This Dog is Loved

"You were sick, but now you're well again, and there's work to do."

Archive for the tag “Fear”

I should have quit, but instead I took care of you.

I said Elsa’s heartworm treatment went easier than her spay appointment, but I just meant the ride there. The treatment itself was unnecessarily nerve wracking.

As I think it is appropriate to do, I informed our vet of her behavioral history and that she is fearful so special precautions have to be taken at this point in time. I thought to say she would not bite since at no point had she shown any propensity to do so, but that’s not really a fair assessment of any dog. Any dog can and just might bite, it depends on what gets them there. I did stress that despite some precarious positions she had been in, so far she had not so much as bared a tooth at me. The snaggle tooth is just kind of always bared.

I’m not sure if I contributed to the paranoia by thinking it is important to disclose behavioral inclinations, but either way paranoia crept into someone on staff and caused undue stress all around. I dropped her off shortly before 7 AM and then headed into work. She received her first shot of Immiticide immediately in the morning and was to stay over night and receive the second shot the following morning. By 11 AM when I checked my phone on my break I already had a frantic voicemail from a vet tech telling me Elsa was so stressed out that it would be best if I just came and got her right then and brought her back for the next shot the next day, give us a call, thanks.

Er.. what? My initial reaction was to go off the rails and get all worked up. My sweet scared lady was super stressed? I’m at work for another 5 hours but I need to somehow go rescue her RIGHT NOW? Then, as often my reactions are timed, rage set in. Wait a minute, this is a vet clinic and they don’t know how to respond to stressed dogs? They want me somehow leave work in the middle of my shift to pick up, drive home, drive back again the following day and then BACK home again a stressy dog that is even more stressed by car rides that is ALSO currently under going serious treatment? Why I oughta. I had a brief rage fest in my car and then called the clinic back.

I’m pretty certain I was a bit snarky in my return call. I can’t with any certainty relay EXACTLY what I said, but I know I started the call with a deep inhale followed by “Yeah.. I got a call..” but I was more than slightly miffed so we’ll have to give me a pass or something. I was immediately put on hold until a vet could answer my questions. Thankfully, the vet was more than slightly miffed at the notion someone suggested I pick up a dog in the middle of HW treatment. In fact, all she requested to know via the phone call made to me was if they could have my permission to sedate Elsa as she was a bit stressed in her kennel. We weren’t entirely certain how that morphed to OHGODPICKTHEDOGUPNOOOOOW and she assured me Elsa was doing little more than running to the back of the kennel and making bird noises (my words there, because that’s what they sound like. Yelling birds) which spooked whoever had to call me. I was also assured that they would never ask an owner to transfer a dog mid treatment. I gave permission to chill her out, every thing went fine, and I picked my lady up the following afternoon.

One of my major complaints about the animal care industry as a whole is the inability to read a dog’s body language. My second complaint would be those in the industry afraid of being bitten/clawed/body fluided on/etc. No one wants any of those things, but they ARE going to happen, so do your best to avoid them and get over it when they do. The biting part though, a lot more of that could be avoided with a little behavioral brush up. Dr. Sophia Yin should be your own personal animal Jesus if you’re involved in the veterinary field, especially her low stress handling techniques:

I think we can all agree that it’s easier to get through things if you’re not stressed- human and animal alike. You ARE more likely to cooperate for a physical at the doctor’s office if you’re not afraid, on all fours on a table, ball gagged and in a headlock, yes? Well so is your dog. We have to meet with our vet staff in the middle. On our part it’s important to be forth coming about what your dog’s behavior, and physically work on those things at home. There is no bad age to start working on accepting body handling, but man is it ideal with a puppy. There are even youtubes, people! Youtubes:

Also a good idea to acclimate your dog to the office itself. Drop in before the appointment days and let them scope out the place. Positive familiarity with the surroundings and staff.

