I have never made it a secret of how it feels to have a fearful dog. The highs, the lows, the utter despair, the rejoicing at the slightest bit of progress- I’ve been frank.
But this is the post I’ve always wanted to write and never had the courage. It’s the post full of blatant anthropomorphism. The post where I speak for Maizey as I think she speaks to me. As such I beg some leniency. There is a point to this and I beg you bear with me as I get to it.
People need to know that how they feel when living with a fearful, anxious dog is normal. It’s a roller coaster ride and sometimes you feel utterly helpless. Today was that day.
I don’t know why, but this morning Maizey was in utter panic mode. Barking, pacing, and the hardest of all, begging me to help her.
The conversation goes like this:
Maizey is barking at the window. She paces, runs around seemingly aimlessly. Her face drawn back, tail frantically wagging. She barks and runs to me, “MOM! MOM! MOM! It’s scary and I don’t like it!”
“Okay,” I say, “thanks for telling me what can we do? How ’bout a yummy Kong? Now go settle.”
“NO! MOM! MOM! MOM! It’s still there! Pick me up and hold me! MOM! Fix it!”
“Okay, thanks for telling me, let’s put your Thundershirt on and settle.”
It takes five minutes of struggling to put on her TS, normally a 30 second job. It takes five minutes because all she wants to do is crawl into my arms and be held. We get it done and I hold her for a few minutes, do a few minutes of calming touch and accupressure then ask her to settle on her special safe mat. Two minutes later she’s up pacing and barking.
“MOM! MOM! MOM! It’s still there. I’m still scared. Fix it!”
So we dose her with flower essences, I hold her for a few more minutes and then settle her on her special mat again. At this point I’m feeling bad, I want to fix it, but I suspect it’s the weather that has set her off and I can’t stop the storm of her anxiety let alone the rain.
Then I start getting ready for work and the barking, pacing, panting anxiety ratchets up another notch and she starts paw touching me, “MOM! MOM! MOM! Fix it! Fix it!”
“Okay, show me what it is.” We wander through the house seeing nothing, but she’s clearly telling me something. Too bad I have no idea what it is.
So I sit and cradle her, rubbing her belly and the whole time breathing slowly myself to keep me calm. Slow, soft touches, slow, soft breaths, a yawn thrown in for a calming signal, keeping my head turned slightly away and I feel her heart beat slow just a bit. By now I’m getting late for work, so I try to settle her once again on her mat. The minute I move I feel her heart rate soar. But I’m late and I have to go so I ask her to settle in her spot with a yummy Kong again.
She try’s. She heaves a sigh, gives herself a little shake. I tell her quietly, “good girl” and she lays down. But for the five minutes she lays there she gives me frequent lip licks and never lays her head down.
What are you supposed to do as the MOM? I want to fix it. I want to make her feel better, but I do have to go to work. She does have to stay home and it is going to keep storming. One of her safe people is working and the other one is out of town for the day. I’ve used all the skills we have time for and nothing is helping. You can see where the helplessness comes in.
Thus I get to the point. Having a fearful, anxious dog is a lot of work. And the worry doesn’t end when you walk out the door. One of the trainers at work is dealing with a dog that’s started being afraid of her house. What do you do when your dog doesn’t want to come home anymore?
Our part-time girl, Chloe, is terrified in the car. Shakes like a leaf and cries the second you get on the freeway, but recovers beautifully when she gets out and has a great time where ever they are. So do you leave her home all the time? No, you just feel helpless and bad for her the whole time she’s scared and be thankful she recovers fast.
I’ve been watching some sessions at work with an aggressive dog. Her dad rescued her with no idea she had any issues, but has loyally worked with her. Thankfully he’s finally seeing progress, but tonight he told me, “I was getting so discouraged. I didn’t know if she could be helped.”
Sadly sometimes you can’t help. So for all you loyal moms and dads out there who love and take care of a one of those 4legged friends with issues I say: “You’re not alone! We all feel helpless and it’s okay to hurt for your issue pup. It’s normal to worry and feel frustrated. And let’s be honest our issue pups know we feel that way, but that’s okay too. Just keep working, don’t give up! Most all remember, even on the worst of days when you just can’t “fix it” and have to leave your scared little Princessface home alone, when you come back to her she’ll still curl up with you and smother you in Cavalier ears. Most of all, she won’t hold it against you and will give you another chance tomorrow to find new fixes. Until then, give her a snuggle and be glad for all she teaching you. She’s worth it!