Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Dog's Anxiety is a Reflection of My Own

You may remember that I have two dogs: Sammy Sue and Saint. I wrote a blog post about Sammy Sue for my very first Slice of Life. Now, months later, I captured a little piece of a truth that I had been living with for years, but never saw. My male dog, Saint, is the focus of today's slice:

Saint has always been a little higher maintenance than his big sister. As the baby, my ex-husband and I didn't want him to get steamrolled by Sammy Sue, so we were a little bit hard on her to make sure she was gentle. That was probably our first mistake! In hind sight, I realize dogs have a way of working things out among themselves and we should have left them to it!

Even though he is high maintenance, and a little high strung, Saint has always been the glue that bound our odd little pack together. He was never comfortable unless we were all together: me, my ex-husband, Sammy Sue, and Saint. He has always suffered from separation anxiety, as do many pets!

Admittedly, he and Sammy Sue had always lived a life of luxury...until my divorce. When my ex-husband moved out of our house, Saint took it the hardest. Yes, I was devastated, but more over the fact that I had to start over. I knew things would get better with time, but my poor little Saint, he was inconsolable.

Now that "the man of the house" was gone, he took on that role. I know it may sound silly to some people, but those of you whose dogs are your children will understand! Saint became overly protective of me, growling, snorting, and charging other people and dogs. I remember getting pulled over one time for speeding. As the police officer approached my car, I told him he might want me to step out of the car because my male dog was a little protective. He grumpily demanded that I remain in the car. When he reached my driver's side window, Saint scrambled over my head rest, growling and foaming at the mouth. The police officer quickly jumped back and said, "Ma'am, can you please step out of the vehicle?"

So wrapped up in my own pity party, though, because not only had I lost my husband but any chance of having a child along with him, I neglected to see how our separation was affecting my dogs! Sammy Sue is a tough little cookie; she could survive just about anything. But, my little Saint, he was coming apart at the seams, and I didn't even see it!

To make matters worse, we had to move in with family once my son was born. As a single mom, with no help from my son's father, I simply couldn't do it on my own. So, we packed up our lives and moved 2 1/2 hours away. We went from an entire house to one room. Even worse, my dogs could no longer be inside dogs. They were either in the backyard or in my car during the day. Fortunately, they were allowed to come inside at night and sleep in our room. But, the stress of having to be separated from me for long hours at a time, while banished to an unfamiliar backyard, was too much for Saint. He developed an auto-immune skin disease.

This went on for over two years, until I was finally in a position to move my little family into our own house. I can't tell you how glorious it was to have my dogs back inside with me! They had the freedom to come and go as they pleased. Saint no longer trembled when I left him alone (because he could always sneak up on to Mommy's bed and feel close to me :-).

All this to set the stage for my slice of life epiphany from this morning: dogs really do characterize their owners, at least in Saint's case! I realized that after my divorce I suffered from terrible anxiety, as did Saint; I fell into bouts of depression, as did Saint; and I have fought feelings of inadequacy, fear of not being able to provide for my family, and, as a single mom, doubt over my ability to protect us; all of which I believe Saint has tried to make up for by being the protector of our family!

All this came to me this morning while I tended to his auto-immune skin disease, which still flares up from time-to-time, usually when high winds approach, a nagging reminder that he is suffering from an irrational fear of something he can't see...just like me!

It's strange how you can live with a truth for so many years, and not see it! But, I do now! And, hopefully, Saint and I can both put our fears behind us. I know I'm going to do my best to help him; and, in helping him, I might just be able to help myself :-)

Here's my sweet little Saint, who many people that don't know him might argue otherwise...


  1. I also have two very different dogs, both rescues. Everybody loves Lucy, who loves people, but distrusts other dogs. Fiona came to me afraid of people, so people either try to hard or not hard enough with her. She just needs time. People who are patient are rewarded by kisses and snuggles. Just like Saint, people don;t always get to know who she really is. Thanks for sharing a side of your dog most people don't get to see.

    1. Thanks so much for your visit :-) Mine are both rescues, as well. Saint's mom was actually rescued when she was pregnant with him and his siblings! He and my female dog have been my life support through so much!