Monday, September 14, 2009

Where We've Been

Long story short, we did NOT have a good weekend.

I won't get too technical and describe all of it - it'd be painful to write, and I reckon wouldn't be all that fun to read, either. But it seemed like one thing after another just piled on. Reactivity, extreme fear, noise phobias, [MORE] fireworks. It was endless. The lowlights included Marge lunging at a visitor in our house and being so terrified at the park that we had to go home. It's never been that bad.

It's finally time to kick things up a notch. If we continue like this, Marge's universe will keep shrinking, and the only place she'll feel safe is in the house - if even there. Since I'd be absolutely beside myself if our agility classes or hikes in the woods were spoiled by fear, I think it's finally go to the next step. I need to defend what we've got left and win back what the opponent - fear - has taken away from us.

I'm working up the nerve to call my vet and go in for an appointment. I get nervous enough about vet visits as it is for either of my animals, but since behavior problems can be such fickle things to deal with, I'm extra worried this time.

I'm worried about figuring out what to say. I'm worried about having to medicate her and possibly see averse side effects (zonked-outedness, paradoxical aggression). I'm worried about the vet telling me the wrong thing or deciding on a faulty course of treatment. I'm worried that he'll think our problems are so severe that we need the help of a behaviorist, and the consultations will come at $400 a pop - or maybe he won't think anything of any of it. I'm worried that my worrying will make Marge worry. I'm just worried, in general, about how things will change.. for better or for worse, change has always been something that I've struggled with.

I'm slowly preparing myself to do whatever I have to do. I'm trying to muster up the courage to get us out of this rut we've been stuck in all summer and peer out over the top of it, see what's in store for the future. No one said this'd be easy.. it hasn't been all along, and it sure won't be now. But I love my dog more than words could possibly describe, and I'll never give up on her. Ever. No matter how things turn out, no matter how frustrating the road to a life without fear may be, and no matter how far we make it on that road in the end.. at least I can say I tried.

We're in this for life, Marge.


Kathy Mocharnuk September 14, 2009 at 11:29 PM  

Have you had her thyroid checked with a full panel? Do you have a holistic vet by you that might be able to do accupuncture or some herbs that might help if the vet thinks you need to add in some other things? do you have the contolled unleashed or the click to calm books? I know they helped me a lot. Is there anything else that has changed recently, I know you have mentioned fireworks a lot recently were you having those around you before? Has anything changed in her diet? Any remodeling in the house or the yard? What about have you tried the anxiety wraps, you can make your own with a tshirt and I found that very helpful when my dogs are feeling reactive. Just throwing a lot of things out there and I know you have probably tried most of them, but figure I would throw it out in case. so sorry it seems like a bit of a set back, but I will keep my positive thoughts that something will pop up that will give you answers and help Marge

Dexter September 15, 2009 at 6:15 AM  

Poor mom! I would say to skip the behaviorist. We paid a gazillion dollars to see two different ones with two different dogs and they pretty much just told us how to use a clicker and do desnesitizing (which you know how to do).

I met a Bassett Hound on prozac once and he wasn't zonked out. Hard to know with dogs, though. I have AAA and one of the member benefits is a big discount on any medication for your dogs that you get at a regular pharmacy, so if you do try medication keep that in mind.

Both my mastiffs have been reactive dogs and the worst part of training was that just when we were making progress, something unexpected would happen that set us back to square one. Ugh!

The recommendations in the first comment are excellent. Just remember that you are not alone in this struggle. It looks like Marge likes agility and if that is a safe place for her, it is a good spot to help her be more confident. Ultimately, you might have to make her world smaller than you would like.

Keep us posted.

Mango Momma

KB September 15, 2009 at 9:37 AM  

Sam - If your vet doesn't seem helpful or even concerned, find another one! Within the practice that I go to, each vet has a 'speciality' that they like to focus on (even though they're general vets). Ask around and see if you can find a general vet who's especially interested in behavior issues.

I'm betting that you've checked her thyroid, but if you haven't, it's worth doing. And, don't let your vet talk you out of it. There's a lot of recent research showing the link between thyroid levels and behavior. Some of the more accessible research can be found by googling "jean dodds" and canine thyroid. You need more than a standard panel - you need a complete panel. If you need any help finding good info, leave a comment at my blog and I'll send them.

I know that Marge can tell that you're in it for life with her. That touches my heart.

Anna the GSD September 15, 2009 at 9:57 AM  

Marge's mom, you're so awesome for stickin' by your puppin! You deserve a big wet doggie kiss or some chocolate!

Sam September 15, 2009 at 12:17 PM  

The reason I don't think Marge's world has to be this small is because just a few months ago, it wasn't this small. I've acknowledged the fact that Marge will never be a normal dog, she will never be able to do all the things an ordinary dog can do. But to not be able to go to the park? What will we do then? Marge thrives on exercise.. for every exercising opportunity to be filled with fear will not be a good thing. That's why I'm so worried about our daily walks being spoiled by fear of absolutely nothing, or our agility class turning into a scary place for her. I KNOW there has to be away out of this.

Kathy, KB, I haven't had her thyroid checked yet. I've mentioned it to the vet but no one seemed to think it was necessary. Since I want to cover all bases, I'm thinking we're going to have to get it done.

