writer, warrior, whack-a-doodle



April 19, 2012
Posted in: Dogs | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Dog lovers generally like or love Loki when they first meet him. They're fooled by his charm.  Even Bernard, our kennel keeper, had a mile-wide smile the first day he met him. "He's well-trained," he said. But that was before he chose to live with the whacka-cracker while we vacation.

The last time we picked up the dogs after vacation, Bernard was so exhausted from Loki's crackerdom, that he literally told us there wouldn't be a kennel in all of Switzerland that would take him for 2,000 Swiss Francs per day.  Those were his exact words. He also said that putting him in a caged kennel would probably be the worst thing for him, so, he would make the sacrifice for us and all the other kennel keepers in Switzerland and take Loki again. I swear to Dog, Internet, those were his words.

Now I don't like my dog causing anyone any trouble. While he is pleasant with all the other dogs and people at the kennel, my whacka-cracker sends himself into a certifiable self-induced breakdown when I leave him anywhere but in our own home without me. I really wrestled with how to deal with this knowing that the Shen Calmer would only help his anxiety on a very small level.  So I did what I had to do.

"I'm not whack! I'm just misunderstood!"

I narc'd him. I slipped him the 'ole mickey in his peanut butter morning treat before taking him and Juno to Bernard's. Then I gave Bernard three extra pills "just in case." I wrestled with that decision also, having recently read how vet techs often over-medicate a dog for barking too much. What's the point of leaving the dog if you have to narc the dog every day? Thankfully, Bernard was really quite responsible. The first day Loki was "like a different dog," said Bernard, "then I remembered you gave him the sedative."  The next day, Loki started his crying, barking, jumping and scratching at the door again. Remember, this is Bernard's home, not a cage and Loki has claws that damage nice doors. So Bernard tried a half of sedative. When it didn't work, he gave him another half. It worked. By day three, "He was perfect and didn't need anymore. It was like he lived here his entire life." Bernard gave me back the other two pills and said he was welcome back and we could use the sedative if we needed it in the beginning of each stay.

Just like Loki's other anxious behaviors, the more he practices them, the more they escalate and the worse they get each time. Which is probably why it wasn't until his last stay there that Bernard finally complained about it. When we first adopted Juno, Loki had a nasty habit of biting her scruff after the leashes came from our daily walk. Not that scruff biting is so bad, but we all recognized it for what it was and none of us, especially Juno, appreciated it. It was anxiety release and Juno hated it. So I simply wouldn't let him practice it anymore. I would release Juno then sit with him for about a minute, calmly telling him he was good before I allowed him to calmly walk away.  Months later, I could release him at the same time as Juno and the behavior was gone. Behavioral psychologists call it "extinguishing" behavior.

"Grass sure makes me calm." Sure, he looks angelic now...

I have some hope that lightly sedating him the first day or so at Bernard's will reset his association with Bernard's to be a whacka-cracker. I'm not sure if it will work the same way as extinguishing his other anxiety-based behaviors. But what the hell--it's worth a try. I'm also not daft when it comes to Loki. I know how smart he is. He could easily just go the opposite direction and anticipate the sedative and fight its effects.  So as far as I'm concerned, he's still on probation when it comes to leaving him at Bernard's dog spa and camp.

"Crack is whack!"

Using pharmaceuticals for anxious behavior is neither something I recommend nor do on a regular basis. But I promise you Internet, if you had him for 5 minutes without me present, you'd beg for that narc.

One for him. And two for you.

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11 comments on “Probation”

  1. wooo poor Loki, but heck if it helps him to be relaxed being lightly sedated for a short while then it has to be better for him and Bernard.

  2. It's so nice that Bernard is willing to take him just to save all other Swiss kennels. 🙂 I bet I would like to stay with Bernard, as long as I was the only dog there, except for Steve.


  3. Like many of us, it sounds like the transition is the anxiety provoking time for him. I'm so glad he could glide through that and enjoy his spa-cation!

  4. I can't help but wonder - did he have a serious case of the munchies? 😉 And I can pretty much guarantee I'd need the downers AND a bottle of scotch if I had to deal with The Cracker without you! 😉 In all fairness, when Abby was spayed and was supposed to be 'resting' for two weeks, well, um, not so much. The vet and I agree to dope her for the first 3 days, and then we said to hell with it (they weren't working well... 6 month old girl didn't do well on 'bed rest') and he told me what to look for if she did something bad to the surgery site because it was IMPOSSIBLE to keep the girl down. Fi and I both drank heavily during that period! 😀 BTW, I assume you tip Bernard well (with new doors, or something...). Heh.

    -Dr. Liz (who should be paying attention in her 'Research Source Documentation' class, but clearly isn't giving it her full attention...)

  5. BTW, he looks totally calm in that last picture. Heehee. Cracker Dog!!! Reading about Loki makes me think Abby is a mellow dog. Kind of... 😉

  6. I'm not troubled by assisting Loki with modern medicine. I agree that helping him have positive experiences can rewire his cracker brains to the point where he might someday accomplish the same thing without medical aid. Good luck, crazy dude, and thank goodness there is at least one guy in all of Switzerland willing to put up with you.

    Mango Momma

  7. Last photo alternative caption: "Who, me?"

    We've also got no problem at all with using every tool in the toolbox if it helps. Sure hope it helps Loki get back to at least tolerating Bernard's. Abby advises that you wait until you're ready to move back Stateside before you replace Bernard's doors however, lest you have to do it more than once [assuming Bernard is ok with this option].

    We are super lucky that our wonderful Aunt Janet lives next door. On the rare occasions when mama goes out of town, we can stay in our own home and Aunt Janet comes over 2 or 3 or 4 times a day to feed us and walk us and tuck us in at night and stuffs.

    Jed & Abby

  8. Gosh - I really hand it to you. SO many owners would have given up on Loki - probably me included!! You have endless patience, really, and Loki is so lucky to have you. And I agree with Jed & Abby's comment about having no problem using every tool in the toolbox if it helps (as you know! 😉 ) - what's wrong are those people with kneejerk reactions who instantly judge instead of trying to understand.

    I also think you're SO lucky to have found Bernard - not only that he is understanding of Loki's behaviour but very responsible (like not jumping on the medication as a quick fix for a quieter life!) and willing to work with you to help Loki. God - everybody needs to have a Bernard for their dogs! 🙂

    Anyway, wanted to say sorry also for not commenting much lately - like you, I have been reading but not always getting the time to comment but you know I always enjoy your posts & your writing! And of course, your GORGEOUS photos!! 😛


  9. Hey Julie- i'm curious, what do you use as a sedative for Loki? I give Milo melatonin on occasion when we have long car trips, but it only works if he's not provoked. Every other week when the gardeners come, Milo spirals into an anxiety-induced cracker session that lasts at least an hour, and I've tried giving him melatonin before they arrive but to no avail. Probably one in every 5 recalls is successful and focusing on me is sporadic. I wonder if "taking the edge off" would help him develop better habits because the furiously clawing at the blinds, throwing himself against the door, manic barking and whining, and jumping on top of bookcases is truly excessive. Its not worth the manicured lawn, let me tell you.

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