Big trouble


I swear I didn’t do it. Really! I’ve just been here the whole time looking cute. (Photos by Matt Greenberg)

Whatever progress we made with the Thundershirt, quickly unraveled with a late-night car ride to 7-Eleven.

I could tell Matt was feeling hopeful, as he pulled out the red retractable leash belonging to Charlie.

“Do you want a doughnut?” Matt asked. It was almost 11 p.m., but I smiled and said “Sure.”

As they pulled away, I was relieved. Daddy spending some quality time with his boy.

Fifteen minutes later, the front door flew open. Something (possibly profane) was said about the dog. One thing was clear. The dog was in BIG trouble.

“He (bleeping) pissed on my front seat!!! Matt said, just shy of a scream. He was incredulous. “He peed on my seat when I was in the store. I can’t believe it. He peed in my truck.”

By now, Charlie was nowhere to be seen.

Looking back on it, the obvious question to ask: Was Charlie wearing his Thundershirt? The answer is no. It was just a quick trip to the store. Still it was just enough to illustrate it doesn’t take much time for separation anxiety to rear its ugly head.

Charlie resurfaced, trotting through the front room without a care. I could see the temperature rise in Matt. He decided to seclude himself in the library. It was for the best that Matt and Charlie take a breather.

Charlie remained on good behavior for the next couple days. I think he knew it was in his interest to lay low, and to administer lots of puppy kisses.

Matt and I started feeling confident again. We suited him up for a visit to see Matt’s grandma. Upon arrival, Charlie cowered and immediately peed on Matt when he picked him up. Somehow, the Thundershirt just wasn’t working in this instance.

When Matt came home, we left Charlie in his Thundershirt and went out for lunch. I didn’t notice the destruction when we came home. After all, he was wearing it. The Thundershirt. He had chewed through the neck strap and reduced it to a sweater band around his belly.

Matt was forlorn.

In the next few hours, we played with Charlie, talked about our options, then wrapped what remained of the Thundershirt around him. We were exasperated. We left for dinner, and two hours later hesitated before walking back in. The house was in one piece, and so was the tattered shirt.

Hallelujah for small miracles.

Documenting Lex in her favorite chair.

A losing battle

With all the hub-bub caused by Charlie, it was easy to miss something is wrong with Lexie.

Her hind legs are buckling under the impossible weight of her frail 28-pound frame. Just standing at her dog bowl, her legs slide out beneath her. We’ve placed a rug by her bowl to provide some traction, but that leads to her next problem.

Her appetite has diminished. I’ve taken to spoon-feeding her wet dog food. But the last two days, she’s just turned her nose to the food. She’s managed to get by on a handful of biscuits, a slice of turkey and a piece of cheese.

And there’s the matter of her peeing on herself. Sigh. She has no idea, but she’s been wetting her dog bed and our couch.

Lex nibbles on a piece of cheese. Apparently much tastier than mushy dog food.

I brought all of these symptoms to the vet today. She said Lexie definitely is experiencing kidney failure, which affects her urinary habits and possibly her appetite. The vet prescribed a kidney-friendly painkiller to hopefully help Lex stand without pain. Lex also will go on a med to help with her pee issues, and we added in an antacid in hopes of making food a bit more yummy.

All-in-all, we are fighting a losing battle.

The vet said many dog owners simply will euthanize their dog when it starts wetting in the house. My heart sank.

“I’ll get doggie diapers if I have to,” I offered.

Lex doesn’t have much time left.

This much I know.

This much I can hardly bear.

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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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Growing pains


Charlie considers his options. The toy basket is looking good.

It was inevitable.

I knew it would be a matter of time before Charlie chewed something again. The first incident was when he chewed the wood muntin/window pane divider in the front room. Unfortunately, I was not home when it occurred, so I lost the opportunity to positively reinforce the idea of eating a squeaky squirrel instead.

This time it was the edge of a rug by the front door. Honestly, not that big of a deal. But Matt was there when the destruction went down, and he swiftly delivered a stern, “NO!!!”

Being a sensitive border collie, Charlie acted like he was shot through the heart. Squeaky toys were presented as peace offerings. And soon enough, he was wiggling and snuggling like usual.

Up til now, we’ve been unbelievably lucky. Charlie loves his basket of toys. I fill it up, then he unpacks it one squeaker at a time. He’s only defluffed one toy, a squeaky giraffe, but we actually don’t have proof he did it. The alleged stuffing assault took place while Charlie and Lex shared a cabin at Camp Bow Wow. Lex has pleaded the Fifth.

BONUS FOOTAGE: Charlie bites a spider … or is it the other way around?

As of today, Matt and I still have all pairs of our shoes. And not one book has teeth marks in it. Believe me, I know that I have it good. I once owned a dog that ate my cellphone, completely deconstructed a couch and jumped through a window.

So chewing on the corner of a rug seems like small potatoes.

Still, I know it’s destructive behavior. He was bound to have some growing pains. We need to address it swiftly, in a positive manner. But Charlie is smart. With the right direction and reinforcement, he’ll continue to grow into a model canine.

In the meantime, I’ll be investigating dog obedience classes.

It couldn’t hurt.