Trial & Error- Tales From the Edge of Parenting – My Third “Child”
A lot of us have a kid like this... they eat your food, make a mess & don't even have the courtesy to say "I'm sorry". You can't reason with them. You can't plead with them. They just stare at you with that same blank look. The child I speak of? My dog. Yep, man's best friend.
They say dogs lower your blood pressure and shower you in unconditional love. They speak of dogs that save lives, that help the blind, that run into burning buildings to find people. Not my dog. My dog is just your run-of-the-mill pound puppy. Don't get me wrong, I love my dog just like I love my other kids, but at the end of the day the kids have learned something while the old dog... well, you know what they say about old dogs & new tricks. I've embedded a few videos here to show you the damage a dog can do. These are not videos I've taken, and it leaves me very thankful that only loud noise, and not boredom, is what sets my dog off.
We went into the pound seven years ago looking for a small dog with short fur. We came out with the biggest, hairiest dog in the place. It was love at first sight, what can I say? We knew this was our dog. We were two weeks from moving into our first house, and we figured our first house needed our first dog. We hit the jackpot in terms of pound puppies. Only six months old (vet estimate), she was potty-trained and leash-trained. She didn't chew on anything. She didn't jump on furniture. She didn't bark. Yes, you heard me. She DIDN'T bark. For the first month we had her, she just didn't bark. Either she was uncomfortable with the new surroundings, or she had just never been taught. That eventually went away, and now we have the neighborhood's chattiest dog.
Things began to go haywire about a year after we brought her home. We left for a Labor Day trip to Oklahoma to see relatives. We'd have neighbors and friends feed her & take care of her while we were gone, but on the 2nd day of our trip we got a phone call. Lexi had escaped the back yard and went on a field trip. She'd never before even TRIED to escape, so this came as quite a surprise. I chalked it up to loneliness and the young lady that called agreed to keep her at her house until we returned. Then came another call. Lexi had escaped the other back yard and was now being boarded by a kindly vet tech.
After returning home and retrieving my explorer, I began to go Sherlock Holmes figuring out how (and why) she'd escaped. I did a security scan and plugged a few spots she might have used as her escape route. The one thing I've never figured out is why she didn't just jump over the 3-foot fence we have in the backyard instead of all the digging. Hey, old dogs, right? As I'm bragging to my wife about how great of a job I did securing the perimeter I see Lexi staring at me through a window... ON THE FRONT PORCH!!
That's her M.O. She doesn't escape to go party with friends or go whoring around. She escapes, walks to the front porch and just waits. Even if we're gone at the time, we could always count on Lexi either chilling in the front yard under our tree, or sitting on the porch waiting for us. This made me even more suspicious that she just had separation issues. Those suspicions went away quickly as I was putting her in the backyard again. Out beyond our backyard is an open field, and being dove hunting season, several Elmer Fudd-types were using the field (inside city limits) for hunting. I'd hear POW!!, followed a few seconds later by the sound of stray dove-shot hitting the metal roof of our patio.
That had to be it!! She was afraid of the loud noises and dove-shot. "OK", I thought, "She'll be fine once hunting season is over". The plan was to just keep her in the house as much as we could until hunting season was over. Hunting season came & went without further incident. Then came New Year's Eve. We decided to leave Lexi at home for a one-night camping trip. It wasn't that cold, and we'd be gone less than 24 hours total. Upon arriving home from that camping trip we found the front of our house looking like a grisly murder scene. We'd forgotten about New Year's fireworks. Lexi had scratched, clawed & chewed her way through the back wood privacy fence and on to freedom. There was blood along the bottom of the garage door from where she apparently tried to fit under the slightly-open door. There was blood on the front porch where she'd tried to get in. Examining her, we found she was bleeding from her mouth and paws. Nothing too serious by that point, but it still scared us.
This has gone on during every thunderstorm, fireworks celebration & Ft. Hood training ever since. This week is her least favorite week of the year. She's just a nervous wreck. It's not even that she freaks out when fireworks are set off in close proximity. If there are fireworks going off miles and miles away she'll still lose her mind.
When we decided we wanted to sell our current home and move into another, we were hit with more than $1,000 in damages that needed to be fixed. The baseboard surrounding the door from the garage into the kitchen, from the back porch into the dining room and from the master bedroom into the living room was completely destroyed. She had been isolated, at one point in time or another, in each of those rooms when loud noises came. Each time, she completely destroyed property to get out of the room in which she was trapped.
We took Lexi to Sit Means Sit dog training, and she graduated a much better-trained dog, but even they acknowledged there's not much you can do with a dog that's stressed out by loud noises. I've heard people suggest doggy Valium, thunder jackets & caging her during storms. I bought her an ASPCA-approved steel cage. She broke out of it during the first storm. I can't rely on meds because our concern is more when a storm sneaks up that we weren't expecting and couldn't get home in time. We can't just have a pill-popping dog JUST IN CASE we get a storm. And thunder jackets? Really? C'mon, get serious. She'd be the laughing stock of the neighborhood, and we just can't have that.
Are there any success stories out there? Has anyone successfully treated a dog that freaks out at loud noises? I'm willing to try just about anything now that our house is fixed and we don't want any more damage done. This is going to be a rough week, especially if I have to work Thursday night. Leaving her at home is terrifying with fireworks going off. Every time I open the front door I expect to see anarchy unleashed with another escape from the cage.