This week was Asha's appointment with the behavorial vet. The week prior was a great one. Asha seemed to be calming down and settling into an even state. I was feeling more hopeful, like I could live like this forever - if this was as good as it got. I was almost thinking she didn't need to go to this special vet. Her appointment was Tuesday morning. Monday and Tuesday, Asha reminded me that she did, in fact, need this extra help. She did a bunch of running and barking and was just restless.
Trevor had to work, so it was just me and Asha. It was about a 30 minute drive - the longest trip Asha has ever taken in the car. I was nervous about it just being us, but she did great. I brought a bunch of treats and peanut butter filling kongs to keep her busy. She layed on the back seat and just relaxed.
As always, Asha was thrilled to be some place new. Everyone at the vet's office wanted to meet her and had questions about her. The vet was super nice. I really liked him and so did Asha. We started at the beginning and covered just about everything I could think of. Asha acted up a bit and so the vet was able to observe her behavior and how I handled it.
After two hours, we came up with a game plan. There is no easy fix for our situation. It is a combination of getting the right drugs and really working to modify her behavior. Change won't happen overnight. I knew that going into this appointment. We have done a lot of work to change her behavior. The things this vet suggested were really just an extension of what we have already done. He seemed to think that Asha has more of a problem controling herself than anxiety. For example, she'll be laying calmly and for no reason jump up and start barking. Trevor compared it to Tourette's syndrome - she has no inhabition and just acts without control.
Asha is currently taking medication for her epilepsy. She also takes an anti anxiety pill. That pill has given her loose stools and we decided to switch her to something different to get rid of that side effect. Here is the one problem with that - Asha needs to stop taking the current anti anxiety meds and let them get out of her system before she starts the new one. Then the new one has to ramp up. So, that is a week without any meds and then probably 3 weeks before the other one really kicks in. The vet said "it could get worse before it gets better". That made me feel a little sick to my stomach!
She was exhausted on the way home!
We headed home with a list of things to work on...First of all, Asha needs much more mental stimulation than most dogs. She can't see or hear, so she doesn't get any stimulation that way. We have tried to give her food puzzle type treats, but she is so smart that she figures them out and then gets bored. The vet suggested that we pick up her food bowl and only feed her from these food puzzles.
The thing that Asha does that is really the major issue is her running and barking. I do not believe she does this when we are not home (we are going to video her while we are gone to confirm this). But when we are home, if we don't hold onto her leash -she will run and bark like crazy until we go stop her. The vet thinks that when we touch her and stop that behavior, she feels rewarded by our touch. She is SO social that any interaction is a reward. So he wants to us to use her leash to break the behavior and then reward her with the touch when she has stopped. She has a leash attached to her collar and when she runs, we try to step on the leash to stop her or grab the leash. Then, when she settles, we'll touch her as reward.
Finally, we have a vibrating collar and we are going to work on using that as a way to tell her "good girl". Right now, if she does lay calmly or do something good - and we pat her on her side (that's the current sign for "good girl"), or if we give her a treat, she gets up and runs and barks. We will use the vibrating collar like a clicker - so vibrate the collar and give her a treat until she realizes what the vibration means.
We are also changing her food.
We stopped giving her the anti anxiety meds on Tuesday. She was okay on Wednesday, but the next couple days her sleep patterns were off. Thursday evening I came home and Asha had cut a path of destruction, plus pooped twice in the house. She hasn't destroyed anything or pooped in the house in probably two months. Friday - she did the same things. This totally confirmed to me that the anti anxiety meds had been working. I struggled with putting her on those and after the past two days, I am so glad that we did. The vet told me to start her new meds right now instead of waiting the entire week. We started that last night - we'll see what I find when I get home today. Hopefully they kick in quickly.
I wonder if she knows something is different. I wonder if she feels out of control and doesn't understand why. I don't want that. I want her to feel calm and relaxed. That's what this is all about. She does have a lot of time where she is content, but there is too much time where she is not.
Asha did great last night. I sat on the kitchen floor with her for about an hour. She layed down against me and put her nose behind my knees and just slept. She does this great thing when she relaxes - she lets out a big sigh. I love that. She slept just about all night long too. She got up at 3 am to go out to the bathroom, then came back in and got up on the bed and fell fast asleep within seconds.
Maggie and Buster are doing great. Sometimes Asha really gets on Maggie's nerves, but she has been very tolerant lately and we are doing everything we can to make sure that Asha respects both Maggie and Buster's space.
I so look forward to Asha improving. She can be such a good girl. She is growing and learning every day. She teaches me so much and watching her amazes me. Nothing stops her, she isn't afraid of anything and she really loves people. It fills my heart with joy when I see her meet someone new. Her little tail wags a thousand miles a minute. She has her favorites too. I take her to the petstore and walk her around, she loves the smells there and someone always wants to pet her. Our vet is located in the petstore and Asha LOVES one of the vet techs named Angel. And Angel loves Asha right back. It makes me so happy to see the two of them together.
I love this little doggie, with all my heart. We'll do anything we need to do in order to give her a good life. To us, a good life means one where she can be calm and relaxed most of the time, where she feels safe and loved. A life where she knows that she belongs with us and that is where she most wants to be.