Day 105 – No-One Said This Would Be Easy

Apologies for the long hiatus between posts. As we end March, I realise it is now nearly 40 days since I provided an update on the little border collie pup, Teddy. It’s not as if there’s been nothing to report. There’s been everything and nothing in many ways. But this post also conveys some serious concerns. As with absolutely everything, there’s a reference point. Jake. Teddy has to follow Jake.

Teddy has some quirks and traits Jake never had. Some are relatively benign – the excitement pee is still ongoing. As an example, I had a work trip to Paris at the beginning of the month, and due to the French workers striking at Gare du Nord, my 10:30 pm arrival home turned into an after midnight thing. As I got home, Teddy was in his overnight crate, but hadn’t seen me for two days. As I let him out, and he went crackers, the best description I can come up with is do you know what’s it’s like when you let go of a high pressure hose?

I am still, deep down, not convinced we did the right thing getting Teddy so soon after Jake, but I have to get past it. There are many reasons for that feeling, some related to the death and some coincidental as time has shown. I’ve been advised that me talking about Jake’s death makes people uncomfortable – but then if you have read my scribbles, you’ll know blogging is a catharsis for me, an outlet valve. So if you don’t like it, deal with it. I’m not going to change.

Jake was, for much of his early life, relatively easy to deal with. He wasn’t as high maintenance as Teddy is, and he was my first dog as a proper owner, so I had no guide book to get through. Jake never had a problem with cars, riding in the back was natural from the first time we picked him up. This allowed us to go to parks and coasts further afield

Early on in our ownership of him we left Jake alone in the house – with regular intervals where neighbours and brother helped out – for around 16 hours and Jake got on with it. While he always barked when we left the house, we knew he settled down. He did not damage the house in anyway save for one chair he gnawed on once, and the incursions into the litter bin. Jake walked when he was in the routine, preferring to do his business out and about rather than in the garden all the time. Once Jake settled down into a routine, it was fine. So, of course, we hoped Teddy would be a bit like Jake.

This is massively different. Jake’s death, the manner of it, the way it happened, whether we choose to admit it or not makes us paranoid about everything. A dog is meant to be a bit of a stress reliever. Teddy is not. It’s absolutely not his fault. Every minor incident is escalated in my mind as the recollections of what happened to Jake are too fresh. This ramping up of stress and concern, has coincided with work becoming very very busy as I was covering two posts in a high-ish level position with my seniors having no real regard for the impacts. I would come home, late, to a dog wanting attention, and in many ways I don’t have the energy to do so. This is a change since we bought Teddy, and it’s a rough patch I have to work through.

Some of Teddy’s good points raise a smile, though. He’s very agile and very good at catching a tennis ball. Well in advance of where Jake was at a similar age. My wife takes him over to Chinbrook Meadows on a daily basis where he socialises and plays ball. He has mastered the ball on the stairs which took Jake a while to do. He does training well when bribed with treats. He goes into his crate quite nicely at times, or plays dead when he’s not ready. He is definitely more jumpy than Jake – so much so we fear our front fence may not be tall enough. Like Jake he’s a mad walker.

Our key issues are twofold, and by writing them I might be getting myself into strife. But blogging is about being true to yourself. The first is one we can’t solve at the moment. He is simply terrified of being in a car. We took him a few times, and he puked and pooped in the back seat. We gave him a break, brought him back with some short drives to the fields and back again, and he drooled and vomited. We took him on an even shorter drive up to the allotments (more on that in a minute) and he was utterly terrified. We so want to take him out further afield, but it’s impossible at the moment. By not doing so we are narrowing his horizons and not giving him the space he needs to discover more. It may come down to biting the bullet, taking him further afield and see the consequences. He wasn’t bad when we picked him up from Baldock, but he’s deteriorated. It’s upsetting and frustrating. You don’t want your dog to be anxious.

The second issue is much, much more serious. Jake, as I said above, was OK when we left him alone. We didn’t do it much, but we did it early and often. Jake, when not kept in the crate in his later years (well, after 9 months or so) used to bark at us when we left, but then settle down. Teddy is a little more highly strung. When we’ve gone out to do the food shopping, or my wife has gone up to her new allotment for an hour or so,  we understand (now) that Teddy barks constantly. This news has not gone down well. We are now placed in an impossible position. If we stay with him all the time, then we are opening ourselves up to future massive separation anxiety issues. This is a problem with border collies, we know, and what worked with Jake could well have worked with Teddy. If we carry on with the kill or cure method – the one we might need to take with the car – then there are other issues that come in to play. The route, the path of ideal cause, is to keep the intervals we leave him as short as possible, and build them up. To do otherwise will create a serious, massive future problem, rather than some short-term upset. To stay with him 24/7 and hope for the best will be an unmitigated total disaster, cruel to the owners, cruel to the dog. He’s fine at night, he will be fine, in time, when left alone. We are not neglectful, reckless owners. We do care.

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A cute fluffy picture

Everyone loves the cute fluffy pictures of Teddy, and I’ve lost count the number of people who come up to me and say he’s gorgeous, he’s so beautiful and handsome, and he has that cheeky little look. He’s all that, but he’s also very much a work in progress. He’s not six months old yet, and he’s developing a personality. So while it is nice to see people say how lovely he is, remember the hard work that is needed to bring him up. We are trying our best to do this while minimising impacts, but there will be impacts.

