Archive for July 28th, 2009

I read a piece about dogs and thunder (I think maybe in the daily paper) where some “expert” advised that you not do anything special, or it would “make the dog think that something is going wrong”.  How about that one, huh?  Sounds like the old business about letting babies cry.  (Maybe that’s how that “expert” was raised.)  Basically, the advice is to abandon him to his terror – so then he gets to be terrified and alone.  It’s bogus advice.  It’s bad psychology, human or animal.

Today i was working on the front porch when the rain started, with thunder out in the distance.  Buddy was sleeping the afternoon away in his doghouse out back.  When the thunder got a little louder I went the back door and called him to see if he wanted to come in.  No response: he apparently was still fine in the cozy safety of his doghous.  He truly is less terrified of this stuff then he used to be.

Back at my desk on the front porch, a few minutes later there came a really loud crack.  “Oh, boy, he’s gonna want in now!”  Sure enough, by the time i reached the back door, he was there waiting.  But still braver than in the past: instead of hiding under the kitchen table (or back in my bedroom, where he goes when he’s really scared), he plopped down on his bed – pretty much in the middle of the room.

Then another really loud bang came.  I did what i do in this circumstance – and what really seems to work for Buddy.  i squeezed right up close to him, wrapped my arms around him, put my face right against his and – yes, in a light, playful, melodious tone – said, “Oh, man, that was a terrible sound.”  And so it went for a few more nasty cracks.

It is so obvious that this attention from me does not alarm him more, but comforts him.  When i first put my face against his, he even made the little lip-smacking he makes whenever he really likes being petted.  This loving attention doesn’t send any wrong signal – it helps him to keep breathing (if maybe fast and shallow), it keeps him from getting frozen up.  If he can ride it through without going too deeply into freeze mode, he comes out of it a lot easier and better.

There is one way that i make somewhat less of a deal of thunderstorms these days then when i first encountered Buddy’s thunder fears: I don’t expect of myself that i stay with him through the whole storm – or even, sometimes, for the whole loud part.  Today i had a couple of things i really had to get done before leaving for a meeting, so – after my initial comforting – i did allow myself to go off and do some other stuff.

Then i looked in on him a few minutes later.  He was still breathing, not frozen, not acutely terrified – moping, his head on the floor, having a lousy time, but still on his bed in the middle of the room, not hiding.  I gave him some more cuddles and some more sweet-talk.  He gave me some real good eye contact – not the vacant staring-off-into-space he does when he has gotten frozen – hyper-ventilated for about a minute, then let out a sigh and rolled over on his side, visibly more relaxed.

I got up to go back to my work and a minute later saw that he had curled up in a tight little ball again – so i gave him another dose of love.  This time he opened his eyes really wide – not in terror, just really looking at me.  Then he sighed again and relaxed.

And i again got up and went back to my work.  Part of me wanted to just stay with him, but the fact was that i really did have a deadline to meet on a project.  If i coulda cloned myself, one of me would have stayed there, but there was only one of me.  And that one knew that he was in a lot better shape because i did give him so much love – that he would unfreeze faster and be more ok afterwards than he would have been otherwise.

And he would know that he was not alone.

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