Introducing a new ongoing blog from Sama Dog! This one's all about YOUR dogs and their journeys of transformation. Written by YOU! If you have a tale to tell, please email us - we'd love to hear.
I'll post in each blog the original writing from the author , a pic of their pup, along with a question from the pup-parents about their dog's wellbeing. I'll answer that question at the start of the blog... then proceed with the author's story. (NOTE: your stories can be short, like a paragraph, or longer like this one)
We're kicking it off close to home. Well, figuratively speaking. Literally speaking, she's quite far away.... in the land of tulips and wooden shoes! The Netherlands. Rene, my beloved husband, is from the Netherlands (aka Holland) and he moved to the US in 2008 after we met in Sedona and fell in love. His biological mother was the bridge to our meeting each another. But that's a longer story for a different time ;)
My in-laws, Martina and Hugh, have not only helped bring Rene and I together, they have supported us in countless other ways. They also have opened their minds and hearts even more deeply to animals over the past few years. I feel lucky and entirely grateful for their 'listening' and compassion.
Recently they adopted their first dog - ESHA. This is her tale... our dog-relative and European Correspondent <3
First, their question ::
HOW CAN WE NATURALLY HELP ESHA OVERCOME HER SEPARATION ANXIETY?
The first and most important thing to bring forward with separation anxiety is your patience. Typically, it takes time (amount varies depending on the dog and the home environment) to slowly release the fears and associations which create the anxiety in the first place, and to replace those emotions and memories with safe, reliable, trusted experiences. You pup needs to learn that you ARE coming back — typically the root of the fear with separation anxiety.
There's a lot to say about separation anxiety (SA). It's the focus in many of my private consultations where we discuss the re-balancing methods for at least 90 minutes. So I'll make a few simple suggestions here to get us moving in the right direction.
1. Exercise, exercise, exercise. Simply said, you want them to get dog-tired at least once a day so they'll sleep while you're gone. Exercise also releases the nervous energy and tension that may be building within your dog's mind and body (even though we may not realize it.) The majority of us - who are striving to be amazing pet-parents - still don't give our dogs nearly enough exercise to meet their needs.
2. Crate training works! And it's an especially useful tool when rebalancing separation anxiety. The crate should be put in a room where there's activity yet stability - like the corner of the dining room or living room. Not far removed from the comings and goings. Similar to the process below (tip #3) you'll want to ease into the crate usage if this is something foreign to them. Make the crate a desirable place... feed them in there, give them a super delicious bone in there, make the bedding JUST as they like it. Leave the crate door open in the day so they get accustomed to going in there periodically. Once the crate is accepted as a safe item, then start putting them in it, with the door closed, for very short periods. Increase the duration over time (at least a week). Make certain they don't come to associate the crate as 'the place I get put in when my human companions leave me!' and instead becomes associated to 'the place I have for myself, my little home, where I feel safe, comfortable and restful'. When this association is made, the crate becomes a nice place to stay while you're away, and YOU get to know that everything at home is fine because your pup is snoozin' away in their crate.
3. Start small and build it up slowly, slowly over time. Initially, leave the house for literally 3 minutes. Then 5 min, then 15 min, then 30 min, 45 min, then 75 min, etc, etc. Do the 3 and 5 minute departures on one day. And when all goes well with that duration, the next day, lengthen it to 15 min and later in the day 30min. You get the idea. Each time you leave, put the dog in the area they'll stay while you're gone (ideally in a crate). Make sure that area is calm and peaceful. Leave relaxing music playing. Give them something delicious to eat before you leave - whether that's just one biscuit or a stuffed Kong toy (filled with frozen natural peanut butter mixed with treats... keeps them busy for hours!) Tell them you're coming back verbally - they pick up on your energy. Yes, this is a tedious process as it spans over at least 2 weeks if not longer. However, the time you put in now will save your sanity, your relationship with your dog, and your home furnishings for years to come.
When dealing with SA, please keep in mind that your dog acquired this stress response over a duration of time. The unraveling of this tightly-held fear is also going to take time. Just think of us humans - even when we realized, sometimes after many years, WHY we react to a situation the way we do, very often we continue to react with the same response. It takes us time and practice to shift into a new way of being. This holds true for our dogs also. The more patience, love and dedication you bring to this unraveling process, the quicker you'll instill those feelings in your dog, and the speedier they will rehabilitate. Remember this my friends (and family;)... this is exactly how dogs teach US to be better humans. They create opportunities for us to learn, if we're truly open to receiving those great lessons.
Esha’s Tale - by Hugh and Martine O'Neill
Esha is a one year old ‘Boomer’ who now lives with us in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. A Boomer is defined as a mixed race of dog, predominantly terrier. The advice we have regarding her breed is that she has a high proportion of Maltese terrier genes.
We have named her Esha, Sanskrit for fun or pleasure, which sums up our hopes for a long and happy relationship with her and also our commitment to providing her with a holistic lifestyle based primarily upon Ayurvedic principles as promoted by Sama Dog.
Her first year is somewhat shrouded in mystery. Born in February 2016 she was part of an unwanted litter delivered to the Rotterdam Dog Shelter (Hondenasiel in Dutch) shortly after being weaned.
