Love is a many splendor thing......It is funny how love finds us....just walks into your life out of no where...sometimes in the happiest of times, sometimes in the darkest of times. It can blindside you..come out of no where and just steal your heart completely. It heals you.
This is the story of a love affair...between 2 hearts that beat in sync. Somehow, Benny walked into my life and completed the world as I needed to know it. But in order to understand this, you must understand what happened just prior to this.....you see sometimes everything has to fall apart in order to come back together.
I was involved in a car accident where I was going less than 5 miles an hour and a car hit me going 70. He admitted that to the police, and in all honesty it is the speed I was going just prior to stopping for the turkey that was crossing the road. The vehicle went up and over my car, (my very first new car, my VW beetle), and then hit the car in oncoming traffic that was stopped swerving and hitting the car in front of me. Honestly, we were lucky to be alive. The injuries that were sustained were small in comparison to what could have happened. Something to be thankful for. My car was totaled, which devastated me. I truly am not a materialistic person at all, short of my books, and my VW beetles, which are loves of mine.
My Dad had been helping me to find another VW beetle, but I didn't like the newer models, so it wasn't an option to buy a new car. He found one in NY State. One day in June, me, my Dad and my BFF standard poodle, Garbo, drove to pick up the new car. Little did I know at that time that both beings in that car that I loved so much both had lung cancer. Little did I know in less than a year, I would lose them both. There is nothing that can prepare you for that type of loss. Within weeks of that trip, both would be diagnosed.
Garbo was first to get sick. And in spite of chemo, she died very quickly. She was the most gentle of souls, and I loved her more than I could say. She came to me right after I lost Vickie, who was my entire heart. She helped me survive a divorce, and was a constant in my life. We would go for long walks and talk about how we were going to travel to all 50 states together, just like the Standard poodle in Travels with Charley by Steinbeck. As a matter of fact, we read that story together multiple times. We made it to about 10 states before she died, bewilderingly, also to lung cancer. She was my therapy dog for 11 years, and there is nothing like working with a dog to add a layer to your relationship. It is because of Vickie that I continue to pursue everything I can find about the human animal bond.
We have always been a multi dog household, but Garbo was my girl. We had one heck of a special vacation at one of my favorite places in the world, Assateague, where she was with us non-stop. I cried so hard when we left that vacation. It was like leaving the paradise where all things are okay and stepping back into the reality that I would lose her soon. And I did, about 3 weeks later.
During that 3 weeks I was then hit with my Dad's diagnosis. He was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, and while I was as hopeful as I could possibly be, I realized that his chances were horrible as well. Nothing in life can prepare you for the loss of a parent that will haunt you for the rest of your life. NOTHING. And Garbo and my Dad within such a short period of time? The floor had dropped out of my world, for certain. It seemed like months before I stopped falling.
During this dark period of time, I was consulting with a company in Florida about a separation anxiety product. Of our 7 dogs, they couldn't believe I didn't have a dog that had separation anxiety. So, I went looking. (ONLY a behavior geek would do such a thing!). My favorite breed has always been standard poodle, and I started to scour the internet, as all of my dogs are always rescues. I found a rescue named Ben in Missouri who had been turned in for separation anxiety by a couple who were in their 80's. I will admit I got a little cocky. I mean, how often were 80 year olds leaving the house? And the destruction wasn't walls, it was merely housebreaking. And I was convinced that this was a housebreaking issue. And his eyes. That is what I loved SOOO much with Vickie, and Garbo...and there Benny was, staring me down with those large eyes searching your soul. And so I contacted Heart of America Poodle Rescue, was approved and made arrangements to leave.
We didn't miss the storm. It was snowing hard from Indianapolis all the way through Ohio until we arrived home. In Akron we had to pull over because I couldn't see the road. Benny was very calm and happy as long as I was there. He rested his head on the arm rest in between me and my Dad where sitting, and remained there for the entire 13 hours it took us to get home that day. There was no doubt that by the end of that trip we already loved each other. My Dad announced twice, "He is going to be okay. He is going to be a good dog." And he is! He is simply the best!
That trip was nearly 4 years ago. Benny and I have found new ways to love each other every day. But it certainly hasn't been effortless. My cockiness was certainly brought to a screeching halt within days of returning home. This boy certainly had and still has separation anxiety. It isn't curable. It is manageable. It is treatable to some degree. I am not going to lessen the degree of this problem by giving you a cookie cutter approach to separation anxiety, it just doesn't work like that. Each dog is individual. All of the dogs that I help with separation anxiety does not get the same instructions for help at all. There are some thing that can help, and are worth trying. Adaptil collars or spray, lavender essential oils, composure pro, thunder shirts, leaving a sweatshirt or shirt or something that you sleep on for your dog, not always assuming that crating is the answer, confinement usually is, though. Here is something that I think is the most important thing you can hear. True separation anxiety is profound. These dogs think they are going to die because you have left them. It is a physiological response the body has and it is VERY uncomfortable.
One of the things I tell people to try to determine if your dog doesn't like when you leave versus true anxiety is to give your dog something absolutely irresistible for your dog. Whatever that is, but typically some sort of human food. VERY high value. Then leave. Does your dog eat it? If so, it probably isn't to the degree of full blown anxiety. Think fight or flight. You aren't thinking about your next meal if you think you are going to die. Your body is chemically preparing you to survive.
For Benny, 300 mg a day of trazadone, 40 mg of prozac, thunder shirt, and lavender in the house plus confinement in our kitchen with a shirt of mine levels him off. Yes, it is a lot. It is. But Benny didn't ask for this. I know all about anxiety, having generalized anxiety much of my life. Another way Benny and I connect. 1 panic attack and I was ready to do whatever it took to NEVER go back to that place. I can empathize with him. Anxiety isn't something you can rationalize, unfortunately. And it isn't healthy! These dogs need help!! We also worked on relaxation protocols, and I many other behavior exercises to keep him from practicing the anxiety.
I hear stories from clients where they don't have a choice but to put their dogs into crates, and they come home and there is so much salivation that the cages or soaked, or their dogs paws are bloody, or I have known a handful of dogs that have gone through front picture windows because their owners left. That I NOT fair to them, and it is NOT a fun way to leave. Sometimes I have to explain that medication that so many people are opposed to is actually a much kinder thing that continuing to do the thing they are doing that aren't working. If medication is the right dosage and the right drug, you will not see any detrimental effects. Your dog won't be a "Zombie"...as a matter of fact, they should be exactly who they are only minus all of the anxiety!!
Love in't alway easy, but it is always worth it. His eyes melt my heart, he is a constant friend, always next to me, ready to do anything I want! He never complain. He is willing to go an extra mile to make me happy. The is a relationship that is worth everything. Dogs with separation anxiety can be helped...seek it! Find a positive based trainer in your area and seek options. Talk to your veterinarian or consider a veterinary behaviorist. Don't let your dog go on thinking he will get past it. In spite of a lot of help, Benny still struggles, and some days are worse than others. There are lots of options out there. Seek the truth that your dog needs. And remember, the human-animal bond is one of the most special forms of love out there. Anything that you put in will be given back to you 150%.
Lastly, keep Benny in your thoughts over the next 6 weeks. My husband, Sam, is a veterinarian, and he found Benny to have a heart problem. We have an appointment with a veterinary cardiologist on February 13. I was freaked out when he said he made an appointment with the cardiologist. Sam decided he wasn't about to make any decision with Benny, he wanted a specialist so as every single thing that can be done is done by someone who does nothing but heart problems all day. I will keep you posted in a future blog post, probably about heart disease. I already know what his problem is...he loves TOOOOO much. Of course he has a big heart.