At that time, I had not experienced a dog with separation anxiety. I made up what I thought a silly, confused dog would do when it was alone and worried. Well, since then, we adopted a dog with these struggles, my parents adopted a dog with challenges, and recently our son and a friend of mine both adopted dogs with these issues. Being left alone is traumatic for them. I guess it is common in shelter, rescue dogs, who have been abandoned for whatever reasons.
Have you dealt with these problem dogs? I asked our vet, and he said, "Give them time and security." Well, that isn't easy if you have to go somewhere and leave them alone. Even for a quick trip out, a short time alone, they panic and do crazy things. One solution I have heard is go for daily walks. The exercise is beneficial on many levels (for the person, too), and they return to the familiar security of their new home. Afraid I am not consistent on this one - this is one of my goals for 2016. Do you know of other, successful ways to deal with separation anxiety?
Oliver, seeing Libby struggle to keep back the tears, asked if she could tell her a little story.
"Of course," said Libby.
"Once upon a time," Oliver chuckled, and Libby had to smile at the silly beginning. "A young dog came to live with a young family. He worked hard at learning what was expected of him, and found that it was really quite easy to do what he was told. Except for one thing. When they left him alone, he became very unhappy, and very forgetful. He forgot that he wasn't supposed to drink out of the toilet, and he wasn't supposed to chew up the towels (they were so much fun to pull off the rods and rip to shreds), and he wasn't supposed to drag the newspaper all over the house. When his people got home, he tried to show them how glad and relieved he was that they were back, but all they did was scold and punish him. So, he became more afraid of times they would leave him. Not the best doggie logic," Oliver said in digression, "But a dog can't be expected to understand everything."
"Back to the story. One day they left him and didn't come back. Not at his dinner time, not when it got dark, and not when it was bedtime. He ripped up two towels and pulled the rest off the wall. He spread newspaper all the way down the hall. Which came in handy when he needed to do his business. He drank half the toilet water and drooled all the way onto the hall rug. But the newspaper absorbed some of it. He was so bored he took a nap." Libby laughed, picturing the dog's antics through the house.
"He became more afraid, the longer his people were gone. He became more forgetful, and forgot he wasn't supposed to howl in the house. The howling made him feel better. At least it wasn't so quiet anymore. When he stopped howling, it was fearfully quiet, so he howled some more."
Oliver paused, while the sound of the fearful quiet settled around them. "Now, dogs don't think in words, I guess, but they seem to sometimes. He wondered where his people were, and why they didn't come home to him. Maybe they were afraid of the mess they'd find when they got here? No, that couldn't be it. Maybe they got lost? Maybe they needed directions to get back? He howled louder so they could hear him and find their way home."
Libby laughed out loud. The silly dog filled her with a vivid picture of intensity and confusion and loneliness. "Oh, Oliver, what does he do? What does he figure out?"
"Well, using typical doggie logic," Oliver grinned back at her, "He decided to try to get out of the house. Not to escape or leave, of course, but to go and find his people and help them get home. Get home to him, to his house."
"He jumped at the front door, which was locked and secure. He scratched and dug at the back door, and pushed at the little door he usually used to get to the yard, but the flap was tightly shut and wouldn't budge. He wandered around the house, wondering what to do next. A cool breeze rustled across his ears. A window must be open, but where? He ran upstairs to the little girls' room. The window. It was open."
"He jumped onto the bed, and found he could reach the windowsill with his paws and look out. Hmmm. A long way down."
Libby laughed again the the dog's thoughts anticking at the window.
Oliver continued, "This story is fun. It keeps growing, but I'd better get to the point."
"You've made me laugh and cry because it is so funny. It feels good to have tears, and not because I'm so unhappy. Thanks. I needed that," said Libby.
"Then, mission accomplished. I'll stop now."
"No, no! You have to tell me what that crazy dog does next. You have to."
"As he is looking down the street, lights come around the corner. Of course, they attract his attention, and he watches them. They get closer to his house, and slow down, and then the lights stop in front of his house. He can't see the car from his window, but he hears a familiar voice, then several familiar voices, and realizes it is his people."
"Does he think to run out of the room, down the hall, and to the front door? No. He tries and tries to get out the window, to jump out and go see them. He begins barking and howling, desperate to get to his people. But he can't do it."
"Since he is so busy barking, he doesn't hear the children come down the hall. Suddenly their voices are right behind him, telling him to stop the ruckus and get off the bed. Another rule he'd forgotten."
"He leaps at them, knocking them over and expressing his enthusiasm and joy with all the wiggles and waggles he can muster. The children laugh and tumble with him. When the parents come to the room, it is to remind them it is late and to get ready for bed. He tries to greet them in the same manner, but it isn't received as eagerly."
"The mom lets him out the back door, but now he doesn't want to go. He wants to stay with them, inside. She boots him out, though, he takes care of business and runs back in through the doggie door to greet them all with fresh enthusiasm."
"In his doggie understanding, he just hadn't been able to see that with patience, they would have come home, that it wasn't all his antics that brought them back. All he knew was, that now they were home and he was happy again."
Oliver stopped the story with a flourish of her hand, like closing the pages of a book. Libby smiled, her mind absorbed in the story and mercifully distracted for awhile from her own panic and frustration at life's frightening twists and turns.
|our silly puppy|