I’m not lying, this has been an incredibly traumatic week. I am at my wits end with how to move forward. I do not, and will not, ever admit defeat on something like this. Teddy is a bundle of fun, and I feel hamstrung by the car issue, and the others I am alluding to above. While a dog is lovely to have, and when the nice sides are there it is worth so much, the difficult times need to be worked through. Nuclear options are now being talked about. At a time when I need to be calming down and chilling out, and, yes, trying to raise a new puppy, extraneous nonsense is not on the agenda. And nothing sickens me more than extraneous nonsense.

So while there has been no update for a while, this has been a really difficult last week. Teddy has really good days, and sometimes some not so good ones. That’s what being a puppy is about. His owners love him dearly, he’s part of our world, and he comes with us, hell or high water. He improves in aspects day by day, week by week, all traits of border collies, all things we went in with eyes open but hoping Jake was the rule, not the exception. If this seems like a cry out for divine intervention, it is. Because no-one said this was easy. We just hoped it might be.

So to the pictures…

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St Patrick’s Day Garb – Teddy isn’t a fan of pictures or the camera. For every one shot on here, I probably take 8 more! Even that doesn’t guarantee a good one!
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Just before Jake died, my wife had finally got an allotment. Now, given the current barking issues, we can’t leave Teddy alone for too long, so that is now at risk. Lewisham Council would fine us £75 for bringing him on to the allotment site. I think that is outrageous. So does Teddy! Here he is outside the gate. Why he can’t be tethered to a post on the allotment, I don’t know (it’s not as if the foxes respect the ban). Sometimes admin makes me sick.
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Teddy in full flight. He’s a much better releaser of the ball than Jake was. He’s also a little bit more bouncy. That ball has been replaced, by the way.

 

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Thanks to all who read this. I don’t want to give the impression that Teddy isn’t anything other than a perfectly normal border collie pup. That he is, and will be for a good while yet. We have some issues that need to be dealt with, and I intend facing up to them. I hope that, with the forbearance of others, we can get on with it. Any comments, do, please let me know.

Click on each one to get the full sized version.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll be in touch soon.

Peter

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6 thoughts on “Day 105 – No-One Said This Would Be Easy

  1. Hi we also lost a beloved border collie, Alfie who was perfect in our eyes. We got Jasper a month after Alfie’s death and he was a complete handful and I also wondered if we had done the wrong thing. However, he started to be different in more positive ways – he was fearless and we think more intelligent. This brings its issues and we found we needed more patience and stay calm when all I wanted to do was scream! We fortunately don’t have the travel issue and we started right at the beginning leaving him short periods and building up to maximum of 3 hours now. He doesn’t bark when I leave – I give him a little treat when I leave to distract him and I am his treat when I come back! We name his toys and get him to find them – this uses up his brain and he is very good at it.
    Jasper is now 12 months old and is practically perfect. We don’t compare him to Alfie because they are completely different personalities in the same way as you can’t have two identical children. Have patience and hope he gets used to the car.

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    1. Judy,

      Thanks for the response. Very much appreciated.

      I have tried to express the complexity of the issue we face. We have a good idea how to solve it, but we may not be able to solve the separation point given existing parameters – not all of which I can, or would want, to convey in this post. Teddy has some issues, there is no doubt, but so did Jake and so does any other border collie. While I didn’t mind the peace and quiet after Jake, for my wife, the loneliness and quiet was terrible. In hindsight, a slightly older dog would have been better. Instead we went for a puppy younger than Jake was when we picked him up. In a year’s time we hope everything will be fine. But at this point I am partly questioning whether it was too soon.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. We will certainly take them on board.

      Good luck with Jasper.

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  2. Maybe you could have got an older dog, but if you did he might have had other problems which would have been established and harder to counteract. So it could have been just as much stress.

    You could try spraying calming pheromone in the car. I was always a bit suspicious of this, but the cat version has certainly worked for mine. The dog one is called Adaptil, I think.

    One day at a time!

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  3. I’ve never had a dog but I’m tempted. However, my wife and son aren’t interested. Having a son, who was bullied at school, and has an anxiety problem, means I understand life isn’t straightforward (I wish). I do know that things change over time so I hope you find in a few months time, you’ll be saying “what was there to worry about, really”

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  4. Thanks for your post Peter. You do have your hands full at the moment. I grew up with dogs but never had to train a puppy. Other than feeling empathy for you in all the ups and downs, there is not a lot I can say.

    The car is a major problem. Have you thought of calling in one of those doggie behavioural therapists? They must have come across this and the leaving problem before.

    Might there be any mileage in feeding him treats in the car, with the doors open, while it’s stationary? His associations with cars are obviously not good at the moment.

    I wish you well with Teddy and his idiosyncrasies. Keep going and never give up. Winners are those that hang on when the rest have slipped off the greasy pole. You will get there.

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  5. Our bc from the same litter at teddy has separation issues as well but isn’t crated. He just toilets on a certain spot on the carpet when Left alone. We’ve started doing desensitisation with him, leave for 30 seconds, come back in, make a small fuss of him, rinse and repeat. Building the time up as we go along, the idea is that eventually they understand that leaving isn’t abandonment and that at some point you will return. He is getting better, he isn’t going on the carpet that much anymore when we’re out. Might be worth a try?

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