Supposedly absence makes the heart grow fonder, but for my shelter dog, Betty White, that is not the case.
An average day in the life of Betty White consists of nervous foot licking (what was once a white dog is now half brown because she has gnawed at her feet so much), hovering underneath me and watching my every move, hiding from dog toys and shaking uncontrollably at foreign noises. Needless, to say, my boyfriend, Pete, and I have been taking baby steps to try to help her.
When I leave our apartment to head to work, Betty White can be found in her crate, whining and scratching at her cage as soon as I’m out the door. When left to roam the apartment freely, she becomes even more afraid.
These are all signs and symptoms of separation anxiety, which tends to be more common with second-hand shelter dogs like Betty White, who was previously abused by her last owner. My boyfriend, Pete, and I have tried to promote independence and make her more comfortable while alone at home. We’ve tried everything from exercising her in the mornings to taking “doggy Prozac,” per recommendation of our veterinary hospital. Doggie daycare seemed like a good idea until upon my return to a local kennel I was told that Betty White scaled an 8-foot fence, where she then proceeded to hover on a small ledge and shake for hours in her private room (they compared her to Hannibal Lecter, which is never a flattering comparison). It was becoming more and more apparent that we had to turn to a professional for our favorite four-legged friend.
As the Editor-in-Chief of Bucks & Montgomery Living Magazine, I have had the pleasure in working closely with David Cugno, owner of David Cugno’s Canine Center in King of Prussia. Desperate for advice, I sent David a novel-sized e-mail about Betty’s behavior problems and asked if he had any upcoming availability in his boarding and training classes. Luckily for us, he was able to fit her into a two week-long boarding and training program where she was guided toward interaction with other dogs.
I recently had my initial consultation with David and his friendly staff, where they assured me that I wasn’t the only one with this problem. When you’ve had a dog for over four years and she is still as anxious as the first day you adopted her from the SPCA, it can feel a bit disheartening— like you aren’t giving your pet the best possible life. David assured me that I was not alone and had me instantly smiling by saying, “If you knew what to do, I wouldn’t have a job!”
During Betty White’s two week-long stay, David and his talented staff helped Betty muster up the courage needed to join the pack and realize that she can lead a perfectly happy life without us being there with her every step of the way. Over the next few months I will be documenting Betty White’s journey at Cugno’s Canine Center, from boarding and training to private classes and how life at home has changed.
I encourage my fellow bloggers to comment with their dog training success stories. Thanks to David Cugno’s Canine Center for helping to create a safe and happy home for our irresistible (yet slightly neurotic) dog, Betty White.