My husband is a very kind man who likes adopting pets. He would come home with birds, lizards, geckos, and animals as exotic as the Chinese water dragon. We had a special room for all the animals that he felt would have a better home with us than where they were found.
One day, he called me on the phone as I was coming home from my night job and he told me that a new smiling face with big brown eyes would be greeting me as I came in the door. I told him jokingly, “Okay, as long as it isn’t a kid named Julio with hearty appetite!” After all, we already had twenty parakeets, a couple of sun conures, a cockatiel, a few lizards, a Tokay gecko, a Chinese water dragon, two dogs, and a cat…what harm would one more critter be?
I wondered what my surprise would be. When I opened the front door, I was greeted by the smiling face of Daisy. What a pretty dog she was, with her happy wagging tail. She is an Australian cattle dog mixed breed, with the personality of an angel, a white mid-sized dog with reddish spots.
Daisy was adopted from the parking lot of Petco where the adoption dog service had many salvaged doggies up for adoption. Her big brown eyes and gentle smile had won my husband’s heart. He got her history from them and decided we could make a good loving home for her.
When people keep dogs as pets, they must remember that dogs are inbred with certain characteristics. Daisy was a herding dog. It was her job to see to it that the flock was safe. Her history was one of a runaway, digging tunnels and jumping fences. The original family that had owned her had given her up because they were tired of chasing her down. She had such a habit of digging out of the back yard and running away, that they had put her on a chain. She had scars on her neck where the heavy chain had rubbed away the hair and marked her deeply.
During Hurricane Charley, homes were trashed, roofs were torn off, huge trees and other debris were hurled across streets and thunderstorms raged. Lightening crashed and the wind blew hard at more than 75 miles per hour. The devastation was horrible. Poor Daisy, being frightened and chained in the yard, broke free and ran away; perhaps, to check on her herd.
Fortunately, she was found by her original family several days later. It is amazing that she survived the storm and did not get hit by a car as we live in a part of Orlando with busy intersections and 5 and 6 lane through streets. The original owners felt that they could no longer keep her and they took her to the adoption agency. She had subsequently been adopted by several owners who had always brought her back to the agency with the same complaints. Daisy needed a safe home. My husband was certain that he could build a better mousetrap.
Daisy was already a full grown dog when we got her. Her habits were deeply ingrained. She had been a yard dog. My husband saw these habits as a challenge and decided that we would make a house dog of her like the other two doggies that live with us. They have a doggie door and come and go at liberty. Daisy seemed to instinctively know what the doggie door was for and followed the others in and out. No training required. She was a smart dog.
The next morning, after my husband had gone to work, I noticed the boards from the privacy fence had been pushed out. Daisy was gone. I searched the neighborhood and found her down the street. Promptly, we put a tag on her with our phone numbers. My husband took plastic twist ties and went around each and every panel on the privacy fence securing them into place so they could not be pushed out.
Not long after, we moved to a new neighborhood nearby. We had a chain-linked fence at this new house, but found quickly that she could jump over it. Neighbors were constantly calling or bringing her back home. My husband went out and bought an electric invisible fence, surely she could be trained to stay in. He installed the wire around the perimeter of the back yard. Then we noticed that she was only running away during thunderstorms.
Here in Florida during the summer months, our rainy season, there are thunderstorms almost daily. Daisy would begin to pant as the barometric pressure dropped. By the time a storm hit, she would be in a full blown panic, pacing and checking from room to room for her flock. Most doggies with thunderstorm anxiety will simply hide under a bed and whimper, not Daisy; she was a doggie on a mission. Even the electric fence would not stop her.
We wanted the least restrictive method to keep her contained. We tried the Thunder Shirt™ to no avail. It calmed her, but that did not last long. She found a spot that she could push under the chain-linked fence and escape from. We fixed that, but it did not stop her from trying. We decided to invest in a $3000.00, 8 foot high, full panel vinyl privacy fence, surely that could keep her in. No, she found a way to push the gate open at its base. She was found by a family nearly three miles away. My husband added another latch down below. She was being contained, but would tremble and pant and pace until she wore herself out, and then lay at our feet, exhausted. Her anxiety still troubled us. When we weren’t home, we worried about what fear she might be experiencing in our absence.
Finally we took her to the vet and explained the problem. The vet gave us sedatives to calm her that we were supposed to give her at the beginning of a storm. Again, if we weren’t home, we weren’t there to halt her anxiety. We also found that the sedatives would knock her out for two days. Sometimes the thunderstorms would last only minutes and be gone, other times hours, but poor Daisy was out for the count for days. We tried reducing the dose, but often, by the time the storm passed, the sedative would just be starting to kick in. It wasn’t working out well.
Then we went on vacation for two weeks and had a friend coming by to feed and tend to the critters. He did not seem to see anything amiss when he came by, so we thought that she must be coping with our absence quite well. We came home, and within days discovered that she had a place by the gate that she had been digging with all of her might. Her nails were bleeding and her paws were filthy. Her face stayed black from the mud as she would go out during the worst of the weather to dig. My husband filled the hole and poured concrete around the threshold of the gate so she would have nowhere to dig. Again, without much success with the sedatives, we went back to the vet.
This time, the vet had us try Prozac. It seemed an odd choice in that she did not seem like a very depressed animal. Except during storms, she was a quite well adjusted, happy doggie. But we decided to give it a try. The 20 mg dose seemed to make her lethargic and far too drowsy to suit her normally spunky personality, so the vet did a dose adjustment and we went down to 10 mgs. Perfect!!!
Daisy is now a perfectly well adjusted, loving, calm and very happy dog, despite her determination. She still checks on us during a storm, just to make sure that all are okay, but no more panic, no more trembling and shaking, no panting or pacing. There is no more digging, and her paws have healed. There are no more phone calls from neighbors. She will go from room to room to see if the members of her flock are okay and then she will return to her bed under my husband’s computer desk and nap through the storms. She is one peacefully happy determined dog who has finally found a home with a kind and loving, equally determined daddy.