Saturday, 29 November 2014

Meeting your perfect dog...

It seems as if a number of things have pointed me in the direction of this post.  A few days ago I saw a cute photo with white type over a picture of a dog.  As it happens, I can't find the quote any more; it went as quickly as it came.  But essentially it said 'that moment when you realise you've found YOUR dog.'  I thought a little bit about this and then, a few days later, I was reading one of my favourite dog blogs and I came across this post.

It didn't really happen like that with Caesar.  In fact, when I first saw his picture on the rescue centre website, I gave a little shudder and scrolled down.  He looked aloof to say the least and I chuckled as I thought 'I'll probably never sleep with a dog like that in my house'.

And I wasn't far wrong.  I remember the horrifying moment when I first got him and I realised I was drifting off on the sofa.  Damien was at the gym and Caesar and I were sitting together in the front room.  I shot up off the sofa in terror, not believing that, not only had I taken my eyes off the dog, but also that I'd fallen asleep while he was there.  He was staring at me unnervingly.  I realise now he was probably feeling the same.  Unsure of what I was about or what I might do to him.  Unclear about what he was supposed to be doing while I was dropping into a doze on the sofa.

I remember thinking to myself 'it shouldn't be like this...'  I felt stupid for being afraid of my own dog.  What sort of person adopts a dog that they're frightened of?

In hindsight, perhaps I should have waited for the 'moment'.  Maybe I'd have seen a dog and a lightning bolt moment would happen.  I'd be struck down with love for them.  I'd be overwhelmed with a desire to have them and care for them and love them.  I didn't feel like that with Caesar.  I was overwhelmed by an urge not to be eaten by him.

So why did I adopt a dog I was frightened of?  I hear you ask.  And rightly so too, of course.  The pure, and not very responsible answer is, I was desperate to have a dog.  Firstly, because Damien didn't want one.  This was rectified when he saw Caesar and told me that if I wanted a dog it had to be 'that one'.  Even though, later, he admitted that he was also frightened of the ginger mongrel - mainly because he used to sit in the lounge and stare at us; something that also unnerved me.  The second issue was that, on arrival at the kennels, there were no dogs left to adopt apart from Caesar.

My issue now, though, is that I no longer believe in lightning bolt dogs.  I firmly believe that Caesar was the dog for us.  And I genuinely worry that there won't be another.  He has challenged me in ways that I never knew I could be challenged but training him and being with him on his journey has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far.  And yet, completely unexpected.

My visions of running around with a dog and a ball in fields.  Of playing fetch, of dog shows and fun agility are all smoke.  Unrealistic dreams of things that Caesar could never achieve.  Yes these dreams seem to have been replaced with something more.  The success of building a relationship where a dog that was so unsure before looks to you for everything.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Dogs and Fireworks

Having a dog that is afraid of fireworks is no walk in the park.  Quite literally.  Caesar is one of many dogs who suffer from the minute the bangs and pops begin and gets gradually worse as the fifth of November approaches.  Managing this time of the year has been a learning experience for us.  Here's what I've learnt over the past few years about owning a dog who is literally terrified of fireworks.

To begin with, it's important to remember that every dog is an individual and different things work for different dogs.  The reason I say this is because there is so much conflicting advice when it comes to fireworks.  And, you know what your own dog needs.  For example, where some dogs will appreciate having somewhere to hide, other dogs, like Caesar, feel comfortable being closer to their owner.  If a firework goes off, 9 times out of 10, Caesar will bring himself as close as possible to us.  Some advice will tell you to ignore the dog and act like nothing is happening.  Again, having tried this, I find that simply giving Caesar a cuddle and talking to him normally can ease his anxiety a little - and he actively seeks contact when he's afraid.

Today, for example, I returned home from work to find the house empty and Caesar sitting in the bathroom looking petrified and shaking like a leaf.  It didn't take me long to realise that, despite it only being 5 o'clock, people were letting off fireworks.  I took Caesar into my bedroom and lay on the bed with him and told him about my day at work.  I did feel a little boring when he fell asleep - but at least he had stopped being anxious!  And you can't please everybody...

"So you'll never guess what happened this morning Caesar.....Caesar??"

Anyhow, after seeking and gathering much advice on fireworks as well as now having a little personal experience with a dog that has a phobia, here are my top tips:

1.  DO NOT walk your dog on or around bonfire night past night fall.  (The same goes for New Year!)  - even if this means missing a walk or two.  It really is worth it for your own peace of mind!
2.  DO try natural calming aids such as rescue remedy, thunder shirts and plug in pheromone diffusers.  However, ultimately, if your dog is still afraid, seek advice from your vet - the sooner the better!
3.  DO give your dog somewhere safe to retire to - I use Caesar's castle or a crate with a large blanket over the top.
4.  DO NOT attempt to pull your dog out from hiding under furniture - I know it may seem obvious but I've heard more than one case of dog bites from this from first hand.
5. DO play music or TV to distract from the sound as much as possible.
6. DO listen to your dog.  And by that, I don't mean ask them to tell you what is upsetting them but follow their lead - they will let you know if they need closeness or a hiding place, some privacy or some attention.  Use your initiative to decide how much of each is needed.

After following lots of advice for fear and trying my best to ease Caesar, I finally took him to the vet.  He is now taking Valium for his phobia and I must admit I have seen an improvement already in that he is not shaking as much.

Further Information
Fireworks and the law -
Advice from the RSPCA -

Have you got any advice of your own to add to the list?  Comment below to add your tips.