In short order she was adopted by a single ‘gentleman’ who, apparently, rarely left his apartment which was a situation entirely unsuited to a very young, active and intelligent terrier type. It is clear that he completely mislead the Dog Shelter staff as to his intentions as, within a week, he had placed her on the Dutch equivalent of Craig’s list!
Fortunately, the advert was seen by Shelter staff and they intervened and Esha was returned. Since she is a very attractive and small dog it was not long before a young couple applied to adopt her and were approved based upon their promise to exercise her regularly every day. After a few months they returned her to the shelter on the grounds that she was incompatible with their lifestyle!
We suspect that her very cute looks led this couple to view her as a fashion accessory with little concept of the demands resulting from the commitment to share your life with a dog.
The story moves on. At the beginning of this year we had spent nearly four happy weeks with our son, Rene, and daughter in Law, Amanda, (of Sama Dog fame) in Southern California. For part of our stay we house and dog watched whilst they enjoyed the snowfields around Tahoe. Our dogwatch partner was Pepper, one of their rescue dogs. Pepper was a Philippine street dog who, despite terrible maltreatment in his earlier life, has the sweetest temperament you could imagine. Unfortunately, due to earlier traumas, he could not travel far due to kidney and liver issues. Thus it fell to us to keep him company. We both fell in love with him and even investigated the possibility of bringing him back to The Netherlands. However, cost and more importantly, his health, made this impossible. Pepper sadly passed away three months after our visit
Back in the Netherlands, we toyed with the idea of adopting a dog but put it on hold for a while to ensure we fully comprehended the commitment we would have to make.
That is, until the second of March when Martine, scanning the Shelter website, saw this face beaming out at her. ‘We must talk to the Shelter, she is beautiful and looks so much like the original Sama Dog, Benny, who features widely in Amanda’s blogs and website’.
The call was made and we were advised that there was considerable interest and that we would be interviewed in depth as they did not want the dog subjected to another disastrous adoption. The telephone interview lasted some time during which, of course, we detailed our involvement with Sama Dog and gave the staff the website and Facebook details of Amanda’s organization for them to review.
This must have swung it as we were asked if we could get to the Shelter in the next hour. By the time we arrived they had visited the sites we had given them and wanted to know more. We were allowed to take the dog for a walk in the surrounding park and, within an hour we were the proud owners of Esha. Not something we had foreseen when we awoke that morning.
Two weeks on we are amazed at the progress she is making. She learns incredibly quickly, a very intelligent and active creature (I make no excuses for repeating myself). She is very much Martine’s dog, I am a convenient exerciser and someone to either challenge to play games or to sit on and sleep on.
The Shelter staff are of the opinion that at some point in the past she had been consistently mistreated by a man. She remains very nervous of men and even me if she is not expecting my presence. We hope this diminishes over time. Also, she cannot yet be left alone. Almost certainly a residue of being left for many hours at a time without human contact. At present we ensure that one of us is always here but the person leaving, upon Amanda’s advice, always explains that they will return. In the last couple of days this approach seems to be working and anxiety levels are reducing. Still some way to go but we are following Amanda’s various teachings and we are confident that in the not too distant future we will be able to leave her alone for an hour or two.
On the plus side, she is a great companion, fun to be with and already very loving, she has bought a new dimension into our life (Not what I was exactly thinking at 6.30 this morning when someone demanded to go out for a pee, the upside of that being that at least she asked)
Although we live in an apartment we are fortunate that we have a good sized balcony which overlooks a park and a river so always plenty to catch her attention. The aforesaid park is only 50 meters from our front door and, with typical Dutch efficiency, has designated dog areas with poobag dispensers and waste bins.
She also loves to travel in the car and is already a seasoned tram user which we use to get into the City centre.
So, there we are. We are now a family of three and look forward to many happy and fun years together.
We have been proud parents of Esha for nearly two months now. She is becoming far more assertive and confident and a pleasure to share our lives with.
She has progressed greatly from the nervous and tentative creature she was when she first arrived chez O’Neill. The issues that still need attention are a continual need to be close to us and a corresponding fear of being left alone at any time.
It still amazes us that anyone could mistreat such a wonderful creature but, thinking it through, she is an extremely attractive small dog and it could be that people have been seduced by this and were not aware of the challenging demands that such an intelligent and energetic personality put upon their human ‘parents’. She is definitely not a ‘lapdog’. A true pitta personality, she demands stimulation and exercise. In return we get a loving, active participant in our family life who is ‘up’ for any new experience. In true Dutch fashion she now happily rides in the basket on the front of our bicycle.
Finally, a few words about Amanda and Rene’s dear departed Pepper. His story has been told on the SamaDog blog. We both fell in love with him in the two weeks over Christmas and New Year that he was our responsibility. As previously mentioned we even considered bringing him back with us to Europe but the health problems that recently claimed him made that impossible. He converted us from a couple who were interested but not overly enthused about dogs to devotees who realised what could be added to our lives. Our experience with Pepper led directly to the adoption of Esha. We see the new and secure life we are giving to her as a tribute to him. R.I.P. Pepper.