I do have Control Unleashed, but find the book so unbelievably frustrating because it is best used in a class environment so I can't do as much as I'd like with it. I've been looking for CU classes but my club doesn't offer them and I can't seem to find any at all in my area.

Her diet hasn't changed, though due to the recent poopy troubles that still haven't fully cleared up she's been eating mostly boiled chicken and rice. I may switch her food in the near future for a couple of reasons.

if there is no underlying medical cause, the catalyst for these setbacks has definitely, definitely been fireworks. We've had them all summer, and they just won't go away.

Thank you all for your kind thoughts.. hoping to have a good night at agility tonight, and get her into the vet probably on Friday.

The Army of Four September 15, 2009 at 3:04 PM  

We sure hope things go well! Remember - the vet is there to help you! No one knows your pup better than you do. Take your time, be calm (Marge will key off you!), and explain what's going on and what your concerns are. If you don't like the response you get - thank the vet for his time, then find someone else. (I once had a "vet" tell me my newly adopted Lab/Aussie mix was a ticking time bomb who needed to be put down - because he growled a little when the vet cornered him. I took him to another vet who said the poor guy was scared, had an ear infection, and was going to make a WONDERFUL companion for me. We had 13 lovely years together.)
ALL the best to you and Marge. If I can help at all, please email me at bagsbyKZK at gmail dot com. I just know you can work through this!
Karen (mom of the Ao4)

Cinnamon and Mint September 15, 2009 at 5:12 PM  

I think that Marge is a very lucky doggy to have such a dedicated mom with lots of love like you! I can't give you any good advice on the issues that you have, as I myself have behavioristic problems that I am struggling with, the biggest one being Cinnamon's barking. But we are always behind you!

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart September 15, 2009 at 7:52 PM  

Your story is our story. Lilly and I have walked these same roads, had these same setbacks, cried over these same worries, and tried these same holistic/training/this-that-and-the-other-thing ... including taking long breaks from everything and just staying home.

Remind me again how old Marge is?

I ask because Lilly followed a similar trajectory with her fears, then BAM around 2 1/2 she became a very different, much more reactive dog. I later learned it has a lot to do with her "social maturity" and suddenly suffering no fools.

Our behaviorist experience was different from others here. We have a good one who paired the RIGHT medications with some very customized, systematic behavior modification work.

I put off and put off and put off going to meds. I did NOT want to do it, and now ... I feel sad that my "issues" kept Lilly from feeling better sooner.

You know from our blog that things are NOT perfect, but we have made good progress.

We send you BIG hugs and oodles of support.

Rufus and Indie September 15, 2009 at 8:17 PM  

So sorry to hear things are not going well! You are a really strong person and I think Marge feels that!
Fireworks, again???
Please keep us posted!
Lots of kisses
Rufus and Indie

Kathy Mocharnuk September 15, 2009 at 10:02 PM  

If you want to get a thyroid panel done, check into Dr. Dodds, because you can have your vet draw it and prepaire the blood and then sent it to her lab, it will be so much cheaper and she factors in the dogs age, breed, diet, etc..

I have used the control unleashed stuff like the Look at that game and some of those games, but I kow what you mean about a lot of it being stuff that is not stuff you can work on by yourself, but there are some little gems in there too ;-).
Could it be that once the stress chemicals get really going through Marges body it can take up to two weeks for them to leave, and if something say the fireworks are setting it off it might take awhile for her to be back to normal and then if they happen really could be a bad cycle so unfortunately the durn fireworks might be pretty hard to control, and not sure what you would do about all of that but if the fireworks just go for a season...they might be alost done???? and given some time to settle down, or maybe she just needs a quiet time after a big scare for the chemicals to all go back to neutral for lack of a better word then she will be able to handle a little more stress again from other things......

I know how frustrating it can be....I have a pretty reactive little sheltie and I have had a few foster dogs I have really had to work with and it was always so hard when they had slide backs but...hopefully that is just part of the ultimate progress she is going to make.

Hang in there and know you are doing a terrific job with Marge and I know she appreciates it and I would not like to get another reactive dog for sure.....LOL,...but my little reactive guy taught me soooooo many things, I am very lucky I have him and eventually you and Marge are going to work this out

Raegan September 15, 2009 at 10:16 PM  

It's not an easy hand you've got there, but your dedication to Marge is something to see. Gatsby and I will be sending positive vibes your way.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart September 16, 2009 at 11:37 AM  

I second the idea of using Dr. Dodds. We had our vet follow the instructions and we fed-ex'd Lilly's blood to Dr. Dodds, who gave us the all clear. Having her assessment put my mind at ease (somewhat). We still test for thyroid regularly.

Sue September 16, 2009 at 11:45 AM  

Insist on a thyroid panel. It's a great starting place. Monty had a low normal. Some vets wouldn't do anything with that reading, but ours prescribed medication and we saw improvement as far as his fears were concerned. There are also some wonderful meds for anxiety that don't zonk them out. Clomicalm and Prozac are just two. We've had remarkable results with the first. If your vet doesn't seem helpful, find another one. You know your dog best. The vet needs to listen to you.

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