Thundershirt

Run Like the Wind, Izzy!

As everyone in the U.S. knows, the whole country is experiencing some frigid weather, and it’s only going to get worse.  Though Izzy seems to get invigorated by cold weather, I don’t, so when we had a chance to visit a fellow writer in Durham this weekend, we took it . . . especially since that writer has a dog and a fenced-in yard.

Izzy hates riding in the car.  As soon as he knows we’re going somewhere, he commences shivering.  Nothing helps.  I put on his Thundershirt whenever we have to take a ride, I’ve bought him a sheepskin seat that basically boxes him in so he’ll feel safe, and I’ve given him treats.  Still, he shivers.  But since going out in the car often results in a positive experience, I keep taking him (though it breaks my heart to see him sitting beside me, tongue hanging out, his little body shivering and quaking as if he is convinced I’m taking him somewhere that will result in pain and horrors beyond imagination).  Funny, because he rarely goes to the vet’s and absolutely loves going to the groomer’s and our visits to friends far outweigh the vet visits.  I think it’s the actual traveling itself that has him terrified, which is why I bought the seat for him.  Suffice it to say, he’s going to continue traveling with me, shivering or not.

Yesterday’s visit resulted in a pure, unadulterated treat for him.  Our walks are always leashed.  Rarely does he have the pleasure of running freely since he cannot seem to get himself to listen to my calls to “come” when he’s free.  Being in a fellow dog’s fenced in yard is something akin to my feelings of bliss when I have a dish of salted caramel ice cream topped with hot fudge in front of me.  Orgasmic!

Nothing makes me happier than seeing my little guy running as fast as he can, ears flying, tongue hanging out, eyes bright.  If he could, I’m sure he’d be yelling, “yippppeeeeeeeee!” as loudly as he could.  You know how sometimes you can “hear” a dog’s voice without actually hearing it?  Some dogs have deep, Southern drawls (basset hounds), while others have foreign accents (poodles) and others are likely to be intellectual (bulldogs) while some would sound like hippies (yellow labs).  I imagine Izzy’s voice to be fast and chatty,  an adolescent’s nonstop silliness in a high-pitched, friendly, happy tone.

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He still glances at me questioningly whenever I open the door to my friend’s backyard, as if to say, “You’re coming too, aren’t you, Mom?” but to see him enjoy being a dog with Alfie, my friend’s rat terrier/bully mix, is worth driving him shivering to the next doggie play date.

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Fly, Izzy, fly!

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Nighttime Walks and Dog Sweaters. Okay, I give in . . .

After my post about dog clothes and my aversion to them, it’s turned into a chilly winter here in North Carolina, and I must admit that I’ve put Izzy’s Thundershirt on him during cold rainy days and chilly evening walks.  He had a haircut less than a month ago, and I was aware that he didn’t have that extra layer of warmth, so I gave in.  And this morning, I got my newsletter from Cesar Millan and read this article on walking at night during the winter.  Guess it’s not so silly to dress your dogs.  Mea culpa.

http://www.cesarsway.com/dog-training/dog-walk/How-to-Keep-Your-Dog-Safe-on-Evening-Walks?utm_source=BlueHornet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Dec4GuideDogs

Dog clothing? Really? Do we need to dress up the little buggers? Or is that human vanity?

While I do believe that when it rains out, Izzy needs his ThunderShirt, both to stay dry and so that he won’t get freaked out if it’s thunder and lightening while we’re out, I’m not so sure he needs a specially-designed sweater in the middle of the winter or a nice wooly blanket for football season.  Seriously.  What is it about people who dress up a Golden Retriever in a kerchief like some Middle-Eastern babushka-wearing grandma?  And how long does the dog keep the kerchief on to begin with?

I’ve read a lot of articles about Baby Boomers and how we are treating our animals as though they are the children who have long since left the nest.  While that might be true (not only of Baby Boomers but pretty much everyone who’s crazy about their pets), I’m still not convinced we have to turn animals into pseudo-human-children.  I’ve seen Chihuahuas in pink tutus, poodles in berets, and boxers in Irish Fisherman knit sweaters.  They all look the same:  ridiculous.

I’m writing this and remembering that the dog I had when we were growing up often got scalped rather than having a decent haircut (because my parents were do-it-yourself-ers).  Tammy would skulk around, head down, eyes averted, as if ashamed that she was “nude.”  In that particular case, I can see putting something on her nearly naked body if it was the middle of the winter, because she certainly would have frozen.  But should we dress our animals just to make a statement?  Does a Cocker Spaniel really appreciate being dressed as a dragon for Halloween?  Should we create a mini Pekingnese version of Santa Claus on December 25th?  Or what about a heart-shaped Pit Bull for Valentine’s Day?

