Monday, July 27, 2009

Under the Influence

Here's Marge doing her best frog impression.  I suspect she is waiting for dinner, as she knows to go to her corner and wait patiently for us to release her. We don't catch her laying like this often, so I thought this picture that my sister snapped the other day was a good one to show - especially since she spent a good deal of her day in this corner, dozing contentedly, as I sat in the chair pictured, browsing on my laptop.  In fact, that's what we're doing right now!  You can count this picture for Cookie and Cinnamon's game that they have been so nice as to tag us in.

Last night, Marge had her first 1.5 milligrams of Melatonin.  For those that don't know, it's a natural hormone often supplemented as a sleep aid in people, but appears to have a high rate of success when used in the treatment of phobias, particularly sound phobias, for fearful dogs.  I don't think it's a wonder drug, nor will it (or anything) turn my dog into a perfectly "normal" tail-wagging-at-everyone kind of pooch, but if it helps keep Marge under threshold (ie., not running away fearing for her life) so that I can do my part (which means doling out LOTS of treats in the face of scary things), then I'll call it successful.  I don't think it will do anything in the event of full-out fireworks, but hopefully it'll help her recover more quickly to the random crashes, bangs and booms that happen around here due to fireworks, construction, or anything else.

We had a bad, long bout of thunderstorms here yesterday, and while Marge was dealing okay, I figured that it might be a good time to give her the first dose.  The worst of the thunder was over with by then, but we did have some rumbles for a while afterwards.

Now, whether I am imagining an improvement or not is debatable, BUT Marge was able to lay in my lap for a while just after getting the pill.  Then, while it was quiet, she had no problem going out to potty and coming back in for a HUGE slurp of water.

The rest of the night, I don't think she went under the desk for any significant amount of time.  She instead laid on a mat similar to the one pictured near my desk, flat out on her side.  Any time there was a rumble of thunder, she got a bit of cheese, though I don't think she even needed it. 

She got her second 1.5 mg dose this morning at about 11:15 AM.  I figured I'd give it to her so that we could take a long walk in the field, despite it being hot and humid.  I think she enjoyed herself for the most part.. since it is a sports field there are garbage cans scattered throughout it, and we had a great deal of fun running from can to can so that Marge could sniff.  Sorry I don't have pictures - it's tough cramming my phone, treats and a clicker into my pockets - though I hope to have some pictures soon because it really is cute and she looks awfully happy doing it.

She did hear some distant crashes and bangs from the construction going on nearby and got a little concerned about it, but never crossed that pivotal line where all hell breaks loose and she is completely unresponsive.  I do think it has more to do with the relative quietness of the booms rather than the Melatonin, though. 

When we got back, a neighbor who Marge does not know very well dropped by.  In haste, I grabbed Marge's collar while opening the door to let her in.  Marge met her with sniffs and wags, raised her hackles for a brief minute but did not look particularly distressed.  I fed her treats for the remainder of the woman's short visit.  While we do have to work on door manners, I thought it was good that someone did get through the door without being met by Marge's grumbles.  Seems like it's mostly a problem with men.

Just now, we followed our dinner time ritual of going outside with almost a meals' worth of kibble to click and treat for any calm glance at a stranger, loud sound, etc.  Of course, I also reward for eye contact. 

I'd say she did very well - we wandered up the sidewalk for about 7 or 8 houses, and then she started to get to a point where she looked a bit bothered, so we called it quits.  She did not run home, though.. she walked right next to me, offering eye contact frequently.  After that we walked up a bit farther to the field.  On the way she reached out and sniffed a female passer-by who looked a bit afraid. Oh well.. don't fault me for it, but I'd rather the woman be afraid than my dog!

We stayed in the field for a little bit, Marge sniffed around and actually wasn't all that interested in the treats (which COULD have been a calming signal to diffuse stress, but lets count it as a positive for now).  She, again, heard some sort of distant loud noise but didn't get freaked.  

Perhaps the most positive part was that her least favorite person in the world, who she last encountered back in June, passed us on the opposite side of the street.  Marge did not bark, and though she did tense up, she responded to the clicker and offered eye contact back to me very quickly.  We hung around outside for a few more minutes, kibble flying everywhere, and now we're here!

So we've had a fairly good day so far.  I refuse to walk in my neighborhood after 6PM due to the looming threat of stray fireworks going off, but we may take a trip down to the beach depending on how busy it seems out.  

As for the Melatonin, we'll continue at this very low dose into tomorrow.  I don't want to raise the dose yet since we have Agility, and although it's not supposed to make them drowsy, you never know if it could.  The next nice day available to go to the park, I'm going to give her a larger dose so that I can see if it helps her any in regards to walking around people.  The vet told me to do 2 mg twice a day for 3 weeks, but I'd rather use the lowest dose possible and work my way up as necessary.


Golden Samantha July 27, 2009 at 9:47 PM  

I'm thinking poor you, poor Marge - all those loud booming noises, clickers, treats, melatonin. So sorry all these things go on all the time and Marge does not like them. I think you are doing a miraculous job of dealing with it all and applaud your consistency. Keep it up - you are truly terrific to keep at it! We support you!
Hugs and Love xo

PoochesForPeace July 27, 2009 at 11:49 PM  

im glad to hear you've had some good stuff going on with Marge! And by the way, how is your toe healing up!?

Jade Brown July 28, 2009 at 5:15 AM  

Dude, GREAT blog. This whole site that you have set up is top-notch.
I’m really looking forward to reading all of your archives.
Being a person who is actively interested in dog training, I like to see this kind of quality information available on the web.

Sue July 28, 2009 at 12:21 PM  

Good job. I used Melatonin with Bentley who had noise phobias and it seemed to help. He still was bothered, but not panicky. Unfortunately, it didn't work at all for Monty and we had to resort to stronger drugs. We eventually wound up using Valium and that worked wonders.

Martha July 28, 2009 at 1:09 PM  

We cant believe that there was more thunder - poor Marge! At least it sounds like it was quieter thunder.
We hope the melatonin does the trick - sounds like it might help you with your training if it takes the edge of the panic.
You did well with the treats when the neighbour was there - you are doing a grand job. xxxx

Cinnamon and Mint July 29, 2009 at 1:21 AM  

Hi Marge,
You do 'Stay' very well. Cookie and Cinnamon have to learn that!
Cinnamon is sensitive to noises too, but strangely she doesn't respond to thunders or fireworks at all...

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