Part 1 ended with Trauma Dog returning from the kennel. Unfortunately, Sussie’s little canine brain had surpassed its ability to cope by this point.
We were all done house hunting, but we still had three weeks before moving into our new house. In the meantime, we stayed at an aunt’s house in Tampa. Here, Sussie remained relentlessly tethered to my legs by some invisible and unbreakable cord, tied so securely that I accidentally kicked or stepped on her repeatedly throughout the day.
When she is suffering from this heightened state of anxiety, Sussie avoids going outside to do business. That would necessitate momentary separation, after all. This means that, for the better part of any given day, she is holding in either urine, feces, or both, and she will evacuate them the minute you leave her alone.
Historically, the only way to avoid her soiling the house when she is stressed is to crate her.
Don’t feel bad about this imprisonment. It’s a nice, roomy crate with bedding, a pillow, an antler chew, squeak-toys, and a treat-filled Kong. She is used to her crate. She sleeps in it at night. Dogs don’t soil where they sleep, I have been told.
She upped the ante, and started soiling her crate.
You tell yourself that you are in charge of the situation. You tell yourself that a dog will not dictate your life. But we were not in our own home. We were the guests of a family member. We can’t leave Sussie crated and barking like a maniac while the aunt is napping. We can’t leave her roaming the house to find her own personal bathroom.
So I’ve let the dog dictate my life.
Still, my accommodations were not enough to avoid retribution. When we left her under Uncle John’s watchful eye, he made the mistake of leaving her unattended while he showered. Yeah, that puddle on the hall carpet sure showed him!
We had too long a gap before our house was ready, so I found a dog-friendly beach cottage that would transform our waiting time into a real vacation. It was great. We were allowed to tie her in the pool area and at the edge of beach, to minimize the need to crate her.
Still, one must go dogless eventually, and I knew exactly what our gal would do the whole time. The cottage contract spelled it out in black and white: excessive barking would be considered a nuisance to our neighboring bungalows.
Thus, in the days before our beach vacation, we purchased a Thundershirt. The packaging said 80% of dogs show decreased anxiety when sporting this little canine straitjacket. But how do you know whether it’s working?
I recorded Sussie while we fetched the magic shirt. Later, I recorded her in said shirt while we went to the base pool for a few hours. Guess which percentage our fair dog falls into?
That’s right, the other 20%.
She gave us a real show when we came back from the pool. It was a drama, filled with tragedy and desperation. She barked. The whole. Time. I had been foolishly hoping that the panicked noise subsided at some point during our absences. She’s barking when you leave, and barking when you arrive because she hears the car, but who’s to say what happens in between?
The eyecam says. In retrospect, it would have been better to remain ignorant. She barks, oh yes: a high-pitched, full-throated yelping staccato of panic, taking breaks only to bite the crate bars frantically, whine pathetically, or perhaps tear up whatever items were left to comfort her.
She even managed to get hold of the towel under her crate (my lame attempt to minimize any soiling mess). She had to really put some weight into this endeavor, rocking and scooting the whole cage with every determined yank. Her gums bled from the effort. The towel inched slowly through the bars, and she savaged every square inch like a werewolf, leaving the tattered and blood-spattered remains in a heap and then curling around it despondently to rest for a precious minute before starting up her panicked calls once again.
Clearly, it was time to seek professional help. Off to the vet Sussie and I went.
Continue reading this story . . . if you dare . . . in Part 3 . . .