24 April 2009

The Melodramas of Mia


We've had a lot of rain lately - grumble, grumble - but now the sun is shining and summer appears to be on its way. Soon I'll be complaining about the heat! Dogs love to eat young fresh grass and we've got than enough of that. Sometimes I think I'm looking after a herd of cows rather than a bunch of dogs. I've heard people say there must be something wrong with a dog if it needs to eat grass. I've never found this. In the wild a dog would first eat the stomach contents of their 'kill' and that would include grasses. My late lamented Milou ate grass once a month and then vomited bile. His way of getting rid of it. Far better than buying medication at the veterinarians.

Mia, not only eats grass, she chomps happily on my Jade plant - a succulent, often called a 'money tree.' There is a Chinese tradition that you place a Jade plant outside your front door to encourage the money to come in and another outside your back door to stop it leaving. Thanks to Mia my Jade plant is getting smaller and smaller. Perhaps a bad omen for my bank account. Maybe the world is in such a bad financial state because all our dogs are eating the Jade plants. Now that would be something new to blame, wouldn't it?

Mia has problems though. When Mistral died, she seemed not to bother at all - didn't look for her, didn't seem to miss her and then I realised she was becoming more and more attached to me. I had become 'her Mistral' and so when I went out, she suffered massive separation anxiety and then went berserk. It started small and got bigger until one day, returning from a trip to the market, I found curtains pulled down, curtain rail down too - bent screws, no less. Paintings off the wall, books all over the place, chewed this, chewed that. A nightmare.

I called the vet who told me there are two medications for 'separation anxiety.' One I was familiar with. Bosun, a dog I used to look after was given it but it made him very dopey, almost depressed and his owner eventually stopped using it. Sadly Bosun is no longer with us but you can read about that wonderful dog by clicking on the link.

The other drug is called Zylkene and is apparently made of a product that resembles the chemical in mother's milk and so, in theory, calms the dog. I started Mia on this and the next time I went out left her downstairs in a spare room. This room has an internal kennel - something I installed years ago in case I ever had a difficult or a sick dog needing isolation. It's not been used in years, in fact, it was full of my old suitcases. I cleared it out and made it comfortable for Mia. I left her down there for short periods to begin, got her used to it. When I went out though, it didn't work - she'd poop and pee and make a dreadful mess and the poop had blood in it. The vet told me this is because she is so upset, the poop gets bloody.The next time she'd poop - in the garden - perfect.

So then I hauled a very large cage upstairs into the living room so that she could be confined but would be with the other dogs. En principe, I don't like cages but I know they have their uses as a training device and some dogs see them as a secure sanctuary. My hope was Mia would do this. I started feeding her in the cage and she's quite happy with that but wants to come out immediately. I practiced with her during the day. 15 minutes at a time and eventually left her in the cage when I went out. For a couple of short periods, it worked, but then one day I came home from visiting friends for lunch - I was out 3 hours - blood everywhere. Not from her rear end but from her nose where she'd bloodied it try to get thru the bars. Her front feet were swollen too, where she'd gone crazy trying to get out . She had difficulty walking that evening and she was in one hell of a state about it all.

Since then I've not been out.

But obviously we have to solve this problem. I have to go out at times. We need food, I love my photography, I like to see friends. I've already cancelled a four-day trip to Italy and have declined several social invitations locally. That's all OK but we have to solve the problem. Indeed, five blogger friends are coming to visit in a couple of weeks - two will stay here, three in an hotel in Menton and I will be 'tour guide' and so will be out a lot of the time. I'm really looking forward to their visit. So, the problem of Mia has to be solved. Mia hates the cage and hurts herself. She's not happy downstairs but at least she doesn't hurt herself. But then she is alone. She can't be left upstairs, free, with the other dogs, because she goes bananas and wrecks the place. Oh dear.

I called the vet. We've doubled the dose of medication. Friends suggest a Kong toy filled with some interesting food to occupy her. Another suggested a hollow bone. I happened to have one of these and tried her in the cage yesterday (I didn't go out) but her concern at being shut in the cage was far greater than her greed for food.


