Monday, 23 March 2015

What's the solution?

Dear the me of 2012,

Please stop tearing your hair out for a second and take the time to read this letter.  It might just help you out.  

I can't imagine how you must be feeling right now.  Frustration and worry, like pain, is a shadowy memory.  And, I can look back in humour at some of the things you are suffering now.  I can laugh when I think about the time Caesar destroyed the kitchen and ate a whole pack of Nutrigrain bars.  What I do remember is desperation and this is what has prompted me to write to you.

Time and time again I read on forums and groups about anxious dogs.  You may not realise it just yet, but this is what you have.  I know you don't want to sit back and let time pass by where you're not trying to 'cure' this but there is something you need to know; you can't.

Let me tell you that in three years time, you will come home from work one night to find a Tupperware container exploded into sharp shards of plastic all over your bed.  You will spend a week of your life picking these shards from your feet and body and searching for them on the bedroom floor.  These are symptoms of anxiety, prompted by a change in environment or routine.

You musn't blame yourself.  You have not made the dog any worse.  Nor have you caused him to relive any kind of mental trauma.  What you need is time.  Time is the most important thing.

Therefore, when you see quick fixes, try to turn a blind eye.  Try to remember how you feel when you are afraid and remember that one tablet, or coat or spray is not going to miraculously cure him of his fears.  The same with you; anxiety plays a big part in your own life so you should know that nothing will instantly take that away.  

More importantly still, is that you don't get angry with him for his fear.  If someone shouted at you every time you were irrationally afraid of something you'd be stuck in your house shaking!  Try to remember his behaviour is not against you or even a reflection on you; it is he who has come to you with these troubles.  

My advice is not to ignore your issues; persist in positive training, reward the good and ignore the bad as much as possible.  Keep things as consistent as possible; he will always know when tea time will be, when bed time will be and what time you will leave and arrive home.  He will always be in the same room/s.  If someone comes, they will always come at the same time.  Attend training sessions regularly and allow him to get used to his setting and the other animals and people there and don't expect miracles straight away.

Most of all; love and enjoy him as much as he does you because you're going to have to get through this together.  And that will be as hard as you make it...

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Behind the closed door...

When I adopted Caesar I thought that owning a dog was all about; nice walks, fun training sessions, cuddles and companionship.  I'm not going to say it wasn't about these things.  Because I'd say these things account for around 50% of our relationship.  The rest is based around; compromise, sacrifice and forgiveness.  And these things must come from both of us.  Let me explain:

It's 3am and I'm at work tomorrow.  Caesar has just thrown up on the carpet.  I know why he's thrown up.  It's because yesterday, when I was at work, he broke down a door and ate a lot of sweets.  Sweets that I know he shouldn't have eaten.  He's been wearing a smile on his face ever since.  I know when the corners of his mouth turn up into a smile-like shape he is feeling sick and I've been waiting for this moment since 10pm.  Waiting to fall into a deep sleep.  I can't.

Caesar shouldn't even be upstairs. When I first got him, those were the rules; no coming upstairs, no going on the furniture and certainly no sleeping in the bed.  Those things changed when I realised the battle I had with Caesar.  People say 'pick your battles' and I totally agree.  It seemed important to Caesar to be close to us.  He wasn't content with sitting at our feet, he wanted to be sitting on our laps or cuddled under our arms.  At first, we would sit on the floor to give him this closeness and he was content with that.  But more for our own sake than his, it eventually became easier to allow him to come up on the sofa for a cuddle.  He began coming to bed when we realised how difficult he found sleeping alone.  He would cry and whine in the night and, although we thought he would grow out of it, it actually got worse as he got to know us more.  So here we are at 3am, Caesar and I, upstairs, in the bedroom and he's just, politely (I suppose), jumped off the bed and puked on the carpet.

From not coming upstairs to not coming in bed to sleeping by my side every night....feelings change...

It's not nice throwing up at 3am.  I, as you probably will too, know this.  So I can't feel cross with Caesar.  I'd like to say he has learnt his lesson, but know that his innate behaviour forces him to go looking for food.  He will eat foods that are poisonous to him and, what's more, if there's no one about, he will carry on eating them until they have gone.  Just read 'Saving Caesar: What about GDV?' to find out what happened the last time Caesar got hold of unlimited amounts of food.

So am I angry with Caesar?  No.  I'm angry with myself.  Clearly I'm not clever enough to outsmart him.  Immediately I'm thinking of a plan B.... Although this time it's more like a plan Z.  I've run out of letters now.  But I will keep trying.  This relationship is about compromise.  If I don't do my job properly, he lets me know by eating the contents of my kitchen and then throwing up.  Harmony is only achieved when I put in enough stops and he stops himself enough; I have no doubt that Caesar could break a door down if he needed to.

 Caesar looking like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth...

So last week the balance of our lives was upset when Damien was suddenly called away to France.  And all hell broke loose in our house.  I was trying to make things easy for Damien by acting as if everything was fine.  But, the longer he was gone, the less alright everything began to get.  Every day, my sister, who was staying with me, would return to the house at lunch time not knowing what she would find.  By the end of the first day, the baby gate which was supposed to prevent Caesar from coming downstairs had been broken off the wall.  And, on the third day she returned to find that the gate holding Caesar back from the dining room had been pulled over and the dining room door was ajar.

What's this???

If I had to choose a word to describe how the dining room looked it would be 'disastrous' but I don't really feel that even this does the state of the room justice.  Suffice to say that, when I returned from work that evening, I took one look into the room before shutting the door and saying, half to the dog and half to myself, "I can't cope with this now..."  It wasn't until later that I was able to bring myself to evaluate the damage.

Summary of the damage:
1 x Christmas present eaten (box of chocolates wrapped for a friend) - I found the wrappers in the garden a couple of days later...
1 x Christmas ornament broken (by trampling???)
1 x coolbox (belonging to said friend), opened and chewed around the rim
1 x coat pocket missing - chewed from the inside...
1 x poo in the corner (!!!) - embarrassingly didn't find this until days later!!
1 x rucsac missing handles and inner pockets
1 x upturned mug (thankfully not broken but nice sachet of hot drink MIA...)
1 x box upturned with contents all over the floor
Various papers of unknown origin chewed up and spat out...

Had I realised that he had eaten a whole box of chocolates including the wrappers at the time, I would have rushed him to the vet.  However, as it happened, I didn't realise that there was anything edible in the dining room until much after the incident when wrappers started appearing in piles in the garden...By which time, of course, they'd already been through his system!  That taught me to check next time.  Though, I must admit, I was a little glad that I'd missed that little bit of drama!

It's a little bit of a sore subject how many of the items got into the dining room though, that being said, I was fairly convinced that Caesar wouldn't be getting into there in a hurry with a large cage barring entry and a high door handle.  However, Caesar proves time and time again that Caesar does as Caesar pleases.  And, though these items had been months in the dining room, it seems that something as simple as Damien leaving for the week can cause a major change in Caesar's behaviour.

So; compromise, sacrifice and forgiveness.

Compromise; maybe you can come to bed if you find it so difficult to be alone.

Sacrifice:  I'll give up a nights sleep to be by your side when you're sick.

Forgiveness:  I'll forgive you for throwing up on my carpet and eating my sweets if you can forgive me for leaving them where you could get to them.