I don’t know what it is about our family, but when it comes to kids and dogs, the dogs we choose end up a lot like the kids in our house. Actually just one kid in our house.
This week I found myself yelling from the top of the stairs, “You need to stop obsessing!” and no, this time it wasn’t at J, but to the dog, and when J heard it, his face lit up immediately. “Hey,” J said, with a big grin on his face. “Like me!–We’re twins!”
Rudy, like Fred before him, and like his human brother now, suffers from anxiety. I knew it from the moment we brought him into our house. The poor dog ran laps around our kitchen, dining room, and living room, for hours that first night. “It’s anxiety,” I thought. “Maybe excitement.” J does the same thing. He paces. In fact, that night, Rudy and J bumped into each other a few times, because J was so excited and a little nervous to have Rudy in our home and was making the same laps around our kitchen, dining room, and living room.
The anxiety didn’t end that night. Because Rudy had so much trauma (abandonment to the pound, the pound to the shelter, the shelter to our home–the last three within the same week) he attached very quickly to me and doesn’t want me to leave his side at all–he follows me everywhere around the house and will whine if he’s not in the same room as me. Fred was the same way with Steve, and because we struggled with separation anxiety for years with Fred I decided to go to the vet about it right away. There are so many things right now that are making it hard for me to teach Rudy the coping strategies he needs to get through his separation anxiety. We’ve been in the Snowpocalypse and the Polar Vortex ever since the day we adopted Rudy. We’ve had 3 snow days, 2 late start days and lots of non-typical amounts of “all together at home family time.” It’s impossible right now to give him the amount of exercise he needs to burn off that anxious energy with the wind chills we’ve had. The vet and I agreed with the amount of trauma this poor dog has had and the terrible weather circumstances we’ve had to put Rudy on some anti-anxiety medication as needed until the weather cooperates and it’s warm enough for me to do things like stand outside the house for 10-15 minutes to see if he’s barking in his kennel when I leave the house and going on the long walks he needs.
“I just want you to know that this won’t be a permanent fix,” the vet told me.
“I know. I have a son with severe anxiety and he’s on medication so his brain can calm down enough to help him learn and remember to use the coping strategies he needs to use.”
“Then you understand exactly how this works,” she said.
Yup. J and Rudy. Two peas in a pod. When I told J that Rudy was taking medicine for his anxiety to help him calm his brain down he perked up again and said, “like me?”
When I told J that Rudy needs to calm down and learn to handle his kennel when we leave the house, he said “like me. Sometimes I have to handle things I don’t want to.”
“Exactly,” I said. “Like you and biology class. You need to learn to stay in biology when you don’t want to be there and Rudy needs to learn how to handle his kennel when he wants to be with us.”
So every day after school J asks me how Rudy handled his kennel that day and I ask him how he handled biology. This last week Rudy had a better track record than J.
When I asked J why he said he was having such a hard time being appropriate in class, he said, “because of the blizzard.”
Because J, like Rudy, needs to burn energy and have a regular routine and the weather is screwing that up for J too.
It’s a funny little relationship J and Rudy have. J loves Rudy, but doesn’t snuggle or play with him like W does (he does both, but not nearly as much as W does). J loves Rudy because J is fascinated that he and Rudy are so much alike. J loves it because he’s not the only one like him. J loves Rudy because he’s got someone else working on the same things as he is and it’s nice to have a “partner” to do it with.
There’s a lot of other similarities. I have to communicate with a dog who cannot communicate his needs back to me. I have to figure out his “language.” These are all things I’ve struggled to do with J. I find myself thinking “I do this with J, would it work with Rudy?”
I’ll be honest, over the last 3 weeks I’ve been tired and emotional and at times ready to give the dog back. But despite his anxiety, he’s such a sweetheart. The kids are in love with him, and he’s learning fast.
The kids and so many other people have been asking us if we’ve decided he’s the right fit.
Yes, I guess he is 🙂
*I also want to give a shout-out to my amazing neighbour Erin. After a week, Rudy finally figured out that the backyard was the potty place. He actually decided that Erin’s backyard is the potty place (because she has 2 dogs and that’s where they do their duty). Thanks Erin, for being so willing to roll with it. I promise when it comes to spring, we’ll make sure he moves back into our yard for doggie duty! (I guess it takes a village to raise a dog too. )