If your dog needs to be muzzled, muzzle your dog. On a whole we’ve been conditioned to fear muzzles and not want to use them. Muzzled dog = that dog bites. In reality, a muzzle is a tool no more frightening than a bike helmet. I don’t want to crack my head open riding down the road, and I don’t want my veterinarian or vet tech bitten if my dog has not reached a point where they can handle necessary actions. DO condition your dog to accept wearing a muzzle. YOUTUBES:

And most importantly, don’t panic. We have a neat vet with a staff we like, so we keep going back. Your vet staff is capable and good at what they do, and if they aren’t the good news is it’s OK to never go back and find someone who is. You’re in it for your dog and I know lots of neat vets who are too.

Elsa came back from her HW treatment to a 30 day quarantine. Minimal activity, no free running around nonsense, and 30 days of doxycycline. The first week of doxy went down easy and then suddenly she realized she had some choice in the matter of taking the pills. I think the hidden pill progression went from canned food to pill pockets to cheese to hot dogs to smothering them in peanut butter and putting them as far down her throat as possible.

Towards the end of her quarantine she became a bit more cheeky than her pre-HW treatment self. I don’t think dragging out a stinky rolled up carpet to roll on it was what the vet meant by minimal activity:


It’s your choice.

I named her Elsa for two reasons. The primary one being that there is a lovely true story called Elsa the Lioness. It’s about a pair of handlers training a lion that was raised in captivity to learn to live in the wild again, and they in fact successfully released her. I thought at the time Elsa’s would be a dog version of that, except backwards. She came from living in the woods. I forgot the part where Elsa the Lioness met her untimely demise but details, details.

Second, I find little old lady names hilarious for dogs. I once knew of a Pit Bull named Louise and that just grabs me right.

Our first few weeks together were quiet. She wasn’t sure of me and I wasn’t sure of her. The SPCA could obviously offer no real background on her because she was in essence just an incubator for the litter of puppies she had. Puppies adopt for $375 and generally go inside of a day or two. Moms are whatever. What she wasn’t was feral. Feral dogs don’t go gently into a crate, then quietly for a car ride, then come directly out of their crate and stretch to smell the people around them. She was, however, quite scared but content enough to lay down on her blankets and stare at me. So that’s what we did. I sat on the other side of the room on my computer and she studied my every move from her safe zone.

This is the most rudimentary and important step for fearful dogs. Whatever they do is their choice and you just stay out of their way. You don’t interact with them, you don’t talk to them, you don’t even put even the seemingly smallest amount of pressure on them by looking at them. It seems counter productive to a person. We want to be proactive, but here proactive kind of equals out to inactive. Forcing yourself on a scared dog can have catastrophic results, but at the very least it’s counter productive to scare the shit out of a dog to teach them.. not to be scared any more.

Essentially for the first few weeks all I was to Elsa was the thing that came in, stayed some time, and left behind food. She had potty pads set out though I didn’t really pretend they would do much of any thing for her. I couldn’t exactly show her how to use them, but ah hell the apartment has concrete floors in most of it and I was keeping her in a smaller area of it while she settled in. She had bed, food, water, and an unwanted house guest every so often. I don’t remember a specific time frame, but it really wasn’t very long before she was laying right next to me. She’d take her time after I came down but eventually would make her way over and lay touching my feet, not taking an eye off me but eating up the treats I threw her way. And then another short amount of time later she was laying touching my feet and going to sleep. Then finally this:


She was starting to accept the food machine. I want to stress that it’s important just to be the food machine in the beginning. The idea behind letting the dog make their own choices is for them to be able to relax and be able to make their own choices. I needed Elsa to know that every moment is a holiday and every decision she made resulted in a reward. Even smelling my feet meant she got a treat. Food is, after all, a universal language- dog and human alike- and a fearful dog eating in your company is a good conversation.

I’d write more in this entry, but I Just watched Shambles pick up an empty bowl, carry it across the entire living room before pausing behind Jack and ultimately sending it clattering to the floor right behind him. Things are gonna get dicey.

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