Roxie & Me: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

First, the upside, which I so easily overlook. Roxie and I have made great strides.

  • At night, when I brush my teeth, Roxie gets up from her bed in the living room and walks into her crate in my bedroom, unbidden. She knows it’s bedtime. She doesn’t whimper or bark. We sleep in peace.
  • Roxie can reliably execute lots of commands. They came quickly for her, so I believe she had previous training. Sit, Stay, Place, Come, and Down are all solid. She’s pretty good at Leave It and getting better at Heel.
  • Roxie no longer lunges or barks at people. She scans for Carl so he can pet her. She sits so Don can toss her a treat from the front desk and she can catch it in the air. If there’s a treat at stake, she’ll go into a down—a dog’s second most vulnerable position—in the lobby, even if people are walking by. Carl says she’s come a long way.

On the downside:

  • Roxie is still terrified of other dogs.

Roxie was on an anti-anxiety medication, Trazodone. The vet, the trainer, and I all hoped it would be temporary until Roxie settled into her new life. She’s not on medication this weekend because we ran out on Saturday morning. I thought we might be okay. We’ve been together for two months, we have routines, maybe she’ll be alright.

She’s not alright.

As we walked to the lobby this morning, Roxie saw a small white dog waiting for its owner to wrap up a conversation.

We were thirty or more yards away but Roxie panted, dove toward the dog, dug toenails into carpet as her legs scrambled for purchase. She pulled like a 90-pound Nemo when he was a teenager. I pulled back, saw the leash stretch, the halter dig into her snout. It took everything I had to hold her, and I am not weak.

I got Roxie turned around and moved back toward the elevators. She wasn’t lunging anymore but was still pulling, her breathing fast and heavy.

I felt sorry for her, to be so anxious.

Is this what it’s like to be a parent? To be responsible for someone, know they are suffering, and know I’m part of the cause?

Please Dr. Bob, call back soon.

PS: It’s still true that the things I say to Roxie are things I can say to myself. “Relax. You’re making things harder than they need to be. Just relax.”

PPS: While I was typing this, Dr. Bob, the best vet in Cincinnati (he has his own radio show!), called back. I described Roxie’s symptoms and said that I didn’t think she could go off the Trazodone. He said he expected this might happen, that Trazodone is a short-term solution, and that he would write a prescription for Prozac. It will be ready in an hour.

PPPS: Why do I love Dr. Bob? Because he helped me care for Leda during the last months of her life. Together we made the decision that surgery wouldn’t be worth the pain it would put her through, and we managed medications to ease her suffering. Leda’s departure is a bittersweet memory.

Chewing the Cud of Good

Thankful for love.

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