Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Life Returns to (sort of ) Normal

It's now almost a year ago that my second cancer diagnosis landed me in the hospital. . . and out of the hospital and back in the hospital. . . for what seemed like years. It actually was the better part of two months. The collateral damage from that was my mentally fragile dog, Nestle, had what seemed to be a sort of doggie nervous breakdown. He had always been the perfect gentleman in the car. Now, after I repeatedly disappeared into emergency rooms and didn't return home for a week at a time, he couldn't stand being left. He ate Christmas presents, he repeatedly chewed the rubber covers off the brake and gas pedals, he chewed the knobs off the radio, he removed the plastic doo-hickeys that hold the floor mats in place. He chewed the cover off the 12-volt plug-in.
He couldn't help himself. And I understood. But as things started to normalize. . . or at least not require hospitalization. . . it got hard to deal with not being able to leave a dog in the car. I mean, I take the dogs practically everywhere, and this was seriously crimping our style.
We worked on it as if it were separation anxiety (which it was, only centered on the car). We gave him a new verbal cue. We gave him a Greenie as a visible indicator. I consulted my vet, who runs a mixed practice, and he started Nestle on two Chinese herbal formulations that are supposed to help calm.
For months and months, nothing really worked. We got to where we could leave the car for a few minutes and Nestle would stay in the back, but his whole front would be covered with drool when we returned, and he looked like a crazed meth addict.
But time rally does seem to heal most wounds, though in this case quite a lot of time. Last month a change finally started. If we left for a few minutes, he wasn't in such a terrible state. He still wouldn't eat the Greenie while we were gone, but he would snatch it up the second we returned. He seemed more settled. So I have gently increased leaving him, and occasionally increased the time, and he is doing well, I'm very happy to report. I may soon have my old trustworthy dog back.
And I have to wonder, how would this have ended for the run-of-the-mill dog and dog owner? I mean, I'm a trainer and a dog writer, and I'm pretty invested in what happens with my dogs. I know a lot of other people are, but I know a lot aren't. I wonder how far thigns could have gone before the dog ended up never being taken for a ride again, or even surrendered. Ah well. If that were the case, Nestle would have been surrendered long ago, as he was a total basket case when I adopted him.
Anyway, we are about to enjoy several days of long car rides and visits to national park beaches.

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