As of last week, I’ve had Gus for six months. Six months! As you may remember, my first few months with him were, um, challenging. There were times when I wanted to give him back, or put a muzzle on him, or lock him in a closet (or a combination of those three).
A few months ago, I took him to see a veterinary behaviorist to work on his extreme anxiety. Because I had to book the appointment more than a month in advance, by the time we had our appointment, Gus had settled down. The vet praised me for all the work I’d done with him (he’d already nailed all of his obedience school exercises), made some suggestions, gave me worksheets and links to training videos, and prescribed him three items: an herbal anti-anxiety medication, a plug-in diffuser that dispenses lactating dog pheromones, and a CD of classical music. I kid you not. Gus was essentially prescribed the canine equivalent of marijuana, scented candles, and a mix tape.
Gus has become a very good dog, and only very partly due to his vet’s prescriptions. Instead, I’ve figured out most of his fears and limitations, and we have coping techniques – boundaries, praise, diversions, and chicken hot dogs – to work through them.
If you’d told me three months ago that Gus would stop charging other dogs on his walks, or that he’d stop barking from 3:00 to 9:00 pm, I wouldn’t have believed you. But now Gus is a frickin’ angel dog, barking only at squirrels, pigeons, squawking crows, the American flag in the park, men talking on their cell phones while walking, and the bull mastiff who takes three-minute pees on the tree in front of my house. It’s progress, really.
So, here’s to patience! And to love! And to small, energetic dogs who just want to know they’ve got a forever home.