October 17, 2021 by Cláudia
It’s already been one year since I adopted my adorable dog.
Seriously, she’s adorable.
Besides being adorable, incredibly smart and sweet, she, unfortunately, has a pretty bad case of separation anxiety. During this past year, I have only left her for short periods of time and even then the results have been a disaster – doors chewed, electrical wires damaged and mind-shatteringly uninterrupted loud barking.
No one around me can fully understand how deeply this has destabilized my life, how overwhelming and isolating it can be to have a pet with behavioural problems.
So here’s a little snippet of what I’ve been dealing with:
Feeling so socially isolated because I can’t agree to plans if I can’t bring her with me because I would spend the whole time anxious about what was happening at home with her.
An overall frustration of not being able to do normal human things such as going grocery shopping or going to a doctor’s appointment peacefully.
Feeling frustrated at her for her behaviour, while at the same time knowing it’s not her fault and feeling guilty that she’s in emotional distress.
An overwhelming amount of unsolicited advice, often contradictory and sometimes extremely harmful (I’m not giving away my dog, please stop suggesting I abandon my dog. Also, no, I’m not going to lock her in a bathroom).
About 6 months into this process, I was completely checked out emotionally. I had tried countless different training methods, advice from “dog behaviour specialists” and nothing seemed to be helping. Or worse, sometimes it would get better and then suddenly a lot worse. Eventually, I just wrapped my mind around the fact that this was going to be my life for the next 10+ years.
And yet, three dog trainers later, countless sleepless nights and literally thousands of euros spent, we are finally on the right track, following a humane and gradual separation anxiety protocol, based on desensitization. I’ve managed to leave her for two minutes and thirty seconds, which is incredible progress in just 3 weeks (before, I couldn’t even open the front door without her running towards me and howling).
I’ve been focusing all my spare time and energy on trying to deal with this problem and therefore I’ve had to let go of many of the expectations I had set for myself. It’s been really important to tell myself that I’m doing the best I can with the resources that I have available and that I’ll get back to writing/yoga/activism when I’m able to.
Adopting my dog has destabilized my life in ways I couldn’t have predicted and turned my life upside down. And yet, I wouldn’t take it back. She’s a member of my family now and I will do everything in my power to help her and to minimize her separation anxiety. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to phrase this post, as I don’t want the message to come across as “don’t adopt, it has ruined my life”. If you want to add a new member to the family and have the time and resources, you should definitely adopt. But adopt responsibly, knowing that the animal can come with its own issues, whether health-related or behavioural.
Even at my most desperate, it never crossed my mind to bring her back to the shelter. I made a commitment when I brought her into my home (and into my heart) and I’ll take care of her for as long as she blesses me with her life.
If you want to follow our journey along, join us on TikTok @anxious_dog_mom