Thursday, March 14, 2013

Does this mean War?

Our household is in shambles....and is crumbling more and more every day!  The overall dynamic has been off for quite some time and I think every one (and every pet) is at it's breaking point.

If only I could go back 9 months and do things differently.....

It all started back in September when Lainey had her first ACL surgery.  We had to keep the dogs separated and Lainey was caged or leashed at all times.  We would have random "play" with both dogs together, but it was quiet play and not the "run around the house playing catch me" kind that they really like.  Stewie was often times corrected for trying to "rough house" with Lainey, so most of the time they just cuddled and Stewie would give her comfort.

Lainey (left) & Stewie (right)

Then came November and the nightmare I will never forget.  After the loss of Walker, sadness seemed to overcome each of us (humans and animals).  It was a very dark time for us and you could really feel the dynamics between all the animals start to shift.  Tucker, our other cat, was mourning the loss of his brother and would take it out on the dogs.  The dogs could tell that mommy and daddy were sad and would feed off our energy.  I don't think I realized how bad things were getting.

Walker ~ RIP & Tucker
December rolled around and we decided to adopt Dasher.  We thought that Tucker would appreciate having a play mate and after hearing his story from the shelter, we had to bring him home.  It took about a month for him to settle in, but now he is the happiest cat I've ever seen.  He is so loving and isn't at all afraid of the dogs.  Unfortunately, between still taking care of Lainey and now giving a lot of attention to the new member of the family...Stewie once again was getting the short end of the stick.


In January, Lainey tore her other ACL and needed surgery on both legs.  For the couple weeks leading up to her surgery we finally let the dogs get in some good old fashion play time together.  I mean, what was the worst thing that could happen...Lainey was already going in for surgery, so we thought it would be good for them.  They absolutely loved this time together.  They were both so happy.

Then....everything changed!!! 

After surgery, Lainey spent 2+ weeks at the hospital.  During the time that Lainey was gone, Stewie received the most attention he has gotten in a long time.  We had so much more free time on our hands now that we didn't have to spend it on Lainey and her recovery.  Everyone in the house was happy!!!  Unfortunately, Lainey was stuck in a hospital, around strangers with her mama no where to be seen.  I would visit her on the weekends and she was so sad.  She had become a totally different dog and the vet explained it was most likely due to the meds, her pain level, etc.  For such a young pup, she had gone through so much in life, so they told me not to worry. 

The first night we brought Lainey home from the hospital, there was an exchange between the dogs that we had never seen before.  They both growled, got loud and it made me nervous.  I called the vet the next day and they said this was normal for our circumstances.  We were told to keep the dogs separated for a few days and let Lainey start her recovery stress-free.  We did as instructed and Lainey spent her days in a cage in my office at work and her nights in her pen in a room that is gated off from the rest of the house.  The dogs could "see" each other, but they couldn't get near each other.

Those first couple weeks passed without incident so we began slowly introducing the dogs into the same space.  It was a success!  They spent the next couple weeks loving each other and playing (as much as Lainey can play right now).

Unfortunately, this is where the story gets ugly.....

Sunday night I was home alone.  I had fed the dogs, walked Lainey and was doing a training session in the living room with both dogs.  As I always do, I had them both sit on the rug (one on my left side and the other on my right side).  I give each dog a command and then reward with a treat. After treating Stewie, I give Lainey a command and then treat her.  Then go back to Stewie and repeat the process.  After about the 4th-5th command, I gave Lainey a treat.  Unfortunately, I missed her mouth and the treat dropped on the floor.  As Lainey bent her head down to pick it up....Stewie attacked her.  He locked onto her neck and wouldn't let go.  Lainey was thrashing her neck around, but Stewie was not letting go.  I immediately stepped in and got Stewie to release.  The dogs were then separated, but Stewie was still "revved up" and he latched onto my arm.  I screamed, and before I knew it, Lainey was attacking him.  I know she was just trying to protect me, but it got!  Stewie ended up with a cut on each ear and a small cut on the top of his head.

You would think that this was the end of the story, but unfortunately, it is not!  Later that same night, Stewie attacked one of the cats.  He grabbed onto it's neck and would not let go.  Once again, thank goodness I was "right there" when it happened, so I was able to release him from the cat pretty quickly.

Since this incident, we have spoken to the vet and Stewie has been checked over. The vet thinks that not only are we dealing with some aggression issues, but we also have some OCD issues with the dog too. He prescribed clomipramine which treats canine obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety produced by phobias, and aggression. We are going to try the medication for a month and see if there is any improvement and then move on to some behavior modification training techniques. This medication should allow Stewie to learn new desirable behaviors that replace any undesirable behaviors, while calming his fears enough to make the learning process easier for him.
There has been a lot of change in our household over the past 6 months with Lainey's surgery ('s), the loss of one cat, the addition of another cat, etc.  Stewie's anxiety has increased significantly due to all of these changes, along with all of the emotions that we (humans) are feeling due to all of these issues and he may be feeding off of us, leading to an extreme level of anxiety, fear, etc.

We will continue to keep the animals separate for a couple more weeks and assess the situation at that time and see how he is reacting to the new meds.

I'm so afraid that the dogs will never be "best buds" again.  That they will have to be separated at all times and never left unsupervised.  This will be my worst nightmare.  I wish someone could tell me that this happens and that things will get better!  I know I'm not the only one who has dealt with aggression/fear in a dog, but I feel that way.  How did they go from being best friends to worst enemies?  I am stressed and my heart is breaking.  If I could go back to last year I would have never taken Lainey hiking that day that she tore her ACL.  It seems like everything has snowballed since that day.  If she wouldn't have torn her ACL she wouldn't have needed surgery...which means we would have never had the Rimadyl in the house...which means the cat would have never ate it...which means the cat would have never died...which means we would have never gotten another cat...which means that Lainey's "good" leg would have never taken on all the stress causing another ACL tear...which would have meant no hospital stay...etc!!! 


Hannah@Eriesistibull said...

Oh Amy! I'm so sorry. Was Stewie at all like this before? Unfortunately, I don't have any tips. I would definitely try the medication and maybe even look into the behavior modification sooner. Hang in there!

Non Sequitur Chica said...

I know that it's tough, but try not to blame yourself. You are a great pet parent and very loving!

I'm sorry that Stewie has suddenly become aggressive, but some dogs don't react well to change. We heard from our trainer that Buster would most likely not react well to our move to Chicago and she was right. Do you think that Stewie is partly jealous at all of the attention Lainey gets because of her surgery? Buster was away this past weekend with my parents and Koda was a different (and happier) dog.

I hope that you can figure this out soon! said...

You poor thing! First off, deep cleansing breaths. Even though days have passed, keep taking deep breaths! The fact of the matter is that relations go great and then sometimes they turn crappy. It doesn't mean forever. Just like humans get in funks, our dogs can to. One thing that helps a lot with Melvin (who came to me with a lot of anxiety) is the Comfort Zone plug in. He is so much calmer and focused and easy going when I have one plugged in. In fact, I know when it's empty because he starts licking his paws incessantly or he seems anxious. Have you tried that? I think anything you can do to make them be calm, will help you in your training of them respecting the other.