Friday, May 1, 2015

Was Rack Under The Weather Or Was The Weather Under Him?

When I heard we were getting "Weather" I thought that would be great.  The yards around us are looking dry, and that's normal for April in South Florida.

The second thought I had was "I wonder how Rack would deal with it?".

The answer is so-so.

By the end of the rains we had called the Vet to see if it was possible he had a bladder infection.

You see, he's been "good".  The first weeks we had him, Rack, my McNab SuperDog (TM) watered the front door once, and the little table next to the door once. 

That's it.  Rather good for a then seven month old puppy who was put through hell getting here.  A first owner who was an idiot who apparently tried to use a McNab for a hunting dog.  I question why anyone needs a hunting dog in this day and age, but a McNab is known to be "sensitive" to loud noises and especially percussive noises like gunshots. 

That was followed by him being owner-surrendered and warehoused for 36 days in a Vet's office.  By the time I got him, he spent a week with the Dog Liberator who realized that this poor creature who was showing PTSD needed just the right owner to make him shine.

His shine is a little tarnished.  He still is terrified of noises like the 50 Bus blowing its air brakes, a dropped dish, and of course, Thunder.

We had a lot of that over the last week.  Over 2 inches of rain in two days, again normal for South Florida, accompanied by lightning and other atmospherics. 

He dealt with that by hanging near me, always keeping me in sight.  He could have been like he was when I got him by climbing under me and shivering enough to make things rattle, which would cause more shivering. 

"Nasty feedback loop, Rack, get out from under the chair!"

However it wasn't all hearts and flowers.  He pretty much shut down.  During the day he moved to the back of the crate.  So far back that he might have passed across the border into the next city, over a half of a mile away.

"Where's Rack?"
"In the Crate-Annex.  So far back that he's crossed back into Oakland Park."

Nice town but not a great place for him to hide.  The weather there is just as rainy as here.

We did what we could but the thing about Fear in Fearful Dogs is that you have to let them confront their fears in a controlled manner.  Since we can't yet control the weather, we had to let him tough that one out.

Lettie, my departed dog, used to hate Thunderstorms as well.  She'd run around the house and bark at the skies.  If I even said the word "Boom" she'd grumble and fret.  While Lettie had her phobias and fears, she was approaching normal and didn't really have this PTSD that Rack has.

The solution in a less severe case is to "Make Storm Time, Play Time".  We were fortunate that Lettie had a strong prey drive.  She was easy then.  Toss a tennis ball at her and she'd catch it.  Bounce it on the floor and she'd try to play.  If the thunder hit at that moment, she'd bark at the thunder, then grab the ball.

I don't have that option with Rack.  So I just let him enjoy the darkness of the back of the Crate-Annex that virtually crossed the dimension into another city.  If he came out, I'd lavish attention on him.

Great.  Less work for me I guess, I don't have to be "on" all the time.  Dad could relax.  He didn't want attention most of the time.

That left feeding and walks.

Feeding is always a challenge.  He's missing a tooth which means his food must be soft.  This created a problem with him as a puppy and some truly frustrating moments until I pieced it together and had the vet specifically look at his mouth.

"He's missing a pre-molar!"

I told them from that point forward his normal food would be softened with hot tap water and that made it "better".  Not perfect, but "better".  He's now eating but it takes my own attention with tapping the bowl and telling him to eat to get the food into him.  It's slow going on most days except when ...


The solution for that is to watch the weather closely.  I have to check Radar within an hour of his eating and if there is a storm within 20 miles, he gets fed immediately.  This is even if the storm isn't coming this way.  All the ducks have to be in a row with him.  Then praise when he eats and a gentle "Hungry, Rack?" over and over in a mantra to get him back on task.

Finally, walks. 

This was why we thought he had a bladder problem.  You see, he didn't.  He had a fear of thunder.

I walked him for his normal distance each of those noisy and rainy days.  We would do our best with the timing of the storms, but one night it was thunder to the left, fireworks to the right.   We were done for.

Came home and the next morning as soon as he got out of the bedroom, he marched to the front door and relieved himself on the towel we kept there to catch the slop of coming inside.

That's what it's there for, and there's a lot of sand here near the beach.

Same thing tomorrow.  Walks were painful, arm was being wrenched from sockets, thunder and lightning.  The second morning an new towel gets painted.  I just couldn't get out of the bedroom fast enough to let him out a door to water the mailbox's post.

However the first non-rainy day, we had him blocked in the bedroom until I could get myself out and ready to walk him.  It also helped that the last walk the night before, he was truly empty.   We restricted water and I was able to get him out before an accident.

The towel was unmolested, and then I removed it the next day.

He's been good ever since.  The rains faded to no thunder.  His personality came back from the Crate-Annex, and he's not quite so panicked.

Basically that's the thing with Fearful Dogs.  You have to be more patient and take things on their terms.  For that matter, dogs in general, you have to do things on their terms.  They will bend and can become an amazing friend and partner, but there's a limit to too far you can push.

With a Fearful Dog, every day is a learning experience, but some things simply take longer to re-learn

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