Maybe I’m just being an ol’ poop, but I don’t get design clothing for dogs.  http://www.refinery29.com/pet-accessories?utm_source=email&utm_medium=editorial&utm_content=los-angeles&utm_campaign=131029-dog-accessories#slide-1

I’d be interested to hear how you feel about dressing up your lovely pooch.  And I would venture to guess that your most affectionate cat wouldn’t sit still for putting on a hat or a vest or a lovely sequined dress!  

Birthdays and Visits and More Car Rides with a Terrified Dog

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Izzy didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, probably because he thought I was going to force him into taking another car ride.

Yesterday, I put him in his ThunderShirt and took him for a long walk before getting into the car to head for my daughter’s house.  Izzy shivered so much, I finally pulled him onto my lap for the ride.  That’s something I never do, but driving for almost an hour and a quarter with him shivering and drooling and sliding on the glove box didn’t seem like a good idea.  He was a bit more comfortable on my lap, but I can’t say that I was.  I don’t like driving that way, even though he was completely still and didn’t impede me at all.

The up side of the ride was that Izzy got to spend the day with Gordon and Wilson, my daughter’s two dogs.  Gordon is a Cockapoo who thinks he’s human, and Wilson is a rescued Rat Terrier mix who was even more of a mess during his first year than my Izzy.  The three dogs played in the fenced in yard while I helped my daughter, who has thrown her back out.

It was my grandson’s birthday, his first birthday, so we played with his new toys, I read him the books I had bought him, and we had some cherished ‘grand’ time.

When we left, Izzy just about turned himself inside out to get his leash on, but when the ThunderShirt was introduced, he knew what it meant:  the horrible red car.  The ride home.  Facing his fear.  As soon as he saw my red sedan in the driveway, he sunk his butt down and refused to move.  Normally, I’d take him for a walk and get rid of some of that anxiety, but it was early evening, starting to rain, and I was tired.  We drove home with him on my lap again and shivering — though not as much as earlier.  By the time we were halfway home, he had his head on my arm, a bit more relaxed.

This morning, we put on the ThunderShirt to go for our early morning walk because it was raining . . . and because I don’t want Izzy to see it as a negative or as a clue that we’re going for a ride.  He won’t have to worry this afternoon, because I’m going back to my daughter’s alone and he can stay home and enjoy napping on this gray, rainy day.

The Kennel and the Car. Izzy’s Fears.

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Izzy upon arrival in North Carolina, 2012

Izzy’s only a little more than two years old, and he’s been working on some fear issues ever since he moved in with me.  I’m proud to say that he’s come a very long way from burrowing deep in the kennel and not wanting to come out when we picked him up at the airport.  He also doesn’t growl and bark at new people like he used to.  Instead, he wags his tail and wants to say hello.  That’s a biggie!  But there are a few things that still bring out the fear.

Over this past weekend, I had to travel to Cincinnati for a college reunion and brought Izzy to the kennel where he has stayed on occasion since he came to me.  The people who run the place are fabulous.  They love him and worked really hard with me when he first went there in order to get him socialized.  At one point, I came to pick him up and found him in the owner’s office, sitting on the recliner.  Yes, he got under their skin like he has with me.

But the kennel isn’t next door to my house.  It’s a half hour ride, which means Izzy needs to get into the car.  That’s not fun for him at all.  When we first started dealing with the issue, Izzy was so frightened of the car that he would literally not even walk by it (and he knew which car was mine) whenever we went through my apartment parking lot after going for a walk.  I spent hours trying to get him to walk around the vehicle, but he sat his butt down and pulled his whole sixteen pounds against the leash.  He would not — for love or money — get into the car unless I forced him.  I knew that wasn’t a good idea, but no matter what I did, nothing got him past the fear.  I spent hours with him, enticed him with treats, sat in the car when it wasn’t running, made sure we went on short rides to “good” places (like my girlfriend’s house where he could run in the back yard with her Jack Russell).  

Nothing worked.

Then we went to obedience school, and one night, I was telling the instructor about Izzy’s fear of cars.  When he rode with me, he would need to be carried into the car, and then he would get up on the glove box, lean against me and drool/pant frantically until we got where we were going.  Usually, those trips were to the kennel.  It doesn’t take much detective work to realize that he soon linked the car with the kennel.

Heidi worked with me that night, and together, we found a “fun” way to get Izzy into the car.  I ran away from it, then turned around and ran toward it (the passenger door open) and when we arrived, said, “Up, up, up!”  Izzy jumped right in.  From then on, it was easy.

