Greg (my co-pack leader) told me the first post was a little bit depressing. I suppose that’s true, and part of the reason I started this blog is because I’m a little bit depressed. Is there an adoption equivalent of post-partum depression? But I promise that the whole blog won’t be depressing!
On top of the intense medical care that Spencer needed in the beginning (treatments as frequently as four times a day) — which mostly fell on my shoulders because I work from home, Spencer also suffers from separation anxiety, which is common among dogs rescued from a shelter. As our trainer points out: these dogs have already suffered the loss of their mother and at least one home, so it’s normal that they might worry you’ll never come back. On top of that, Cane Corsi are bred to be guard dogs and are VERY attached to their families.
This weekend, I bought a really helpful book, called “Don’t Leave Me: Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety” by Nicole Wilde . I’d read lots of articles about the issue on the Internet, but this is the first thing I’ve seen that helps you put it all together so that you can gradually make things better. This gives me hope that we can give Spencer the reassurance he needs to be zen when we leave him. Based on the stories in the book, Spencer’s case could be far, far worse.
Finally, the book is the first source that distinguishes between two different issues: separation anxiety (related to being separated from one or more people or other dogs) and isolation distress (which relates to the distress of being alone).This is a really useful distinction to make because Spencer has some of both. Since we spend so much time in close proximity and I was his primary caretaker when he was injured, Spencer is hyperattached to me, but has already made great progress. He is now perfectly comfortable when I am upstairs in my office for hours on end, but in the early days, he would cry and bark at the bottom of the stairs. He is also now OK if I go out, or even away for a couple of days, if Greg is there.
But we still have a long way to go with the isolation issue. I tend to either be here constantly or to be away for large blocs of time…and that’s too abrupt a change for our insecure puppy. So I’ve learned from the book that I absolutely have to leave him alone every day (and possibly several times a day), but working up to longer durations (and making the training durations a bit random so he doesn’t perceive a pattern). Today I was out for five minutes without him getting into a panic, but still he was getting concerned. So that will be our starting point. It may not seem like a lot, but I am optimistic that he’ll make good progress if we practice regularly.
So that gives the background for the “depressing” side of the blog, but by starting to write, I am already feeling better. And having read the book and starting to formulate a plan to help Spencer getting over his distress at being alone, I feel like we’ve already taken some important steps. I feel empowered, and that’s important for getting through this process.