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My Dog Has Issues (Part 2)

October 7, 2009


We met with private trainers and a vet behaviorist who concluded our girl was most likely poorly bred and not socialized well for the first 8 weeks.  The doctor prescribed doggy Prozac in order to calm her down (the vet was stunned to learn that we had somehow dodged the separation-anxiety bullet: thank Oprah for small miracles).  I started carrying treats with me on our walks in order to get Ellie to associate people walking by, children running in the street, and dogs barking in their yards as good things.  This has helped a lot but the element of surprise is still a big concern for her.  As long as I can spot the “problem” before she does and alert her to it, she is usually okay.  She still hates the doorbell ringing in our home and we still don’t have people over because she will bark non-stop. We are now trying a spray-bottle-as deterrent for that but it is hit-or-miss.  The Prozac has helped a great deal in calming Ellie’s energy and anxiety (we tried to wean her off of it recently and saw what a huge difference it has made.  She is back on it and will likely be for years to come).  She has some good days and some not-so-good days.  Yesterday I walked her in the rain for the first time using an umbrella:  add umbrellas to her “Things That Freak Me Out” list.  At home with us she is the smartest, most affectionate, loyal dog I could ask for.  My husband and I talk about her latest exploits constantly, from the funny positions she sleeps in to the frequency and consistency of her poos.  She loves to explore the outside world, she would just rather it was uninhabited by most other humans.

I doubt that Ellie will ever be the kind of dog who will be comfortable with strangers coming up to pet her (Good Citizen Test FAIL).  She will never curl up peacefully on her bed with a room full of chattering people around her.  She will always shiver when we take her to the vet or the groomer.  She will aways be work.  She is inherently a nervous dog.  I wish I could have known the signs from day one.  There is so much we could have done differently.  I should have been banging pots and pans on the floor and asking strangers to come up and pet her non-stop.  I would have been having new people over to our home every single day.  We did socialize her, but not in the extreme way she needed.

I have stopped letting Ellie’s issues stress me out so much.  I don’t see her behavior as a personal failure on my account.  I realize that my husband is never going to be Cesar Millan and he is not able to devote the amount of time and attention that I do to Ellie’s training.  95% of the time the joy this dog brings to our lives outweighs any stress she presents, which is more than I can say for many people I know.

I remember during one stressful period with Ellie my husband said that he wished he had a dog he could relax with, one he did not have to worry about when he went outside with her and encountered new people.  I told him that of course I wished for that too but I honestly can’t even imagine having a “normal” dog.  Ellie is the dog that we were given for a purpose.  She has taught us so much:  patience, perseverance, the need to be consistent, cooperative, and creative, the gift of being present.  She has taught us what kind of parents we would be if we ever do have children (i.e. Mommy will be the disciplinarian and Daddy will be Mr. Fun).  I just asked the hubby if he could fathom what it would be like to have a regular dog and he said, “No, that would be boring.”  So, for all the work and attention our special-needs dog requires, for all the worry and embarrassment she incites, this is our daughter and we could no more trade her in than we could one of those bratty human kids.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2009 11:28 pm

    Oh, I love your Ellie! And, I understand. Our dog, Sam, has so many issues, too, but we wouldn’t trade him for the world!

    Sam has destroyed my whole house. No kidding! I write blogs about it and people tell me to get rid of “that damn dog.” I tell them that I am in this for the long haul. I could no more get rid of Sam than they could their children. Sam needs us (DH and I ) to take care of him. It’s been ordained by someone higher up than me!

    But, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, am I?

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      October 8, 2009 2:13 am

      Thank you, Cindy! Your comment reminds me of the book “Marley & Me:” have you ever read it (the film is ok too but as usual, the book is much better)? I sobbed like a little girl at the end of that book. It really makes me sad when people give up their imperfect dogs. Thank you for being a forever-dog parent. I truly do believe that our pets are brought into our lives for a reason: Sam is lucky to have been brought into your life!


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