Chapter 7 – Little Miss Separation Anxiety

“That dog is SOOO into you.”

“She really is a daddy’s girl.”

“Her eyes did not leave the door all day after you left.”

“She is really devoted to you. I have never seen anything like it before, and I have known a lot of dogs and their owners.”

“Wow, did she perk up when she saw you!”

Gabby’s petsitter Darlene once told me, “Let me tell you, your little girl really loves you. When you are due back from your trips and it is time to drop her off back at your house, I start packing up her toys and bowls and food.  When she sees me do this, she starts dancing and wagging her tail and runs to the door, knowing it is time to go home.  She goes to the door wagging, looking back at me, and when I don’t come immediately, she comes back to get me, wagging and dancing in anticipation, and running back and forth to the door.  She can’t wait to go home and be with you.”

All through Gabby’s life I received comments like these. Dogs are known to be incredibly devoted to their humans, but Gabby took it way beyond that.  Pretty much from day one she had to be with me all the time, even when I went into the bathroom. She clung to me, and I certainly didn’t mind.  I was never so happy as when she was with me and I like to think I was especially devoted to her, too.
When I would lie on the couch, she would jump up and climb all the way up on my chest and curl up, often resting her head against my cheek as we watched TV. If we were relaxing together she had to be touching me, and when we slept, she curled up touching my leg by my knee and I put my hand over her.
Because of this attachment she would also suffer from severe separation anxiety at times, usually when I went away or we were in unfamiliar surroundings. This led to some complications later on in her life, as you will see as you read some stories about her when she was older.
The separation anxiety look
If we were visiting a friend’s house and someone else was holding her, if I got up and started to leave the room (to go to the bathroom, for instance) she would lock onto me with an intense, very serious gaze, complete with a furrowed brow.  She would then follow my every move.  I called this  “the separation anxiety look.” Once I exited the room she would jump down and follow. If the bathroom door was closed she would bang on it so hard with her paw that it would shake on the hinges.  BAM BAM BAM!  I heard that many times!

At home, if I ever closed a door behind me to keep her in the room while I attended to something, she usually did the same.  BAM BAM BAM!

If I put her on a leash and walked with her in an unfamiliar place, the moment we stopped she stood on her hind legs and pawed my leg, wanting to be picked up. It’s like she didn’t feel secure out in the open and wanted to make sure she was safe in my arms.
I hated being separated from her, too. Whenever I traveled I could not wait to come home to see her, open the door to her crate and have her jump out to greet me. Once I went to visit amusement parks in California for six days, and I missed her so much I came back a day early.  I would have rather had a day at home with Gabby than another day at Disneyland.

Escape tunnel?

When she was a year old I did not want to let her be loose in my townhouse because of all the steps, but felt bad about crating her when I was away. I decided to try keeping her uncrated in the bedroom while I was at work. She would have more room to walk around and be comfortable, and hopefully would be enclosed enough that she would not want to relieve herself on the carpet.

So, I put out bowls of water and food, then put some blankets on the floor so she would have a comfortable place to lie down.  I closed the door and went to work. She banged on the door a few times but then stopped, so I thought it would be OK.

When I got home that evening I opened the bedroom door.  Gabby ran to me, excited. There was no poop or pee in the room. Then I looked down at my feet. The carpet immediately next to the door was destroyed.  She had tried to dig under the door. There was a hole the size of a dinner plate that went all the way to the floorboards. I looked closely at the edges of the hole and there were two layers of carpet, and then carpet pad.  Apparently the person who put down the new latest carpet just put it on top of the previous carpet, without tearing it up or putting down new pad. That was a lot of digging through a very tough surface. That dog was desperate to get to me!  I checked her paws and fortunately she did not hurt herself.

I still wanted her to have more space, so I decided to try using a baby gate in the kitchen entrance where there is a linoleum floor. I put food and water out again, as well as her doggie bed and newspaper in case she had to relieve herself.

Attempt #1, I came home and she was loose in the house.  With dachshund determination, she had knocked over the baby gate.