On the other hand, there are improvements. When strangers come to the house, she doesn't stand outside barking non-stop. Yes, she stands outside but at least she doesn't bark. When she dares to enter the house, she'll sneak past the dreaded visitor and go sit in an armchair. This happened last night when a friend came to dinner. After dinner, he went up to her, gently - but she jumped off the chair, over the coffee table, onto the sofa. She is capable of relaxing tho - remember how she was with Mister Brian?

She is also in much better condition physically, she's put on weight, her skin is better although still quite dry but she has Omega oils for this. And when we are all here alone, she's content - even plays with other dogs on occasion but rarely takes her eyes off me.

This afternoon I have to go out as I need more of her medication. I'll put her downstairs where she can't hurt herself and with that hollow bone stuffed with soft cheese which I know she likes.

Let's hope it works.

17 comments:

spacedlaw said...

I take it that taking her along with you is not a workable solution?

Jilly said...

Spacedlaw, No, unfortunately she is incredibly car sick and in any case because of her fear of people, taking her anywhere would freak her out even more.

Hopefully we'll get there. Well we HAVE to! Thanks for the suggestion tho.

Abe Lincoln said...

I saw this on the Dog Whisperer on television. They put a camera in the house to see what happened when the owners left the house and the dog promptly tore things apart something like you have described.

I got on the Internet and typed these words

dog separation anxiety treatment

and came up with dozens of links on what to do and how to do it. I suppose you have done this.

Lessie said...

So sorry you are going through this! But like you said, you WILL find a solution. It sounds good that you are introducing various solutions to her gradually. In time you will prevail. You have to go out -- and I hope in time she will learn you WILL come back. :) P.S., I need to get a Jade plant. :)

lady jicky said...

I have been having a bit of a "think" Jilly and I wonder if you can give this a go.
If you tape yourself talking and talking - I talk when I prepare my dinner etc and if you can get a long playing tape or a recorder that will just re-play - I wonder if hearing your voice will relax her???
I do hope you find something to work for this is a misery for you and Mia.
I have a jade plant out the front and now I see I need one out the back!!! Oh boy, Kenzo will love to chew on that too! LOL
Still thinking of ways to help - will post when I have a idea!
Love, Melinda

Jilly said...

Update: I put Mia downstairs with a hollow bone filled with soft cheese and she got stuck in. I was hopeful but within two minutes she was barking like crazy to be let out. Off I went. When I got back she'd pooped twice - all very loose and a little blood. Same story except she'd not walked it everywhere. She just can't control her crazy stomach when she gets upset. She's just fine now.

Abe, thanks for your suggestion. I had looked up some words but not your specific ones and that brought up some very helpful suggestions.

I intend putting her down there several times during the day with the hope she'll get used to it. She's also started today on a Dr. Bach remedy, Star of Bethlehem which is apparently very good is helpful bereaved dogs and fraught dogs - it's an ingredient in their Rescue Remedy.

Lady Jicky, that's a thought. I'm not sure I have a recording device for this but I can look into it. A very good idea.

I really do think (hope!) that eventually she'll get to know I come home. Fingers crossed.

Thanks somuch for suggestions and sympathy, everyone. We'll get there eventually. She's such a lovely dog.

Zephirine said...

Jilly, could you get her a guide dog? Not trying to be funny, but maybe if she could attach to another, companion dog that would transfer some of the intense emotion away from you? I have no idea how you would arrange it, though.

Jilly said...

Zephrine, I already have another dog. Another hound called Beau. If only she'd attach herself to him, but she doesn't. I truly couldn't cope with a third dog as well as my nine dogs a day en pension. Maybe she will get more attached to Beau. I'm not prepared to put him downstairs with her tho. It's simply not fair to him- I've had him for three years and he came from a dreadful situation too. He deserves his armchair! It's a good thought if I wasn't caring for other dogs too. We've already had one practice today downstairs - another later.

PJ said...

