Often, as a mom, I feel like I spend my time tending to the squeakiest wheel. The past couple weeks, that wheel has been our dog, Olive. Olive is a beloved, slightly crazy, very sweet border collie mix that we adopted some six years ago after some family friends found her as a skinny puppy in the Arkansas deer woods. She has always been a little skittish. She’s occasionally gotten out, because she loves to run. But that was usually not a problem so long as we had a nice, securely fenced yard with no weaknesses for her to exploit. She’s shocked us by being the most gentle of our pups with the girls, and though she still hates Tinycat, we had been making some progress in allowing them to both have run of the house together.
That is until the BB Gun Incident. One day a few weeks ago, I thought I heard fireworks. I peeked out the window and instead saw two middle-aged men in one of the back yards that abuts ours, shooting some sort of firearms. They looked like rifles with scopes, but sounded more like BB or pellet guns. And Olive was flipping the flip out. I’m talking, mouth bloody, paws scraped, pawing and clawing at our chain link fence, trying to get out. She wasn’t hit, but clearly completely out of her mind with fear at the sounds. I got her inside, called the cops (shooting anything, even BB guns is illegal in the city), and the shots stopped like an hour later. I haven’t heard any since.
I’m furious that this happened, first because my kids could have been in the yard– we’re close enough that I clearly saw the men and described them in detail to the police– they could have been hit. Olive and Bessie could have been hit. Heck, even our property could have been hit and damaged. And that’s not to say there hasn’t been damage, because I think they broke Olive– something in her brain is broken now.
While our dogs used to love being outside, to the point that this long, frozen, icy winter saw them moping and whining that they couldn’t hang out in the yard, Olive is now sent into total panic when in the yard. All she wants to do is get out, to the point of hurting herself in the process. At first we thought she would just get over it, and we just needed to secure the fence. We replaced a long section of chain link with wood fencing and even put down concrete pavers to keep her from digging. This just led her to dig in other areas and to rip up other sections of chain link. After she did this a couple of days ago, scraping up her snout, mouth, and legs in the process, I knew we had to do something else.
We made an appointment with our vet, and in the meantime, I got her a Thunder Shirt. The squeezing hug of the tight shirt is supposed to help anxiety, and I do think it’s helped calm her down and ease some of her obsessive behavior, but she still clearly suffers from extreme anxiety. We saw the vet today– a new vet actually, as it turns out our old vet, a Santa-type man who always wore socks with Birkenstocks, has retired and the practice has been taken over by a new husband-and-wife team. The new vet seems kind and competent, listened to our concerns, put up with Etta “assisting” with all of his work, and recommended a combination of anti-anxiety medication and behavioral therapy for Olive. He gave us the number for a behaviorist, who I will call soon, and a bottle of pills. I hope that the medicine helps in the shorter run and that long-term, the behaviorist can help us deal with her anxiety so she doesn’t have to stay medicated.
Currently, in her Thunder Shirt, Olive is outside lying in the shade, something she used to love to do. I hope we can now begin helping her love it again.
Have you ever dealt with pet anxiety like this? Any tips?