Attempt #2, I tried moving the gate into the kitchen a few more inches and locked it down extremely tightly. When I come home, she was in the kitchen, but the bowls were knocked over, the paper was shredded, and the carpet by the baby gate was destroyed, just like in the bedroom. This was despite the fact that the baby gate was three or four inches into the kitchen, away from the carpet.  She had stretched out under the gate, got her paws on the carpet and tried to dig her way out again.

The lines point to the area where the carpet was replaced

If you look closely at the picture above, you can see where the carpet by the kitchen was repaired.  There is a piece that is a little bit different in color right by where the linoleum starts, extending about five inches to the lines I drew to show you. I ordered new carpet for the bedroom and had the dining room carpet repaired, and realized that the crate was the best place after all.  Whenever I picked up the car keys she ran and got in her crate anyway, because she knew I was leaving. I guess she didn’t have a problem with it. 

Boarding and kennels

When Gabby was three I was scheduled to take a 7-day cruise with my family. I didn’t want to leave her with a friend or family member for that long, and considered boarding her this time. My mother thought this was the best idea as well. If she was being watched by professionals they would keep a close eye on her all the time. If she was with friends or family, she might get loose looking for me. Everyone already knew how attached she was to me and how she had done things like dig through carpet when we were separated.

A friend suggested The Cozy Inn.  At that time they only had one location about 60 miles from my home and I was told that Tom Cruise boarded his dogs there…  that’s how good it was. It was the closest thing to a luxury resort that I could find, and my friend told me his dog loved going there. I checked out the facilities and they were outstanding.
So, I dropped Gabby off before my cruise. I saw the separation anxiety look on her face when I left. It killed me, but I tried to push it out of my mind.
Before I got on the cruise ship in Florida I called to check on her. They told me she seemed OK, but didn’t want to eat much. She was probably still adjusting, and they said they would notify me if need be.
When I got back when the cruise was over, I called and checked in again as soon as we hit land. They told me she was fine and was eating well. When I hung up the phone, I thought, “Maybe she has forgotten about me already. I sure hope not, but I am glad she is comfortable.”
As soon as I got back to town I asked my grandmother if she wanted to ride out with me at 5:30 AM the next day so we could be there to pick up Gabby as soon as they opened. She agreed, and the next day I arrived at the kennel to pick up my beloved dog, wondering what it would be like when we were reunited, and how she had done when I was away.
I went in and the attendant came up the stairs holding Gabby. When Gabby saw me from across the room, she stared at me with the most intense, focused separation anxiety look I had ever seen, until the “Driver Dream” you will read about later. I got the impression she couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
When the attendant put her down 15 feet away, she ran to me so fast I hardly saw her move. You have never seen a wiener dog move so fast!  She was instantly at my feet and instantaneously voided what must have been her entire bladder right there on the linoleum floor. She jumped up and down on her hind legs like a Pogo stick, so high that I was able to grab her in the air without hardly bending over, and I am six feet tall!
She had missed me, all right.  As I picked her up I noticed she was very light… she had not been eating much at all. That’s probably why they mentioned her eating. She must not have eaten very much when she was there.
She was on my lap the entire way home. It wasn’t enough for her to sit on my lap as I drove. Most of the time she stood on her hind legs with her body against mine and her head against my heart. She just seemed so relieved, and did a lot of sighing as I petted her. When I stopped to fill up the car, when I got out and walked to the back of the car she let out what sounded like the combination of a bark and a cry.  It was cute, sad and pathetic at the same time. I started the pump and went back and comforted her.

She threw up at home and had bloody stools from the stress she had been through. It took a few days for her eating and pooping to get back to normal. After that, I knew I would never be boarding her at a kennel again.  For the rest of her life, whenever I went away she stayed at my house and my dad watched her, or with Darlene or a friend.  She was still upset when we were separated, and if she stayed with anyone other than Darlene or my dad she would usually throw up a bit from the stress. It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t nearly as hard on her as the kennel was.

In her last two years, even staying at Darlene’s didn’t work unless it was for just a few days.  I suppose when our dogs get older they need our presence even more.