Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Separation Anxiety

Shortly after getting Lucy, we discovered that she was a special dog.  After some run ins with some kennels and our couch we discovered that she had Separation Anxiety. Separation Anxiety is a real thing in dogs. Some vets including our first one didn't believe me when I told her. She sent us in the direction of sedating her while we were gone and tiring her out. Hello, Lucy is a Jack Russell and Australian Shepperd, two very active dogs that do not tire easily. She also thought we needed to change the behavior but would not do anything for the anxiety. Changing her behavior would be great if she wasn't anxious! The vet sent us to an one on one training with a trainer that cost us $70.00! The trainer was shocked to find the hole Lucy had made through her kennel in one day, and agreed that kenneling her would not be safe until we curbed the anxiety part. Another time our vet actually told me I should go out and buy a treadmill for my dog to run on. I did my best not to laugh at her.

I finally reached my breaking point when I came home one day to find my couch destroyed yet  again. At the time I was in a long term substitute teaching position in first grade and had just come home from a Response to Intervention (RTI) meeting. RTI is way for teachers to come up with interventions to help students get on the right path for learning, whether it is behavior or a low student academically. At that point I called and made an appointment with a new vet and prepared for another battle. I sat down and wrote out every intervention I had already done to try and help Lucy.
Lucy's Interventions:
  • Every morning walk/run for 20-30 minutes
  • 10 minutes of playing Frisbee
  • Playing hide and seek
  • Giving her tricky/smart toys
  • Thundershirt
  • Sedatives
  • Crates
  • Covering and putting things up
  • Restricting access
  • I exit through the front instead of garage
  • Keeping the blinds closed
I also wrote out what all she had done while doing those interventions.
  • Destroyed 3 crates

  • Destroyed a rug
  • Destroyed couches
    • Behind cushions approximately four or five times
    • Back two times
    • Armrest one time
    • Love seat front one time

  • Molding of a closet

  • Bedroom door scratch marks
  • Tore up toilet paper twice
  • Scratched up downstairs door
I also took pictures. Like I said I was prepared to fight this vet and prove a point. To my surprise the vet totally got it right away before I even showed him the list or the pictures. He then put Lucy on Trazodone, which is a human anti-depressant but has been found to help dogs with anxiety as well. He told me it is a maintenance pill and if it didn't help then we could try Prozac. Needless to say we love our vet!

Over the last year Lucy has calmed down some! People who knew her before and now have said she doesn't jump as much and seems calmer. Plus if I forget to give her her pill you can most certainly tell!

When I would tell people about Lucy and my frustrations they would tell me how I needed to take Lucy back to the pound. But that is not fair to Lucy or the next person who would fall in love with her. If I had done that chances are her next family would do it. Which only leaves me to think that she would eventually be put down after returning to the pound so many times. Trust me though there were and I'm sure will be more days where the thought will cross my mind that I should take her to the pound, but I love her too much to ever actually do it. She is my daughter, or better yet doghter.

Recently, I was calling some boarding places to place Lucy at when we go on vacation in a few months. When I asked one place experience they have with dogs with separation anxiety, he informed me that most dogs loose the separation anxiety after the owner leaves. Again I did my best not to laugh on the phone. Needless to say she will not be staying there. Many people do not understand Lucy and her anxiety or thinks what I do for her is crazy, but hey its a way of life for us. Lucy may never be cured of her anxiety but I will always love her and she will always know that she is safe and loved!