He is such a wonderful dog when I am with him, handsome and affectionate, but… To date, my Planned Pethood foster dog J.B. has quite the impressive resume of destruction. The extensive list includes a busted screen and a broken window. He has torn down blinds and curtains as well. He literally destroyed two metal crates too and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Arrogantly, I used to scoff at people who put their dogs on drugs to help them cope with separation anxiety. But not anymore. Hands down, it is the toughest challenge I have had to face as a foster.
But let’s start at the beginning. J.B. was scheduled to be euthanized the same afternoon I picked him up from a rural pound. They said he was a neutered nine year old chow/cattle dog mix. My preference is to foster seniors. Turned out, he was neither nine nor neutered. My first indication of trouble came quickly. The morning after his first night with us, he greeted me at my bedroom door, having extracted himself somehow from his crate. Thankfully, he has enjoyed the company of the cats from day one. I should have realized it was time to fasten my seatbelt.
I had to head off to a cat adoption event and I got that he was not crazy about a crate so I decided to confine him to a bedroom. I got a call at the event from my neighbor, fellow PPI foster, Heather. She said, “hey your foster dog is on your porch”. WHAT????? I asked her to hook him onto a tie out in the backyard and I would be right home. The screen in the window was flapping in the breeze when I arrived. The next sign of trouble would be minutes away. While letting the dogs in from a potty break, I practiced my pack leader skills with the resident dogs preceding the new guy. So in goes Ida, in goes Stanley, and you guessed it, over the fence goes J. As I was running down my street chasing him, I was telling myself, I am way too old for this crap. We did recover him quickly with help from my neighbors.
In the meantime, J.B. visited the vet and was diagnosed with heartworm. So now I had a crazed cattle dog who would not be able to exercise to release any anxiety for weeks. Nor could he be neutered. Great. And to round out the bad news, no way was he nine. I asked the vet what kind of nine year old jumps the fence. He said, nine? He is maybe four. Poor J was probably tied out his whole life. His ears are literally missing chunks from where the flies ate them. My semi-significant other, Bob, tried to reassure him. He told him, chicks dig scars. His recovery from heartworm was awful for him, the pack, and me with all that bad energy pent up.
At one point I came home to find blood everywhere. It looked like what I imagine a murder scene would look like. It was on the couch, on the walls, and on both my own dog Stan and J. I put J into the bathtub to try to figure out where the blood was coming from. He turned the water red. I grabbed both dogs and rushed them to the vet. It turned out to be a false alarm of sorts. Neither dog was injured. Stanley’s tooth was cracked and it had broken off at the root, hence the blood.
At that point, J.B. was relegated to an airline crate where he could not harm himself nor could he do any more destruction. But it did not address the root of his problem, the separation anxiety. This poor dude looks like a parkinson’s victim, shaking like a leaf, when he knows I am getting ready to leave. And, believe me, he knows. He has a look of sheer terror in his eyes. Your heart would go out to him if he wasn’t so irritating, barking his head off.
We have tried soooooo many strategies. We worked with a trainer and established behavior modification routines. She actually gave us homework exercises which we religiously adhere to. He has taken a half a dozen different drugs in a variety of combinations, to no avail. We walk three miles per day regardless of weather, most days with J carrying a loaded backpack. The thunder shirt I bought him lasted three days before he shredded it. The citronella bark collar actually worked for about a day and a half. Then I think he began to ENJOY that bug sprayish whiff emanating from the collar. And there was more and more and more…
We have made very little progress in easing J’s separation anxiety but he has made major strides in other ways. He did not know how to play when he came to us. His idea of play was to physically attack the dog who had the ball. Using some snack bag water bombs helped cure that. And, now he is quite an accomplished ball player, actually as part of a team. He used to charge other dogs on the walk as well. Four to six weeks after he was neutered (good bye testosterone, yes!!), he has become very accommodating when meeting new dogs.
Let’s just say J.B. is a work in progress. A friend at the park said it took his dog two years to begin to respond to correction of his separation anxiety. Oh NO!!! In the meantime, J is stuck to me like super glue 24/7, so afraid I may leave him. One of the vet techs suggested he is like the boyfriend you dumped in high school who can’t get over it and still wants to be with you. He is gentle, affectionate, and loving. He is a favorite at adoption events (until I mention his SA, then the people almost run from us). Stay tuned for a blog update for our troubled dude. Planned Pethood does not put time limits on a dog’s adoption. BTW, we wondered what J.B. stood for. The neighborhood kids suggested Justin Bieber but we are not going there. Two people stepped up to offer their names, my nephew John Broadway, and cat foster extraordinaire, Julie Brown. Thanks!!
by Judy S.