Love Overcomes Really Big Obstacle

Baxter loves that camp counselor Lisa Marie wants to carry him.

Baxter loves that camp counselor Lisa Marie wants to carry him.

Baxter has a problem that most likely would end up with him being put in an animal shelter and eventually being euthanized if he weren’t so darn loveable. In fact, Vanessa found him in an animal shelter in Kentucky when he was three months old. However, the problem didn’t manifest itself until they moved to Florida about eight months ago.

And exactly what is the 2-year-old dog’s problem? He’s destructive when he’s left alone. Destructive to the tune of thousands of dollars, according to Vanessa. He has torn up the window blinds, destroyed the television when he knocked over the buffet it was sitting on, ripped up the carpeting twice, and somehow managed to open up the freezer, drag everything out and throw it around the house.

“He’s okay when we’re at home,” said Vanessa, “but when we leave he goes crazy. He gets in front of the front door so we can’t get out.” The neighbors have told her that the dog barks and howls when he’s
home alone. They lived in a house with a big backyard when Baxter adopted them. Now she and her mother Tiffany live in an apartment, but are looking for a house.

Vanessa found Baxter at the Humane Society in Frankfort. “He had the sweetest little face and was jumping up and down.” She said Baxter didn’t manifest any destructive tendencies when they lived in Kentucky. “He was really good. When we were gone, he would sit on the couch and sleep the whole time.”

When the problem began, Vanessa talked to her veterinarian who gave her a couple of different types of anxiety medicine (for the dog), but they didn’t make a difference. The problem seemed to be separation anxiety, so Vanessa went on the ‘net and started looking for doggy daycares. She ran across Happy Camper and liked it for a couple of reasons — it was all indoors and the dogs weren’t in separate kennels. Also, she said that the workers had their dogs there. That did it. Off went Baxter to Happy Camper.

Puppy Baxter poses in the yard.

Puppy Baxter poses in the yard.

“They spoil him rotten there. They carry him around and he loves it,” said Vanessa. She said at first Baxter was scared and cried when she left him, but now he plays with the other dogs and actually gets excited when they’re about halfway to Happy Camper. And when she picks him up? He falls asleep as soon as he gets in the car.

Baxter is on Benadryl twice a day for allergies. That would make most people and animals sleep, but not this dog. He demands attention and likes nothing better than to be cuddled and petted. He likes other dogs and wants to play with them, regardless of size, when they go to the dog park. But at home he doesn’t play with his toys – he annihilates them. “Toys don’t last two minutes,” said Vanessa. “He tears them up. Gets the squeakers out. Chews up the bones right away.”

And why does Vanessa keep Baxter, who, by the way, tore up her couch last week? “I know most people would have gotten rid of him, but he’s very, very loving. Everyone he meets he greets with open arms. He’s really such a people person. He’s just the best dog!”

Camp counselor Caitlyn agrees, saying, “Baxter likes to smile when we greet him at the door. He loves to be with his camp counselors, especially giving us hugs and even loves to be carried. Sometimes he even gets to hang out in the office and be a couch potato for the day. When he’s in daycamp, though, he loves playing with Beau, Bella S. and Tango. He is such a sweet boy and we all love him so much. He always brings pleasure to my day when I see him coming in. He makes new friends almost every day, and it been amazing for us to see him blossom here into a great camper.”

Some Facts About Separation Anxiety

Did you know that separation anxiety is the second most common reason dogs are euthanized or given up by their owners? And the behavior problem can occur in any breed and at any age.. It is estimated that anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of dogs in the United States suffer from this problem.

What causes separation anxiety?
No one knows for sure, but there is some anecdotal evidence and some common factors found in dogs that exhibit it:

  • Loss of an important person or group of people in a dog’s life.
  • Being abandoned, surrendered to a shelter or given to a new guardian or family can trigger the development of separation anxiety.
  • An abrupt change in schedule in terms of when or how long a dog is left alone.
  • Moving to a new residence.

What are the symptoms of separation anxiety?

  • Some dogs urinate or defecate when left alone. – Barking and howling when left alone.
  • Some dogs chew on objects, door frames or window sills, dig at doors and doorways, or destroy household objects.
  • A dog might try to escape from an area where he’s confined.
  • Some dogs walk or trot along a specific path in a fixed pattern.
  • Coprophagia: When left alone or separated from their guardians, some dogs defecate and then consume all or some of their excrement.

Possible solutions

  • If possible, take your dog to work with you.
  • Arrange for a family member, friend or dog sitter to come to your home and stay with your dog when you’re not there. (Most dogs suffering from separation anxiety are fine as long as someone is with them.)
  • Take your dog to a sitter’s house or to a doggy daycare.
  • Many dogs suffering from separation anxiety are okay when left in a car, but this never is recommended in Florida.
  • There are several behavior therapies on the Internet, ranging from counter-conditioning (such as associating being alone with good things such as treats) to gradually increasing the time of separation.
  • Another option is natural supplements and homeopathic treatment. Natural supplements that help ease anxiety in dogs include the amino acid L-theanine, chamomile, passionflower, St. John’s Wort and valerian. These basically function to alter neurotransmitters in the brain (such as serotonin, GABA, or dopamine) to induce a sense of peace and calm. What NOT to Do
  • Do not scold or punish your dog. If you punish him, he may become even more upset and the problem could get much worse.
  • Get a companion dog: Getting your dog a companion usually doesn’t help an anxious dog because his anxiety is the result of her separation from you, not just the result of being alone.
  • Crating: Your dog will still engage in anxiety responses inside a crate, and may even injure itself in an attempt to escape. – Electronic noise: Leaving the radio or television on won’t help.
  • Obedience training: While formal training is always a good idea, separation anxiety isn’t the result of disobedience or lack of training; therefore, that won’t help this particular issue.

Some Facts About Separation Anxiety Sources: www.humanesociety.org; www.spca.com; www.petuniversity.com; kennelresorts.com; akc.org; dogbreedinfo.com

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