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The Mental Health Journey of My Dog

The Life of a Dog - With Separation Anxiety

By Alexa SchopferPublished 7 years ago 5 min read
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What? I had to move the couch to see if you were outside. 

It's time! Your finances are in order, your life is finally calming down, so why not pick the puppy of your dreams?!

In this time frame, you educate yourself on the health risks associated with the breed you're envisioning, what food to be feeding them, the list goes on. But how many of you think of the mental health of your dog?

For us, I have wanted a Great Dane since I was a little girl. Their stature and size, their loud roaring bark - it all drew me in like a cool breeze on a warm summer day. They were a magical creature that brought me a sense of clarity and peace when I was around them.

By the time I was old enough to get a Great Dane, I was past the puppy phase and hurt and confused at how many Great Dane adoption sites were on the web. I slowly began to realize the number of gentle giants that were without a home and in need of true loving. So many families invest thousands in the perfect Dane, only to realize their size is beyond imaginable, they need more training than expected, and they may just be too large and in charge for the normal human. But for me, they're everything I could have imagined and more.

After undergoing a phone interview and a house check we were on the waiting list for our gentle giant. We adopted Zeus through an amazing organization known as, Great Dane Angels. They have housed hundreds of Great Danes and paired them with the perfect match for their forever homes. Many will usually go through a foster home first to be assessed, and then placed in their forever home. Great Dane Angels finds as much information as possible on the dog and gives full disclosure to ensure the pup finds its perfect home. Luckily for us, we picked Zeus up from his original owners and had the backstory straight from the book itself.

His backstory is he was loved, he was showed tender love and care. However, his owners had children, a home daycare, and not enough space for him to exert his energy throughout the day. He would constantly use his roaring bark towards the parents of the children who came to drop off, and pick up their kids. So to say the least, they were starting to loose business and needed to find Zeus a new home.

With this background, we are thankful he has no fear in trust, he has no fear in humans, but does have fear in himself when alone. Little ol' Zeus has extreme separation anxiety. Separation anxiety in dogs is very common, for some it goes away after a few weeks of being home, and for others it can last for months, even years. I am relieved to say Zeus turned 2 a week before we picked him up, so he is still in the puppy years of his life. He is able to be trained and rehabilitated, how long will this take- is a question I don't yet have the answer to.

Our vet prescribed Zylkéne to help him adapt. However, we were noticing no change. He popped two screens out of our windows, climbed on my makeup desk, cleared the desk clean, and attempted to escape through my window (also popping the screen out. Luckily the windows were closed). He managed to open up our front door and attempt to get out (thankfully we have a screen door that was latched shut). The following day, I researched Gravol in dogs, so we gave him 2 Gravol tablets (1 will knock me out like a bottle of wine, so for his size I was sure 2 would make him sleep like a baby in a warm blanket). We pushed the couch up against the door, and like the hulk breaking out of his shirt, Zeus pulled the couch back and gnawed away at some of the door until he was able to open it. With a ripped couch, a chewed up the door and one slobbery screen door I called the vet pleading for her best advice. Her advice was clear and concise, "He needed anxiety meds, like yesterday". Yup, you are correct! So I went to the pharmacy to pick up the meds. Prozac. Once I saw the description on the bottle it settled into my mind like the flooding waters from a powerful hose. By giving my dog Prozac I am only putting a kink in the rising waters. The pills don't cure the anxiety, they mask it - if that! The side effects listed: anxiety, aggression in a non-aggressive dog (can you imagine aggression in his size?) liver damage, kidney failure, the list went on. As a human dealing with my own anxiety, I have the resources to expel my anxiety into writing, practicing breathing exercising, or exercising. I can't teach Zeus how to write or breathe through the anxiety, but I can run him! So running we did.

By stimulating his mind and exhausting his body we are giving him less and less opportunity to have the mental and physical energy to become anxious.

Crate training would have been an amazing thing to do. However, his owners did not practice this with him. Crate training helps to protect not only the house when you are gone, but the dog.

On the last day of the Zylekéne Zeus had a major freak out. He chewed through our crawl space door, snuck in through the chewed hole, and while doing so, he stepped on a photo frame and cut his paw. As a result there were bloody paw prints all up the wall from him pawing to get out. It was a true scene from Carrie. This was (I pray to the lords above) the worst we have come home to and hopefully as bad as it will ever get. After this event, the organization Great Dane Angels suggested stopping the meds. Since he freaked out even on 2 Gravol they assumed he was having reverse effects on the medication. After we stopped the meds he has been calmer. This could be due to him slowly realizing people love him and will always come back for him - or it could be that he doesn't do well with medication. I am not against medication by any means, but after seeing the change in events I highly recommend going the organic route before opting for prescription medication.

It is a difficult road to venture down but if you have a partner or friend you are doing it with - be each others' safe havens. Do not fight when you come home to the mess, just bend down and start picking up the pieces. It gets easier as time goes on. You will have amazing progressive steps forward and then you will come home to a big step back, but guess what! Tomorrow is a new day, you will step forward into the beautiful brightness and your pup will get better. Once they learn you are coming back home they will settle down.

Do your research, prepare for the worst when adopting, and just pick up the pieces as you move forward. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Nothing worth fighting for happens over night. Fight for your fur-baby and don't give up.

An amazing organization helping an amazing breed of dogs.

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About the Creator

Alexa Schopfer

A millennial home owner trying to find her mark in the world. Through my writings I often find clarity in difficult situations and peace in past experiences. Follow me as I write about home ownership, the rollercoaster of life, and pets.

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