Daddy’s little helper


Charlie heard that cuddling is the best medicine. Matt  says he agrees.

Charlie heard that cuddling is the best medicine. Matt says he agrees.

Matt woke up Thursday morning to a nagging migraine.

While he had experienced headaches before, this one seemed different. It lasted all day, and by evening he grew nauseous. I left to go to a meeting, and by the time I returned Matt was very sick. He had vomited several times while I was gone, and felt terrible.

As the night went on, his condition grew worse. And Charlie worried.

I could hear Matt heaving in the bathroom, and went to check on him. I stood at the door, peeking in, and Charlie nosed the door open, softly walking toward Matt. “Charlie NO!” I said, but it was too late. He walked to where Matt lay curled around the toilet, gently rubbed his nose on his hand, then sat down.

He wasn’t leaving.

While Matt grew sicker, he refused to go to the doctor. So I went to bed and hoped for the best. As I slept, Matt grew seriously ill, back spasms gripping his body, followed by violent retching sessions. Matt later told me he never got a wink of sleep, and that Charlie never left his side.

By morning, I found Matt laying face down on the bathroom floor. Charlie sat nearby, his brown ears pulled back, his puppy lips pursed.

Matt finally agreed to get medical care.

I called in sick, filled Charlie’s purple KONG with liver treats, then rushed Matt to the hospital.

Matt quickly was diagnosed with kidney stones, and eventually was kept for overnight observation. After about six hours, I took a break to run home to grab some toiletries, and to check on the dogs. Charlie greeted me tentatively, and looked out the front window looking for Matt. I quickly grabbed what I needed, fed the dogs and drove back to the hospital.

About 12 hours later (around 4 a.m.) I decided to run home to grab a bit of sleep. Both dogs were staring out the front window when I pulled up. Charlie hugged my legs with his paws, and softly cried. I had never heard him do that before, and my heart melted. I pulled Charlie into my arms and held him as he continued to whimper. I whispered in his ear.

“Daddy’s gonna be all right. Daddy loves you.”

He anxiously licked my nose.

Amazingly, after leaving the dogs alone for 12 hours the house was in perfect condition. I was grateful for that gift, and promptly slept for about three hours.

At 8 a.m. I woke up, and spoke with Matt. The doctors were filling out his discharge paperwork, so I could come get him. I was gone just a few hours, and Lex and Charlie were dutifully watching out the window when we returned.

The first thing we noticed was the fluff. Everywhere. It took me a moment to realize what happened, then Matt screamed out confirmation.

“You ate the bleepin’ comforter!!!” he screamed at Charlie.

Charlie dropped to his stomach, and wiggled his way out of the room.

After everything we had just been through, I was pretty sure a tore up comforter was the least of our worries. Matt grabbed the blanket, and threw it down into the basement.

Charlie trotted after Matt, following him to the couch.

“C’mon,” Matt said, patting the cushion next to him.

Without hesitation, Charlie in one motion hopped up and snuggled into Matt’s side.

Charlie was glad to have his daddy home.

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FurFamHORZNTL

How much for that doggie in the window?

Gallery

This gallery contains 3 photos.


When we leave the house, it’s not unusual to see Lexie and Charlie push their noses against the front window as we pull away. But lately, Charlie has startled us by sitting high atop the couch, intently looking out, waiting … Continue reading

Thunderstruck


The first thing Charlie did once we got the Thundershirt wrapped around him? He yawned. We both agreed he was noticeably calmer.

I have to say when we first heard about Thundershirt, Matt and I hesitated.

The concept seemed too good to be true. Eliminate a dog’s separation anxiety by wrapping a tight shirt around him? Sure. I guess I’ve heard of weirder things.

But then we got a solid recommendation from our friend Lenny Z. And we watched a favorable news report. This was followed by testimonials from a few more friends.

Charlie fit in the low end of a size medium, so he will be able to grow into his Thundershirt.

We went to the website and poked around. After seeing that Thundershirt offered a full refund if it didn’t calm our pup, Matt and I were ready to commit.

