After Bryn’s surgery to remove a cancerous neck tumor I was given meds to administer for potential infection and to control her pain. She mended well, and quickly these drugs became unnecessary. But they’d taken their toll. Her carefully managed internal flora and fauna had been disrupted. Now she was having trouble keeping food down. Her stomach was in active rebellion. We stopped the antibiotic, which was a prophylactic anyway, and that kept her from tumbling into bowel collapse. But she still had regurgitation troubles, and was rapidly losing weight and energy.
After Dr. Jossens removed the stitches she prescribed tablets that would act as a stomach coating. I was to emulsify one fat pink oval tablet into a syringe of water, shake for about ten minutes to entirely dissolve it, then administer the liquid orally each evening.
But Bryn interpreted this oral syringe as another needle, and she’d clearly had enough of those. So she fought me. It was quite a struggle to get the meds into her mouth. I was as scared as Bryn about this reaction. She was emotionally and physically worn out.
ENOUGH, Boss. No More of all this!
It was awful to see her- to see us- so unraveled. Bryn is always so calm, and accepting, and gentle. So am I.
HOW could I fix us? How could I get this stuff into her without both of us panicking?
Then, as I was vacuuming, I ‘saw the Light.’ MY fault! I hadn’t done anything right. I hadn’t thought it out, hadn’t realized she’d resist with such fear-borne strength! I‘d blundered on, forcing it down!
She had to have this stomach soother. It had made a big difference the day before.
So, how could I get it into her without more trauma?
I’d been very tired and emotionally spent, but that was no excuse for such a dumb approach.
I knew better.
I remembered how she’d fearful exited the room whenever the vacuum was brought out to clean it.
That wouldn’t do, thought I. Fear is a good thing if I, her Alpha, declare that a thing or person should be feared.
Vacuums and other noisy machines are to be ignored.
So, that day I’d placed her in her living room bed and looked right at her.
I held her gaze.
The order would be obeyed, but cause extreme anxiety. So I’d vacuumed around her with my back toward her as I massaged the carpet with the scary thing.
Here’s the hard part of the ‘cure.’
I vacuumed the same places over and over until my peripheral vision confirmed that her body had begun to relax.
I vacuumed until she folded into a nesting-for-sleep position.
I continued to vacuum until her vigilant body went into ‘ignore’ and her eyes shut.
THEN I’d turned it off, patted it and said, “Good vacuum. Thank you.” She watched this performance with keen interest. I wound up and secured the cord, and rolled the machine to its storage area. I knew she was watching, but didn’t look directly at her. But when finished I glanced down at her and smiled proudly. “GOOD dog!”
Happy to have done well, she collapsed into sleep.
Half an hour later, though, I brought the thing out again, and vacuumed much closer, all the while ignoring Bryn and humming quietly.
She didn’t move.
She didn’t tense up.
She simply ignored it.
I’d left no doubt in her mind: Vacuums are noisy, but harmless servants.
She has never worried about it again. Not even a little.
Here, then, was the key. I would address her fright directly- TALK to her. Bryn is a bright dog, having the comprehension of a three-year-old.
Evening came. I prepared the medicine, and with the syringe in plain view, went to her bed and sat on the rug in front of her. She sat stiffly, prepared to resist.
She was scared.
Stroking her I spoke softly, calmly, slowly.
“Bryn, you need this medicine. I’m so sorry I frightened you before. Will you allow me to do this? It won’t hurt. I promise. Sniff it.”
She did, very thoroughly. And looked at me, still rigid.
I spoke again quietly, gently, apologetically.
“This is a good thing. It will help you. Will you please trust me?”
Now came the Wonderful part. I’ll try to convey it exactly.
She held my gaze for a long, long time. I had the good sense to keep quiet and wait. She looked, and looked--- and then, her whole body went limp and soft. That ‘letting go’ of fear and mistrust just blew me away.
I nodded and smiled. She closed her eyes and waited. I raised her lip a little, inserted the fat syringe into her cheek pouch and pushed the injector. She sat there, eyes still shut, taking in the medicine, swallowing it, licking her lips rapidly.
Hmmm...It actually didn’t taste too bad.
She found my eyes again when the vial was empty. The tip of her tail twitched.
OK, Boss. We done, here?
Stunned, and not a little awed by what had just happened- and not happened- I warmly thanked her, told her she was a very good dog, and left the room to recover my poise. She settled into her bed, pleased.
It’s been easy ever since that night.
We’re ‘good’ again as a team.
May I NEVER underestimate my best friend again.