The Ugly Part of Living with a SA Dog

Just when I thought it couldn't get worse with Vito it did.  This time not really his "fault" but due to a change at work.  It's kennel cough time at work like it happens every year around this time. Once one dog brings it into the kennel, everyone gets it.  Unfortunately this time it was decided that no pet dogs are allowed in the building for at least two weeks.  In years past risk of coming is always to the pet dogs as of course we can't make the kennel more sick than it already is.  I've crossed fingers and toes every year in hopes that my crew never got sick so that I wouldn't have to figure out what to do with them.  And we luckily survived each time.  But now that wasn't even an option.  Pet dogs are a privilege, not a right.

So we're trapped.  Let Vito panic for hours and hours on end and likely have an actual heart attack, or stop coming to work.  My dog or my job.

Thankfully I do have some PTO, not that I wanted to use it for the next 2 weeks.  Technically a lot of it is supposed to be saved for my "forced" vacation time that happens for 2 weeks over the Christmas holidays when the kennel is closed and all service dog trainees go to foster homes.
And thankfully Adam was able to get someone to switch shifts with him so that he doesn't have to work until 3-11pm.  So Vito and the other 2 get to spend time at home while I work half shifts at work all this week and next, and race home so that the longest Vito is left is 15min.  

And of course it rears depressing thoughts on living with a dog with separation anxiety.  You're always trapped.  Never able to go out with the husband to see a movie or even go grocery shopping.  Someone is ALWAYS with the dog.  Summers are the best as at least there are a few dog friendly places you can go.  If you want to deal with the car anxiety which you've already decided is the lesser of the 2 evils.  Shorter in duration at least.

I know that if Vito weren't MY dog that the most humane thing would be to let him go.  Nobody should have to deal with a dog with severe separation anxiety.  It's not healthy for the people to work so hard to prevent it for a decade or so of their lives and it's not healthy for the dog to be in so much panic.  Medication and behavioral modification can do wonders for many dogs with SA.  But not Vito.  If I were to die I've already told Adam that he has my permission, and my urging, to let Vito go.  A person on their own can't help Vito feel safe all the time.  And finding a home that can would be impossible and I would say unethical.

But although my thoughts keep drifting to the day that a decision might be necessary, we're not there.  I have never loved another dog as much as I love Vito.  And we can make it work.

Post note:  
The reason I wrote this serious post is I want to make sure dog trainers, rescues, and pet people are aware of how serious of a disease separation anxiety is.  It is not to be taken lightly due to how incredibly difficult it is to manage it and prevent panic attacks and even possible injury to the dog in their panicking.   I would not hesitate to immediately put a dog on medication and immediately start a training protocol to try and help a dog as fast a possible.  But not everybody has the means to make living with such a dog work.  And then you have to consider the ethics of having a dog in the world who is having full blown panic attacks for hours every. single. day.  And that decision is serious, sad, and very real.  

Anonymous  –   – ( July 9, 2015 at 8:07 PM )  

And that's why this is my most-disliked behavior problem. Sad dogs and very, very difficult on the humans. I'm so sad for you and everyone else in a similar situation.

Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck  – ( July 9, 2015 at 11:00 PM )  

I agree. Even a dog with aggression issues can be very difficult to work with and fix, but management is usually easier to implement. Thankfully medication and behavioral mod programs really do help a lot of dogs with SA.

Valerie  – ( July 9, 2015 at 11:14 PM )  

Oh, wow, Laura. I've been reading your blog for a while now, and I knew Vito had his issues, but I didn't realize it was so incredibly bad. Even though I've seen your posts on his anxiety, I guess it was hard for me to fathom the extent of it, especially since he is so well trained, knows so many behaviors, competes in agility, etc. I just assumed it was at the really really super annoying level, not at the level you described in this post. I'm so sorry. Vito is so lucky to have you, and I will keep all of my fingers and toes crossed that you see much more of the happy Toller in the near future.

Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck  – ( July 9, 2015 at 11:33 PM )  

With extreme management in place Vito is a relatively "normal" dog. His general anxiety and reactivity are both fairly low to moderate levels so most people who know him in real life don't know. He can be quirky with routine changes, but it's more frantic panting/pacing and he winds down eventually. At home with his people he is very easy to live with unless he's having a "bad day." He's a low energy dog who likes cuddling on the couch most of the day and putting himself to bed early. Vito has no problem going off on his own as long as he knows he's not alone. And he's not a busy dog throwing toys in your lap all day unless he's worked himself up over something and just can't relax.

But his separation anxiety is severe and his car anxiety is severe. It's the SA that requires such extreme management. A dog with SA can never be left longer than the time that is built up. Vito's time is about 5min. His car time is 0min. But the car trip duration is shorter. Although it does mean weighing whether a 15min drive to a park is worth the total 30min of panicking for maybe an hour of fun...

I have no hope for Vito's SA to be better. Gave up on that years ago. Not a single medication has helped since the miracle year of 2012. But medication in the past has helped his ability to relax at work (as I'm not around much at my desk but he's with/near others), car rides, and ability to handle changes in his routine. So that's what I'm praying to get better. Less panic attacks. And to be able to bring him back to work soon to resume our arrangement.

Ximena  – ( July 11, 2015 at 11:39 PM )  

Laura I am so sorry. I know firsthand how much SA can impact a human's life; it has been so hard to find any meaningful employment for over a year because of Riko. Riko's is slightly more manageable than Vito's, but only during the colder months of the year when the car is okay for him. My heart goes out to you and I hope the bordetella is cleared up quickly because living like how you've described has to be so immensely stressful for you and Vito both. I am crossing my fingers hoping that little damage comes of this type of change. <3

achieve1dream  – ( October 26, 2015 at 11:50 AM )  

On the kennel cough thing, can the pet dogs not be vaccinated against it and still go to work?? Does the vaccine not work?

I'm so sorry things are so difficult with Vito. I knew it was bad, but I guess I'm kind of like Valerie that I didn't realize it was that bad. :( It's too bad he can't be with someone like my mom. She is always home because of my handicapped brother (when she does get to leave the house there is always someone there with my brother which means there would always be someone there with a dog like Vito and even when they take my brother to the doctor I'm always there with their dog). I'm glad he has you. I just wish things were easier on you.

Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck  – ( October 26, 2015 at 1:00 PM )  

Good question. The kennel cough vaccine, bordatella, is like the flu shot. It only protects against 1 strain and the dogs can still easily get it. It supposedly lessens the duration of the virus and the symptoms.

I don't think too many homes like your mom's exist. Even my grandparents stay home most of the time but they still go shopping and like to go out to eat and stuff. I just avoid thinking about the future!

achieve1dream  – ( October 26, 2015 at 4:35 PM )  

Oooh that's good to know about the bordetella vaccine. I knew it was intranasal and that they recommend it every six months when boarding, but that's about all I knew lol. That's interesting that it's like the flu shot.

Yeah there aren't many situations like my mom's. It's not even an ideal situation to be honest. I hate that she doesn't get to get out much, but she seems okay with it more of the time because she's a big time introvert. One of the reasons I moved back down here is so I can babysit my brother so she can get out of the house, but my stupid job is making that difficult.

Hey not thinking about the future can sometimes be a good thing!! They say depressed people live in the past and anxious people live in the future, content people live in the now... so let's just live in the now. :D

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