies Dr. Perry and his team used with these children! Also, I feel more confident in my understanding of reactive attachment disorder and the subtle tells that Ana reveals daily. I look forward to reading more of Dr. Perry’s work.

Although it may be tempting to jump around the book, the best method to gain the most from The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog is to read it introduction through appendix (with a good glass of wine snuggled up on the couch).


December 10 – A doctor visit

Romanian orphan in hospital

Romanian orphan in hospital

Understandably, Ana does not like going to the doctor’s office. She has had four surgeries in her life and countless number of ER trips not to mention the plethora of specialists she sees every month. Even more than doctors she hates getting blood drawn. Since her arms are deformed blood must be drawn from her ankles and usually we have to go to the hospital to get it done since most standard doctor-office phlebotomists are not skilled in this type of blood drawing.


We had to go to the endocrinologist today for her quarterly check-up. This includes blood work. Ana began getting anxious before we ever left the house. Once at the office she kept asking if they were going to take blood. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, so we really never know. She didn’t like that answer. Then the blood lady came in and announced Ana would need four vials. That is a LOT of blood for a little girl!

She lost it. I anticipated it so was able to restrain her before the self-injuring begin.

I’ve been reading Dr. Bruce Perry, one of the experts on RAD, and it has given me a new lens through which to see her behavior. My understanding of today’s ordeal is this. Basically, she has PTSD from not bonding as an infant. In situations that are stressful to her (we are all different so some situations I may find mildly stressful are super stressful to her and vice versa) her body reacts just like a Vietnam vet hearing a car backfire; she goes into fight or flight mode. For Ana, it’s usually fight. When being held down by medical personnel with a needle coming at her, Ana freaks (as many children do). The difference between Ana and other children is that her body REALLY freaks and she doesn’t have the neural pathways telling her that she is still safe since she is with Mommy.  Once her body is in freak mode it is very hard for her to come down. I really believe she has little conscience control at that point.

Now today was hard although they are used to it. There were some good things that happened despite the mega meltdown. First, she told me she was scared and showed me with her body that she was scared (we’ve been working on this a lot). To tell me and show me she first acted like a ghost (that is what she uses to say scared) and then wrapped her arms around me because we discussed ways that kids can show their mommies they are scared and hugging them and hiding on their laps is one way.

I hated that she did such a good job identifying and communicating her emotion only to have no reward – she still got poked.

Second, after the blood was drawn, she calmed down quickly for Ana. Normally, her calm down is about two to five hours. Today it was only about one hour. In the doctor’s office I rocked her and held her and helped her calm herself down by taking deep breaths. In the car I had to pull over twice because she began kicking, but after holding her a while and breathing with her she made the rest of the ride home safe. I also turned on classical music.

Since I practice Attachment Parenting I know how important a mother’s heartbeat is to an infant and their developing brains. If a mother’s heartbeat is calm it will calm an infant down since their bodies will match their mothers heart rate. The opposite is true as well. If mommy is upset and has a fast heartbeat, little baby will become upset even if there is no obvious threat.

In situations where Ana is very upset I try to hold her very close to my chest in the hopes that her body will start to mimic my heart rate. Hopefully, this will stimulate the part of her brain that didn’t develop properly as an infant in the orphanage.

So, even though the doctor visit was stressful, I believe it was a success. Baby steps, I keep telling myself. Baby steps.