TRAVELLING WITHOUT YOUR BFF
(THE 4 LEGGED VARIETY)
When it comes to holidays, I LOVE the week leading up to departure. I have a routine down pat- I pack 7 days in advance. I make lists. Many, many lists. I cross check these lists several times, like I am anurse administering a very important dose of drug to a sick patient. I then re-wash clothes with my favourite laundry detergent- so they smell extra fresh (as opposed to just mundane, normal "fresh"). I fold clothes perfectly and symmetrically to make use of every inch of space. Ignoring the fact within 5 minutes of handing over my suitcase, my freshly ironed clothes will look more wrinkled than Dog The Bounty Hunter's face. Some will call this clinical OCD, I call it being organised. And I also call it clinical OCD when Jase isn't listening, because sometimes he really does think I have it. Then we go out for a special dinner the night before take off- clinking glasses to the exciting adventure ahead of us. These little routines make me happy and put me in holiday mode. Well- that is, untiI I notice our sulking pooch sitting in the corner, knowing EXACTLY what the suitcase from under the bed represents. DOGGY JAIL TIME.
Call me crazy dog lady (actually no don't please), but it literally BREAKS MY HEART into a million pieces seeing his little face up look at me, not understanding why we are leaving him, thinking he has done something naughty to deserve being sent away (- in most cases he actually has). There is no mistaking this look of anguish, let me tell you- at 9 years of age he has had his fair share of kennel stays.
We have tried several things to ease our pooch's pain- naturopathic concoctions that claim to ease stress levels, the thunder jacket, sending him to the kennels with his favourite blanket and we have even tried packing in different rooms (not sure why we thought that would help?) Nothing works. Our little Alf-like dog still gets anxious and starts licking his velvet lips repetitively as soon as he sees the luggage- a clear sign of him being stressed. We are lucky enough that the majority of the time my parents look after him (unless we are meeting up with the overseas)- but it still makes me feel horrible putting him through it.
Last time we picked him up from the kennel, the manager came out and spoke to me. Uh-oh, I thought. She sat down beside me and sympathetically put her hand on my knee and said the words I feared: "He howled every day and night and didn't eat for the first 24 hours- until we offered him fresh roast chicken. He seems to have bad separation anxiety".
Half of me thought "That's my boy, not eating highly processed chicken roll and being smart enough to wait for the good stuff"- the other half of me broke like a brittle eggshell. Our dog was pining for us, crying and didn't want to eat. Just the words HE DIDN'T WANT TO EAT were alarming enough, he will try anything once- including old gardening gloves from the park, orange peel I've accidentally dropped and pieces of bark from the garden, just to name a few. He really must feel down in the dumps to refuse food. He truly misses us.
I know 50% of you (maybe more?) will think I am being melodramatic- yes yes, I know I am- but I truly love this little guy. He is always in the back of mind whatever I'm doing- which admittedly does sounds a little weird and cringe-worthy. But I can promise you I don't walk around with him in a stroller and a baby bonnet- YET.
So it brings me to the question: does anyone have any sure-fire ways of calming a highly anxious dog- preferably without drugs? We will be starting our dreaded pack in a few days and as much as I try and hide the suitcase, he always seems to know as soon as it comes out- a bit like when Jase hides the last bit of chocolate at the back of the pantry- I can sense it a mile away. It's a gift, I tell you.