But this past weekend, when we went to the kennel (for the first time in months), Izzy didn’t want to go inside.  He finally did, and I didn’t think much about it while I was gone.  When I came back, it was a different story.

Izzy came through the door to the office where I stood, and I bent down to say hello.  His tail tucked between his legs, and his whole body quivered.  The women who were checking me out started making cooing noises, obviously sympathetic to my little shivering Shichon.  

I knew I couldn’t take him in the car immediately, especially in the shape he was in, so I sat on the bench in the lobby and asked him to come up on my lap.  He tried, but the slatted bench wasn’t familiar, so he gave up.  I patted him and talked to him a while longer, but his quivering became worse.  It was as if he knew he would have to go into the car.

Having just driven 10 hours, I wanted to get home, so I paid my bill and took him outside.  He saw the car and immediately pulled in the other direction, both his head and tail lowered.

It was lightly raining, but we trotted up to the end of the long driveway.  I let Izzy take a good look (and sniff) at the horses in the meadow across the road, then we trotted back to the car.  He seemed a bit more comfortable, but not relaxed.  

“Up, up, up!” I said, and Izzy obediently jumped in, though he still shivered.

All the way home, he quivered and drooled.  I felt horrible for several reasons.  I hate driving with him on the glove box, for one.  If I have to make a turn or a quick stop, he has no traction at all.  Secondly, his fear seems amplified, and I don’t want him to associate the car with a negative end.  Thirdly, I had just gotten home and wanted him to be comfortable.

Once we were home, he had a walk and got settled back in the house.  Within minutes, he was back to his playful self, finding his favorite tattered red ball and bringing it to me.  But I think that the next car ride will bring back the same fears.

So, research this week . . . on good car seats that will allow him a view of the outside and some security.  And I think the next time we go to the kennel, he’s going to be wearing his ThunderShirt to keep him calm.

Izzy Wears a Thundershirt in the Rain

Raining, cold, miserable weather.  Not the kind that makes me want to jump out of bed, click the leash on Izzy and head out for a 6 AM walk, but when you have a dog, you don’t have much of a choice.  The funny thing is that Izzy doesn’t like walking in the rain either.  He stops at the back door, looks up at me, out toward the yard and back to me again as if to say, “Seriously, woman?  You want me to go out in THAT?”  I pull him off the stairs, he tucks his ears, then obediently trots at my side, but when it comes to a puddle.  Whoa!  Pull up here!  Then a big leap over the offensive water and we’re off — really quickly — to do “the thing.”

When I lived in an apartment complex on the third floor, the storms would echo through the meadow we faced.  It was truly spectacular to see flashes of lightning from that height, and the repeating booms of thunder made the pictures on my walls rock.  Exciting for me.  Not so much for Izzy.  He would run from room to room, tail between his legs, as if he couldn’t find a space safe enough to sit and hide.  

I did some research and found a place right in Durham that had invented a shirt for animals that purported to calm their anxiety, whether it was thunderstorms or fear of something else that made them turn into whining balls of nerves.  They called their product a Thundershirt.  It looked like a piece of gray flannel with Velcro.  Unassuming.  I wondered what could be so magical about this gray flannel shirt that would calm down the most anxious of animals.  

I spent a lot of time on their website, read all of the success stories, watched the videos, perused the research about how the Thundershirt cured anxiety in 80% of the animals (dogs and cats) who wore it.  No matter whether it was thunderstorms or separation anxiety, the Thundershirt would cure it.

I looked at Izzy, thought about his fear of the thunderstorm, but even more so, I thought about his fear of human beings.  At 9 months old, my little Shichon had a terrible attitude toward people in general.  He charged strangers, barking and growling so fiercely that no one would come near him.  It wasn’t fun.

So I tried it.

Within five minutes of putting on the shirt, Izzy curled into a ball and went to sleep on the floor next to my bed.  Meanwhile, a thunderstorm that wouldn’t quit for hours raged on outside.  He could have cared less.

Success!

Today, Izzy really doesn’t pay attention to storms, but he still doesn’t like rain, so when it’s a dreary, rainy day like it is today, we put on his Thundershirt and it keeps him dry while he’s outside.  I still have to rub him down with a towel when we come home because his head and paws get wet, but his body is dry, and he absolutely loves putting on that shirt.  Amazing.

Having a dog that’s only half wet is much better than having one that is soaked to the skin — even if that dog’s ‘fur’ is really hair.

I’m not doing a commercial for this product, but if you’re interested, here’s the link:  http://www.thundershirt.com/

(And here’s Izzy on our walk when it’s dry!)

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