Fast forward to June 2009
This is what happens in New England: You go to bed on a lovely summer evening only to be wakened abruptly by the furious crashing of thunder and lightening around 2 o'clock in the morning. (Or at least you do if you're the female half of this equation - Jan will sleep through the apocalypse and wonder where everyone went when he wakes the next morning.) I don't know why storms here like to occur at this particularly ungodly hour but that's kind of the way of it. Luckily, I tend to be both a light sleeper and a bit of an insomniac so at least one human in the household is capable of functioning during these events.
|Insert perfectly irrelevant picture of pretty dog here.|
In my rather long history with animals, I've known plenty who "didn't like" thunderstorms - my mom and dad's dog, Misty, used to hide under their computer desk whenever it stormed. It was evident she didn't like them but there were no visible signs of panic and dread. Within moments of that first crack of thunder, however, it was clear we were dealing with a different beast in Bella's reaction.
Houston, we have a problem
It was tragic to watch our little girl tremble, pace and pant in abject terror. She had learned with many of her fears to come to us for reassurance, perhaps protection and she did try this with the thunder by climbing into bed with us. We were unrealistically hopeful that she would settle and lie down with us but she preferred to stand - on Jan (well, that's one way to wake him up). Honestly, I think we could have lived with that. It was when she started trying to climb the headboard of the bed that we realized this was going to be a problem: Bella was trying to escape.
She was in a blind panic and I was fast approaching the same - this couldn't be good for her physically. I had no idea what to do - my mind raced to all I had read about fearful dogs:
- Control the environment - um, well yeah okay but if I could do that, I'd be rich.
- Remove the object of fear - again, not so helpful here, moving on...
- Move the dog away from the object - wait, what? We may have just stumbled upon something remotely useful.
Our basement, yay for me, is finished and in fact where we have our "entertainment" area. Unsure what to expect, I turned on the television to some station that was playing music and turned the volume up - way up - until it drowned out the sound of the thunder. Soon, Bella climbed up on the couch next to me, let out a heavy sigh and promptly fell asleep. And this is how she and I have spent pretty much every single thunderstorm in the three years since.
A first on Bringing up Bella: The series
We have tried just about every product on the market to help her with this debilitating fear: drugs, wraps, scents, sounds, TTouch, you name it. Nothing has proven 100% effective. Over the next several weeks, I'll lay out what we tried and our experience with each.
And now for the requisite disclaimer: I am not a vet - my discussion of medications is strictly anecdotal. The products being reviewed were purchased, not offered to us for review - I will present my experience and give an honest opinion. I hope if folks have had different experiences, you will feel welcome to offer them and your own opinions here as well.
Finally, I have virtually no pictures of Bella from during these events. While a visual study of fear displays in dogs may be useful, I'm her hu-mom not her scientist.