Wednesday, March 16, 2011

- Heartbroken

Emma has some pretty serious separation anxiety.  Somewhere in all the fuss of her living with my parents while I finished my Ph.D. and us moving to Minneapolis she got it in her head that she is NOT okay being alone.  And in order to deal with these feelings she started barking...non-stop.  I don't think it lasted all day, but it definitely went on for hours at a time and as I've mentioned - she's gotten two noise complaints now.  So, I started devoting a lot of time, energy and MONEY to try to get her settled when I'm not here.  First I bought a device that makes a high pitched noise that only dogs can hear when it picks up barking.  I gave it about a week and since the battery started to die I'm pretty sure that she barked and that noise made no difference to her and I took it back.  I got a dog appeasement pheromone diffuser.  To my knowledge this has no effect on her whatsoever, but it is also not hurting so I still plug it in.  I bought a citronella bark collar.  I'm not sure it ever worked because I never smelled citronella - I returned that today.  At this point I was frustrated.  I'd spent about 2 weeks and saw absolutely no improvement.  On top of all these devices I started making sure she got at least 30 minutes of exercise and would make her fetch inside until she no longer wanted to.  She was handling the leash well and had learned to be more responsive to the sit/stay command plus I taught her to sit outside the kitchen so she would stay out of my way, and to sit outside the laundry room and wait until I invited her in to eat her meals.  I would leave carrots hidden in her crate, and give her a chew toy with a treat inside that she had to work at to get out.  And she was still barking a ridiculously long time every day.

I know, because I videotaped her for the first hour every day.  And every day I watched the footage feeling more and more hopeless.  Having tried everything else, I moved up to a static correction bark collar.  I didn't think that it would fix the problem since her barking is caused by anxiety, but I hoped that it would perhaps make her quieter, stop her barking sooner, or keep her from barking so continually.  It did all of those things because she no longer barks - since she has learned to howl.
It is the most forlorn, heart-wrenching sound.  That's how sad my dog is when I leave.  It absolutely kills me and it pretty much makes me feel like the worst dog owner in the world.  Feeling like I have tried everything I can think of, I hired a trainer for an in home consultation.  I picked the one from the place where I board Emma when I go out of town, but I'm not sure she's the best "fit" for us.  Let's just say she didn't really impress me with her ideas.  But, I'm going to try some of the things she suggested and give it three weeks (the time she said to really see if a new routine works) before calling someone else.

When I was growing up our family had a black dog named Sam.  Mom didn't like Sam because she dug holes.  One day a guy working on the hard wood floors for our addition just kept going on and on about how great Sam was and Mom went "Do you want her" and a few hours later that man left with our dog. We were upset about it, and couldn't believe that she could do such a thing.  But today, I seriously considered giving Emma away.  It was this gorgeous day here - sunshine and 50 degrees - so on my way home from work I decide that it's a perfect day to take Emma on a nice long walk.  I get home to find that she peed on my bed, our walk was terrible because I was still so mad and it had turned windy, and because all the snow is melting it's really wet so she was all muddy and needed a bath.  Which was fine, I mean I give her a bath for her skin once a week anyways, but then she kept jumping up and pouring water on me.  THEN when I was drying her off she was flipping out and rubbing her body on everything leaving behind a ton of black hair all over everything and I just. lost. IT.  I started yelling all kinds of things and sent her into the hallway so I could shut the door to my bedroom and just be alone.

This probably wouldn't have been nearly as dramatic if I wasn't having my monthly "lady parts" thing.

I know that Emma doesn't care how much money I spend on her.  Or how much I worry about her during the day.  How sometimes I'm so sick to my stomach knowing that she's unhappy while I'm at work that I skip meals because I can't eat.  It isn't even a blip on her radar the amount I have sacrificed in the past year to make sure that she gets her $90 allergy meds.  I know that she doesn't care, because she's a DOG.  But I just wish she could give me a little credit because I am really trying here.  And I'm tired of feeling like a bad dog owner.  And it takes a really long time to wash and dry your mattress pad and down comforter.  And thank GOD for red wine because it is giving me the strength to get through tonight and do this all over again tomorrow.  Or it's getting me drunk so I don't care.  PotAto, potAHto.

Edited to add: If I had a religion, engaging in running would be against it. I loathe running and realized a long time ago that there were several other forms of "exercise" I preferred to running and that I really had no use for it.  I have created a life that doesn't involve running because I'm happier that way.  But this morning I ran - for Emma - to wear her little howling butt out so that maybe, just maybe, she reaches a point where she'd much rather take a nap than run around the house all anxious and forlorn.  Or maybe she'll decide she'd rather sleep in my bed, than pee on it. 

My legs hurt.

No comments: