A Bad Pet Parent
All this rain. All these storms. My dog is a mess. Until recently, I blamed it all on the flood.
Bruzer was recovering from major surgery when the flood hit. He wasn’t supposed to be walking without his little sling, but we had no time for that. I carried him above the water as we left. Once we hit dry land, he had to walk. During those first days, I was too stressed to worry about my dog’s state of mind. I was probably a bad pet parent.
Some people encouraged me to board Bruzer while we were displaced, but my daughter and I wanted him with us. My friend found us a pet-friendly hotel. That’s when the problems started. No matter the weather, Bruzie would gnaw his little paws until they bled. The vet diagnosed him with PTSD. They were seeing a lot of that in Columbia in October 2015. I thought he was joking when he said he was prescribing Zanax.
The hotel stay posed challenges for us all. My daughter was worried that the cleaning staff would accidentally let the dog out. The manager took care of that problem. One of the maids had a little Chihuahua named Foxy that accompanied her to work. We knew she would be the only one going in and out. Bruzie had a girlfriend. His need for meds lessened.
After the hotel, it was time to find more permanent housing. We settled into a garage apartment. The family’s dog and Bruzie became fast friends. Almost every evening, little Bonsai would come to the door and put his face in the glass to signal playtime. No gnawing on those nights. He was too tired. They would wear themselves out like little kids and then fall fast asleep.
At some point we were able to live upstairs in our house while they were working downstairs. That was the hardest time for my dog. Lots of noise. Lots of strangers going in and out. We kept him locked in one of the rooms upstairs.
During our time of the flood, I wondered if I was doing the right thing hauling that dog around. He was living in strange places. He had strangers walking him. There was no routine. No wonder the dog was a mess. Our life was a mess, literally. I had lots of pet-parent guilt.
The gnawing seemed to get better after renovations were complete. We got settled and found a routine. I was feeling better about my pet parenting.
And then, a big storm hit, the first really big one after the flood. People were worried about my daughter and me. On a scale of 1-10, I was a zero. I had gone through a storm before so I figured I could do it again if needed. My daughter said the same. Bruzer, however, was a 15. At least.
Still today, years after the flood, I don’t need to check the weather forecast. If heavy rain is coming, Bruzer lets us know. It seems to be getting worse with age.
Recently I posted something on social media about Bruzer’s anxiety. Seems like lots of dogs don’t like storms. Maybe it’s just a dog thing. Maybe it had nothing to do with the flood at all. Maybe dog parents, like people parents, are too hard on themselves.
It’s been almost four years since the flood. We’ve learned to adapt. If a storm is heading out way, we know what to do. Bruzer has his “special medicine” that helps him cope. He likes to be swaddled like a baby, and he likes to be close to one of us. We are happy to make that happen.
Storms will come and go. Adversity may rear its ugly head again. But as long as we are together - my dog, my daughter, and me - I think we’ll be ok.
Tammy Davis lives in Columbia, SC, with her dog, Bruzer, who serves as guard dog, emotional support pet, alarm animal, running coach, nightly entertainment source, and more. He is currently in negotiations with several Hollywood agents (not really, but he should be).