Thursday, December 15, 2005

Teacher's Pet

Since June 14, 2005, my dog Ozzy has not been alone. Not once. That was the last time he was left in his kennel while the people went out, and that was the last time he broke his tooth while chewing the metal bars off the door on his kennel. It was not the first time, but it was the last. This time, the doggie dentist had to remove his canine tooth, and became overwhelmingly clear that no metal or plastic or space age polymer enclosure was going to keep Ozzy from escaping. Years earlier, Ozzy had already proven that no large enclosure made of lumber, metal, and dry wall would hold him, either--he chewed his way through the wooden front door of our rental duplex in Davis. He jumped through the screen window in the bedroom of that same duplex. In the past 4 years, he has chewed through four front doors (with varying degrees of success), one garage door, one window, and one ridiculously small air vent. He has, with his mouth and paws (remember, he has no thumbs), removed approximately 6 metal bars from 3 different kennels of various styles. The poor guy just doesn't like being alone.

Since June 14, 2005, he hasn't been alone. If he's not with me, he's with L. Unless L is out of the country for, say, 6 or 7 months, in which case he's with my folks. My patient, helpful, loving, caring, dog friendly folks. At the office, if I leave, he's with Dorienne. Or Arthur. Or Rhonda. The point is, he's NEVER ALONE. But I want to be clear about this: I love that dog, and I would do just about anything for him. However, I also love my sanity, and committing oneself to spending 24 hours a day with a creature who can't go to movie theaters or restaurants or bars or grocery stores would make anyone go nuts. So as soon as it became clear that Ozzy values the company of people over his teeth, I started looking for a solution: a doggie behaviorist.

This whole situation probably sounds worse than it is. I tend to be a bit of a fatalist when it comes to dealing with situations that I would simply rather not deal with. All this is really is a case of separation anxiety, albeit a severe case. I talked with my super wonderful vet, and started calling behaviorists who specialize in separation anxiety. I told Ozzy's story to 6 different behaviorists and got responses ranging from "There's nothing else you can do. Find a bunch of good dog sitters and prepare to never leave your house again," to "You're worried about his teeth? If I were you, I'd be worried he'd have a heart attack!" But one behaviorist, Gina, was happy to meet with us. She learned all about Ozzy's background (abandoned shelter dog), his relationship with his pack (Nanna, L, me, my folks), and what we wanted to achieve (Just teach him that it's OK to be alone for a couple of hours. Just long enough for me to go to a movie. Do some grocery shopping.). We started training with Gina in July, and now, 5 months later, Ozzy can be alone in our house for nearly 10 minutes without freaking out. Amazing! My homework for the next week: I should be able to leave Ozzy and Nanna home while I walk to the burrito shop 2 blocks away, order a burrito, and bring it home. All without Ozzy flipping out.

This is HUGE. It's a whole new world opening up for me, for my folks, for all of us who have given so much to this dog. We may--someday soon--be able to love him as much as we ever have, and still have lives--brief, but existent lives outside of him. We've all worked really hard with this training, the core of which teaches him to be a happier, more comfortable dog. We're trying to help him feel more calm, relaxed, happy, and stress-free. Yeah, I know this sounds like a bunch of hooey, like left overs from when I worked at the holistic vet's office in college. But I don't care, because it's working. He's happier. And I couldn't be happier.


anchovy said...

I don't have much experience with dogs, but I've known tons of cats. And my goodness, what a variety of behavioral anomolies (ok, pathologies!) they've exhibited! You'd think they took after their owners or something. Oops, did I just put my foot in my mouth? Sorry, that last was not meant to be a comment about your own mental faculties! Besides, many of those cats were my own.

Things will get better, I'm sure. I met someone once who could not leave the house without leaving the radio on or the dog would go crazy. Maybe that's something to try.

He prefered country music.

Boo lumps.

Deborah said...

No, it's totally true. I have 2 dogs, each with very distinct and vastly different neurosis--and they both take after me. I am many ways crazy.