When I was little my mom let me watch the movie Reconstructing Henry in which Harrison Ford plays a wealthy man that loses his memory and motor skills due to an accident. As he starts piecing together his life he realizes that he used to be a horrible person and that his new condition presented itself as an opportunity to redeem himself. I always found the human brain fascinating and once I learned the canine brain was similar, my fascination found a whole new area of study. That is why Zach has been a true blessing. I have enjoyed researching every possibily to ensure his success. Lately his Prozac dosage seems to be causing him side effects because of his weight loss; the 40 mgs to his 50-55 lbs may be the reason he doesn’t sleep at night and doesn’t eat his meals sometimes. Add another one to the many variables we already have to control to keep him well balanced and wiggly. This definitely wasn’t the twist we were expecting!
Almost a year into the #projectZach experience I have observed and catalogued so many of behavioral responses and treatment/training options that I could write a book. Even though it is a herculean task some days, the ups and downs have given me a new perspective on how difficult it must be to care for children and the mentally challenged. Taking care of a special needs being requires a lot of love and great resolve. From the vet behaviorist’s prescription failures to the huge training progress, we have firsthand knowledge of what works and what doesn’t and proof it is all worth while. I’m tempted to enroll in vet school and make this the subject if my thesis so others can benefit from our story. The truth is we need more certified behaviorists if we plan to continue to treat pets with mental health issues. I can’t fathom putting a family member down when a $5 a month prescription can help stabilize them. More people need to be introduced to this concept. Leave no pet behind…
Now that we are full circle and have witnessed Zach through the change of the seasons, I know what we are up against and what his potential forever family should do to keep him running like the cuddly, lean, playful machine he is. If I deconstruct Zach he can tell you these are his commandments for a happy puppy life:
1. Thou shall feed me treats and call me a good boy whenever there are strange noises around so I associate them with good experiences.
2. Thou shall serve me peanut butter that has no sweeteners or artificial ingredients inside a bone that is safe. The Fred Meyer peanut butter brand is my favorite. 🙂
3. Thou shall provide me with infinite red Jolly Balls and medium sized squeeker tenis balls. I also welcome large sized balls and tug toys but they are not as beloved as the top two.
4. Thou shall feed me twice a day, at least a pound of yummy homemade dog friendly food. I will accept treats, cheese, cottage cheese and bully sticks in between meals to pass the time. Broccoli is not my favorite but I shall eat it especially if it is enveloped in golden paste or coconut oil.
5. Thou shall keep the leash and muzzle away from me unless absolutely necessary. I rather have the vet come to me.
6. Car rides are okay as long as there is something cool for me to do at the end of the ride. A peaceful enclosed huge space, not too far away from home, would be ideal.
7. Thou shall have confidence and will power around me. I need a strong fearles leader to help me through my days. If you need me to be strong I can be, but not for too long. I get scared or anxious if you do so as well.
8. Thou shall not bathe me unless you train me. I hate water coming from a hose or a too wet of a towel. You can attempt to clean me with a moist towel or a dry microfiber cloth to clean my paws but not too often. Someone hurt my paws when I was younger and I growl and muzzle punch when you are holding my paws. It makes me remeber the trauma.
9. Thou shall provide multiple beds with raised edges or pillows for me to choose where to lay my head. Once in a while I may ask to sleep with you in your bed but I am happy sleeping on my own. Be consistent so I don’t get confused and anxious outside your door.
10. Thou shall give me my space and peace and quiet. I don’t mind hanging out for hours by myself as long as I get time outside to decompress and exercise. I like to come in and out at leisure, so mechanisms like doggy doors are necessary if you don’t want to open and close doors for me.
11. Thou shall love me unconditionally and not fear me. I may get reactive but it will soon pass. I will try to lick you after an event and show you I still care but I can obey a command to leave you alone.
if you need to shake it off. 🙂
On that note, Zach does a lot of shaking off to control his mood and level set himself. It is one of my favorite noises to hear because he is self soothing. Dogs tend to shake when they are changing gears or activities, a good sign they are ready for the next adventure. He needs space to do this and often cleans his paws in our carpet with the motion. A pet vacuum comes in handy for these occasions. Hehe 😉
If anyone out there still doubts that a pet is like a family member or a child, they can come talk to us about Zach to have their mind blown. The abuse and lack of socialization Zach suffered before being rescued gave him a handicap that is hard to overcome but the positive results his training has yielded are truly rewarding. His affection and enthusiasm are worth every penny spent on him. My heart goes out to my peeps and those with family members that suffer from anxiety and PTSD conditions. The amount of strength required to make them comfortable and offer a tranquil environment can seem insurmountable but once you work through the kinks, it can become manageable. We follow these rules and continue to reinforce basic commands to ensure his success.
Can’t wait to see what the future holds for Z!