The Town of Oakville has a very good symphony orchestra and, as we both enjoy classical music, we support them by subscribing to their annual concert series. The performances start in the Fall and go through to the Spring.
The 2013/2014 concert season presented us with a bit of a problem. Ray had relatively recently completed his heart worm treatment program and was now presenting us with some new challenges! During the treatment program, one of the key directives was to keep his heart rate as low as possible as this would increase his chances of surviving the treatment. For us this meant that we did not get him into any stressful situations, which therefore eliminated any work regarding his separation anxiety.
His separation anxiety was considered serious and, to make matters worse, while Carol had to go to work during the day, I was always at home with him so he did not have much opportunity to establish any independence. After his final (and thankfully successful) blood test, I did start to work on leaving him on his own but it became immediately obvious that this was going to be a long-term project.
There were numerous issues which had to be managed, not the least of which was a scheduled time for his walk. Scheduling not only enabled me to plan around that time frame, but was important for Ray as he totally revolves around routines. From his perspective, it would appear that security is knowing that things consistently happen at the same time every day! The most practical time to take him on his walks was in the morning when there were less people around and when dog-friendly stores like our Lululemon would just be opening and therefore not busy. Separation anxiety training was therefore limited to the afternoon which worked very well for Ray because he had then also adjusted to Carol not being around.
Ray complicated matters (he does that a lot!) by being totally unreceptive to people with whom he has not already developed a comfortable relationship. In the absence of a sitter, we missed the first performance of the season! We missed the second performance!
One thought was to find somebody who would be prepared to spend a significant amount of time just getting to know Ray so that they could Ray-sit for us. Any sitting duty comes with a price and, if you extend that price to cover many prior social visits while Ray gets to know the person, then the whole exercise becomes quite expensive and with no guarantees that Ray will even accept the “new friend”. We needed to find somebody who he already liked ……………………………..his friends at the Oakville & Milton Humane Society?????
A quick inquiry brought Heather into the picture. We were so lucky because when Ray decides he wants to visit OMHS, she is one person that he goes looking for when he gets there, and she was very receptive to the idea of Ray-sitting occasionally. As Heather often had her own weekend commitments, she could not cover all the remaining concerts however, we did manage to enjoy a couple.
The 2014/2015 concert series is now in progress and still we have separation anxiety issues! 2014 was a very busy year for both of us due to a multitude of things, not the least of which was helping Ray to be more comfortable around people and other dogs. Given that his average walks took over most of the morning, other responsibilities and interests which had to include Ray’s separation issue were once again relegated to the afternoons. I did manage to slowly get him comfortable on his own for 30 minutes but then the training was once again set back.
It was suggested to us that we change his anxiety medication to a more recent one that was producing very good results specifically with separation anxiety issues. In order to make the change, it was highly recommended that we very slowly wean him off his current medication; let him adjust to no medications for two weeks, and then slowly build up his new medication. Given the dosage that he was on, the weaning off through to the introduction of the new medication took a considerable amount of time during which it did not seem realistic to pursue the training.
Clearly, at least for a considerable part if not all of this current concert season, we are going to be depending on Heather once more! Hopefully, this year is going to give us all the time we need to get Ray comfortable on his own, and perhaps we can anticipate enjoying the complete 2015/2016 concert season?