Maizey turns three next week which makes it a year since her anxiety became an every day issue. We spent the first 6 months trying natural remedies and training, all to no avail. In July when things really became acute I started considering medication and then on July 21 we started Prozac.
In the last 6 months we’ve worked hard to stabilize her with the meds and training. We’ve successfully used Relaxation Protocol, a Thunder Shirt, and just added Composure Liquid to our bag of tricks. We’ve seen some progress, although living with her on a day to day basis it’s hard to see sometimes. Looking back to July I know we’ve come a long ways. She no longer seeks refuge in the bathroom or closet every day, we’ve been able to get out for walks a bit more, had some trips to the park and some nice hikes. We even spent an hour training up at our training center last night with no apparent ill effects.
She’s recovering from the set back we had in November which was so severe I just couldn’t even bring myself to blog about it. But we continue to struggle with the stress colitis, which is a fancy way of saying too much stress plus too many treats equals horrible diarrhea. There are some triggers I see no progress at all with. The other day on our walk a dog passed us and I found myself saying, “Well that reaction wasn’t that bad, just your garden variety, normal reaction, no out of control shrill screeching barking.” Sigh. It doesn’t say much about our progress that I have classified her reaction level as “normal” and “severe” and am, of course not happy, but resolved and accepting of a normal reaction. Basically she’s not where I’d like her to be after a year.
This week has been another week of ups and downs. On wednesday we did our first BAT session. When asked how it went all I could say was, “Uneventful. Exactly how it’s supposed to be.” When done right, so the dog stays under threshold, BAT can seem incredibly calm. Which is what I love about it. I have hope it can help her eventually, but am not expecting anything miraculously fast.
We have seen two vets over the last year and are now working with a new vet. We’ve looked into adding Chinese herbal medicine back into her plan of treatment and were considering using homeopathic remedies. On Thursday Dr. Kanda called me to tell me the homeopathic vet didn’t feel too hopeful that she could help Maizey. I appreciated how honest both Dr. Kanda and the vet she consulted were. She seemed to feel there’s just not a lot more to add to what we’re already doing, or have tried. We may try to wean off the Prozac and try Paxil or Clomicalm instead. I haven’t made a decision on that, it’s always scary to switch meds. Her basic answer was I need a veterinary behaviorist, but we don’t have one in the state. She’s putting out some feelers to see if she can find someone to do a phone consult with.
I was going to take Maizey through the Feisty Fido class, which is our reactive dog class. But after seeing Maizey while we did BAT our trainer said she doesn’t think Maizey can handle the stress of that class so we pulled out of that. We may go through it later, but it makes sense that she can’t work on the dog reactivity if she’s too stressed out in general every day life.
All of this adds up the fact that I just feel I’ve exhausted our resources and I find myself questioning my expectations. This is my Princessface and I want her to be happy all the time. After spending 45 minutes with us Dr Kanda said, “This is not how a Cavalier is supposed to be. They’re such happy little dogs and she’s just so. . . not.” It broke my heart. Still she’s not always miserable like she was that day at the vet.
Last week while I was ranting on about what to do next my husband broke in and said, “What if she just needs to be an at home dog? Is her life that bad?” It’s not. Her everyday life is not bad now. I need to start appreciating how far we’ve come instead of worrying about how far we have to go.
It’s not like I expect her to be a performance dog. It’s okay if she can’t go to classes, but I’d like for her to be able to take a walk without begging to be carried and comforted or getting diarrhea. That doesn’t seem too much to ask for my girl. I’d like her to be able to be home with a minimum of stress and reactivity. As you can see from that picture of me carrying her we haven’t got there yet. But if she needs to mostly be an at home girl I’m okay with that as long as she’s happy.
Still I find myself asking what is realistic for her? Is this the point where I say, this is who she is and as long as she’s ok on a day to day basis that’s good enough? Today one of the best mom’s I know told me before she would discipline her son she would always ask, “Am I going to do this for his benefit or for mine?” Although a different context I think I have to start asking myself a similar question. Am I pursuing a life Maizey is capable of living? Am I chasing all of this for her benefit or for mine?
At the end of it all I guess I’m asking at what point do I say this is who she is for now? I feel like for a year I’ve been chasing a level of healthiness for her that I’m now not sure she’s capable of achieving. But that feels like defeat, like I’m making excuses and accepting something thats not good for her.
I’m not saying we won’t keep training and treating her anxiety with meds. Improving Maizey’s quality of life will always be a priority to me. I guess all of this is my long drawn out way of saying I think the recovery I’ve been hoping for may not be possible. At least right now. I think my hopes have been too focused on the life I want to live with Maizey and not on the life that’s of most benefit to her. Now my focus needs to change.
I’ve always made Maizey Promises, so for now the Maizey promise is I’ll take you where you want to go, let you go home when you’re ready, I’ll try to alleviate triggers and we’ll keep working together to have the happiest life you can. If at any time you don’t want to do together what I want to do that’s okay. You can be you.
What do you all think? Is there a point where you accept the limitations and live with the level of anxiety that’s there or is that defeat?