Honestly, it felt good to have a solution. Even if it wasn’t a guaranteed solution, we finally had something to try out. The last few weeks with Charlie have slowly been eating at us, like a swift river tearing away at a river bank. His destructive nature has startlingly increased, and in recent days he has taken to barking at absolutely nothing at all. Sure, he is a border collie mix, but really?!? Our nerves were raw, and we needed something — anything — that would provide a bit of encouragement.

We bought the Thundershirt at a local PetSmart, where an associate told us we were making a good purchase. Since the store started carrying them last fall, the store has only had one return. Matt and I locked eyes. Was that hope we were feeling?

As soon as we got home, I ignored the 90-degree weather and tore open the box. Charlie would at least try it on. I pulled out the shirt, and marveled at all the flaps and velcro. Part swaddling/part straightjacket, it was surprisingly easy to get on. Thank goodness Charlie did not fight me. As soon as I fastened the last  flap of shirt, Charlie looked up at me and yawned. His eyes seemed a little heavier than usual. He snuggled into me.

This felt promising.

Resting with Daddy.

We kept him in the shirt for about a half-hour. It was long enough to see a change in Charlie, and to know that we would wrap him up in his Thundershirt when we went out for dinner.

As luck would have it, a loud, boisterous thunderstorm rolled through while we were dining at a Korean restaurant about 20 minutes away. Knowing Charlie was wearing his Thundershirt, we crossed our fingers and finished dinner.

Charlie greeted us at the door. We slowly walked in, scanning the couch for wood shavings from the window sill. The room was spotless. The window was still firmly affixed to the wall. Charlie was happy to see us, but not in the desperate way we has grown accustomed to. After our first day, we’re cautiously considering this thunderous therapy a success.

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Separation anxiety


At first, it was really cute that Charlie follows Matt around like the Pied Piper.

Charlie will lovingly gaze up at Matt, and trot behind his every step. In the morning, Charlie will lay in his dog bed until Matt rises. During the day, Charlie will nap on the floor by Matt’s feet. Then follow Matt out into the yard. In some ways this seems a natural extension of his border collie behavior. Herding daddy.

Yes Charlie, it is appropriate to chew on the squeaky squirrel. It is NOT appropriate to chew on the rug (see lower right corner).

This lovefest started taking a neurotic turn a few weeks ago. Matt and I walked out front to retrieve something from the truck, leaving the front door open. Charlie immediately jumped up on the couch to look out the front window at us, then started barking. As we walked back up to the house, he jumped on the screen door, howling like mad. It was hard to open the door because he was pushing against it so hard and I didn’t want him to shoot into the front yard. Once I got inside, it took minutes to calm him.

Then there’s the matter of the front window. While Matt was away on business, and I had to leave Charlie home alone for the first time, I came back to find he had chewed the window sill. He did some more damage a few days ago, so we bought bitter cherry to spray on the sill. Last night while we were at dinner, he moved up to a munton/window pane divider that we did not spray and did some serious damage.

Also this week, he chewed off the corner of a rug by our front door. Matt caught him in the act, and delivered a stern “NO!” but that didn’t prevent last night’s window feast.

Matt feels Charlie has deep issues that need to be addressed; I think he needs obedience class. The discussions have been tense.

It’s funny how puppy love can lead to relationship stress.

I think we are both right. Charlie is stressed out. Possible separation anxiety. I think behavior modification will work. And yes, Charlie needs more structure in his life.

In some ways this has not seemed like a big deal to me because the behavior felt familiar. I have had many puppies, and they all go through that terrible chewing phase. I’ve lost countless shoes, books, couches and cellphones to that cause. My laid back approach to this destruction is driving Matt mad.

But I do see the troubling signs that Matt has identified. It’s not that he’s chewing, it’s that he’s chewing in response to our absence.

It’s not healthy that Charlie can’t let Matt leave the room without freaking out. What began as a charming routine of Charlie following his daddy, has become an unhealthy fixation. And his destruction when we leave him alone is not acceptable.

Unfortunately, crating is not an option.

We’ve decided to seek help from a behaviorist. Despite our good intentions, our bright ideas have not gotten us too far.

We’re hoping an outside voice will guide us in the right direction.

NEXT: An unexpected solution.

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