Having three house pets I know that their personalities evolve over time. Each of them, two cats and a dog, have their issues and some of them I could easily live without but we manage. I don't know anything about this condition, and I'm certainly not the expert dog handler you are. I did look it up and the Humane Society has a page about it.
http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/our_pets_for_life_program/dog_behavior_tip_sheets/separation_anxiety.html

It does mention the one thing I thought of, leaving a piece of your clothing with Mia, but I really don't know what to say except I hope that time, at least, will be the healing balm, for both of you.
Thanks for the update, Jilly.

Nancy L. said...

Oh Jilly...we know this situation quite well. Separation anxiety is often a huge problem with Greyhounds. It often takes a combination of a Kong stuffed with peanut butter, drugs, crate and training to work it all out. You are so experienced, I don't doubt you have the patience and the resources to help poor Mia. We did find several very good natural remedies that have worked well for our Greyhound, Hope, with separation & thunderstorm anxiety. A few drops of Bach's Rescue Remedy on the tongue and rub some behind the ears . Something that our dogs AND cats have responded to is a Pheromone Plug-In called Comfort Zone Plug In. It's available through many online sources in the US..it releases Dog Appeasing Pheromones (D.A.P) in the air throughout the room supposedly mimicking a new mother's natural pheromones, helping to calm the dog (or cat, it comes in 2 formulations) I'm sure you'll have hundreds of suggestions, but I thought these might be something to add to your arsenal .
Good Luck, Nancy in Connecticut

Neva said...

I hope all is well and she has adusted to your leaving her. I am sure you are looking forward to your bloggre friends visiting....how fun!

Snapshutter said...

Oh my what a challenge. Unfortunately unlike many of the other commenters I have no advice. Look forward to hearing the next chapter on this.

Jilly said...

PJ, thanks so much for that link. I am working thru the training part with her, leaving her for 10 mins and 20 mins at a time. My problem is that I have to go out for longer sometimes and haven't yet worked up to it. Today for instance I have to go out for three hours.

Nancy, she is currently on a special calmant based on the chemicals in mothers' milk but I will get one of those Comfort Zone Plug ins. They are available in France. She has the calmants plus Dr. Bach's Star of Bethlehem. As I said,I have to go out today and will try Rescue Remedy on her. Haven't tried that yet. She has a Kong Toy and is crazy for it when I first put her in the downstairs room but as soon as I shut the door, she starts barking and going nuts, and always passing this blood.

Yesterday, two people came to collect their dogs. Mia was in the living room with the others and could see me on the terrace thru the French windows. The gardener appeared at the same time and for some reason she must have gotten scared - yet she could see me - cos when I came back into the house, she'd pooped four times bloody stuff. All this in 10 minutes. It's pretty unbelievable. The vet thinks I should put her to sleep. I don't see that as an option unless I felt she is really unhappy and I am beginning to wonder. She is so tense, even with me now, scared I will leave. Poor dog and she has such a nice home here, wish she knew it!

Thanks so much everyone for encouragement. The big test will be this coming week when the Bloggers come to visit.

Hilary said...

Golly, what a problem. Serious stuff. Poor Mia, my heart goes out to the two of you. Our answer was to leave the television on so external sounds couldn't be heard so sharply, leaving the citronella barking collar on a chair next to where Jessie sleeps so it would go off when she barked, and finally a really good walk beforehand so Jessie was exhausted. This gives us a 4 hour window.
Good luck Jilly - hope you find something that helps her.

PJ said...

Jilly, even settled pets can be insistent about certain behaviors. Of course, with cats, well, you're simply staff. With dogs, they're all about finding their place in the pack but it's hard to train a dog you can't be stern with when needed. It's a complicated problem.

maria said...

Poor Mia.

My kids don't care for him but "The Dog Whisperer" might be worth a try:

http://www.cesarmillaninc.com/tips/issues_separation.php

I might be dating myself but I wonder what Barbara Woodhouse would say about what could help poor Mia.....

lady jicky said...

Jilly - how is Mia going?
I really think that if she is that unhappy....
but, before I did that I would try her on a dog sedative/valium type medication. I know she would be sleepy but maybe a "sleepy happy" and that is not a bad life really.
thinking of you ,
Love
Melinda and Kenzo

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