Happy 2nd Birthday and 1st Gotcha Day Charlie!!!
I can't believe it has been 12 months with Charlie in our home. It has been a roller coaster of a 12 months. He arrived on his 1st Birthday last year and came at us with all he's got - in a way that only Charlie can.
On his first night with us he ran straight through the back screen door like a tornado proudly bursting into our living room and our lives. The tornado continued with him rampaging around the living room for the next 3 hours. We quickly learnt that Charlie was no normal dog.
Charlie suffers from anxiety triggered mostly by human interaction and displayed by hyperarousal. AKA he doesn't settle around people, he gets over excited, he mouths you, he licks you and when totally over-stimulated he nips you. The best way that I can describe his behaviour is it's like when your dog gets excited to see you and they jump and run around doing zoomies, well Charlie is like that... but he never used to settle down. It would last hours until we finally would have to put him outside so that he could rest.
Cue the help of some of my wonderful colleagues with further training in veterinary behaviour and my amazing friend Casey who is a fantastic dog trainer. Charlie was started on prozac and clonidine and was a new dog. With the physical symptoms of anxiety fading Charlie was able to learn and finally become the dog he was under the whirlwind. He's still hyperactive, he still loves nothing more than to jump but he can come inside and settle down for a cuddle or just lay on the couch without taking 3 hours to do so.
It has been a long and slow road at times but it has been so rewarding. It took 6 months for Charlie to fall asleep inside the house without being inside his crate. I have never owned a dog that has come so close to breaking me. Whilst in the early days it came close, we never gave up on each other, I kept asking for help and changing what needed to be changed to make Charlie's life easier. I have become a better more understanding vet since Charlie came into my life. I am able to relate to my clients who are experiencing similar challenges at home.
As you can see from his birthday celebration this morning he is calmer and happier. We love him unconditionally and have accepted that he's not a "normal" dog. His brain is wired differently and we love him just as he is. He is still taking his prozac daily and will continue to do so as long as he needs it (that may well be the rest of his life, but if that is what it takes to keep him from suffering from his anxiety then we won't think twice about it).
His little-big brother Elmo also suffers from anxiety. They have become great buddies and Charlie absolutely loves having a brother.
For Charlie's Birthday we thought he deserved his own pup cakes made from a big mince ball, sprinkled with their favourite chopped up Savour Life kangaroo treats. The cheeky boy did try to jump up on the table to steal it before we were ready. A standard Charlie move.
I often think what would have happened to Charlie if he didn't go to a family that was prepared to provide him with daily medication, put up with him chewing up/out the entire irrigation system in the garden, chewing on his new kennel, ripping a giant hole in the trampoline so that it could become a doggy bouncing ring, requiring an endless supply of toys to destroy, having to put baby gates up to block him from having free range around the house, having to employ a dog walker twice a week to help keep him stimulated when I work two long days a week at the clinic, being ok with him chewing a hole in bottom of my work trousers and working a full morning consulting shift before realising said hole was made, no longer being able to hang the washing outside after Charlie would parade past the back door with our clothes in his mouth running full speed having them trail behind him like a flag and of course despite all of the chewing him still developing dental disease requiring a special diet (no Charlie my clothes are not a special diet) and regular dentistry.
So Happy Birthday my crazy happy boy. I couldn't imagine my home without you. You challenge me, you drive me slight more nuts than I already am but you complete our family xxx