Do you have a K9 Actor or Actress for a companion?

I do. Her name is Shelly. I lovingly call her Ms. Shelly. 

Shelly’s acting began at an early stage in her life. Her acting has been so good, that it placed her in 12 different adoptive homes, prior to her becoming my third Foster Failure. Shelly came to me through ABMRC (American Belgian Malinois Rescue Club), (her rescue story is also posted here my website). However, that’s not my reason for writing today. Ms. Shelly, as I also affectionately call her, can turn on her acting ability for attention.

When Shelly was placed in a new home for adoption, she would be the most social, loving dog you would ever want to meet. Everyone loved Shelly. As the days, weeks and months went on – Shelly came out of her loving, acting character mode, to “I’m taking over this territory” manner. She would no longer feel the need to win over the approval of everyone in the household. Her personality would become stronger and stronger until rescue would once again get a call that the family could no long work with her and wanted to re-home her – for one reason or another. Maybe she was caught climbing on a kitchen counter, or barking excessively for attention, whatever the reasons, they went on and on. Shelly could have easily won an Academy Award for her initial captivating, loving ways, along with her beauty.

Over the last eight years, Shelly has been my constant companion. I think she knew this is where she wanted to be, and where she belonged, and nothing was going to stop her until she was here in her permanent home. She truly is one of the sweetest, most loving dogs you will ever meet. She loves being around people. She also realizes that anything outside of her sweet, gentle ways will meet with my disappointment, as she craves my love and approval.

If you know me, you know I also have a 15 ½ year old girl named Sniffles. Sniffles is going through some major aging issues, along with being feeble and frail, her eye sight is very poor, her hearing is weak, but her sensitivity to her environment are heightened to a supernatural level. Thunderstorms and power outages will send her for a loop, even during broad daylight. So, naturally, in her delicate state, and with her anxiety levels, she requires more of my attention and care.

During a recent thunderstorm apparently Shelly noticed me giving Sniffles more attention, love and care. Of course, she wanted the same. Being the award winning actress, I didn’t pay too much attention to her wants or motives; I just went about tending to Sniffles. As Sniffles required more attention, Shelly’s demands continued to grow, she also seemed to be pacing more, and panting more then usual, but with the excessive heat with the heat index over 100 degrees, I certainly didn’t think the panting and pacing were any cause for concern.

Then one day she snapped at one of her siblings. This was totally out of character for her, and finally caught my attention. But, instead of becoming upset, I instantly became worried. What has changed – what would cause her to snap at another sibling? (I still did not link the pacing and panting with the change in her personality.) I had to do some real soul searching and find out what was really going on.

We are all intuitive when it comes to our pets and our children; we know instinctively when something isn’t right. My intuition is always right on and has never failed me. If you listen with an open heart and trust what you are hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting, or smelling your instincts will be true. My perception was there was something terribly wrong in what she was eating that was causing an imbalance and changing her moods.

As I did more digging, I realized we had slightly increased her dosage on her prescription of Proin. Shelly has been incontinent for years, and for most of that time, I have had her on Proin. I had tried acupuncture to relieve her symptoms, but the expense and the consistence of timely treatments wasn’t working out. I tried some herbal remedies, but again it just wasn’t working for us at that time.

I decided to go back and look up the side effects of Proin. There it was, this is what I found… restlessness, irritability, increased heart rate or blood pressure, and even stroke.

I was mortified. These were all her symptoms. What was I doing to my dog? Where have I been? I know better than this. This is my business, that’s what I do; this is my passion.

But, today, when I came home for lunch, Shelly was no where to be found. In eight years as my companion she has always – never missed – meeting and greeting me at the door with her high ear piercing bark. In fact, several times when she was returned back into rescue, that was one of reasons, and I quote “we couldn’t stand her voice”. I frantically searched the house calling her name – no Shelly. Could I have possibly left her outside? No, she wasn’t outside, and my heart sinking. Where was she? After what seemed like an eternity, I found her curled up in a ball, in the shower stall, in my bathroom, shivering and not moving. I was horrified. What did I do to this dog? Talk about a rude awakening. My actress was no longer acting. She was really hurting.

This was the last straw. There had been a small thunderstorm in the area, and although I was concerned for Sniffles, I still didn’t consider the storm any big deal. In Sniffles fragile and weak state, I keep her in the guest bedroom where she is safe. I have TV on and several fans going, plenty of white noise to keep her calm. I never even considered Shelly.

I sat there consoling her for as long as she needed. I assured her that things were going to change and they were going to change fast. She would not be suffering like this again, not while under my care. She looked up at me as if that was all she needed to hear. Later that afternoon I started researching alternatives for Proin.

I found a multitude of suggestions and recommendations. The two that would work best for us (Shelly and me) were a raw diet and the supplement Cornsilk. I’m using the Cornsilk as a substitute for Proin, and the raw diet to nutritionally help balance her system for incontinence. (If you would like more information on suggestions and alternatives, please contact me.)

(When choosing a treatment or supplement for your pets, make certain that it works for you as well as for your pets. I am a big advocate of feeding raw. For example, when looking at feeding a raw diet, and I feed frozen, grain free, free roaming animal products. You can find a whole host of these products in your local holistic pet supply store. It would be difficult for me to feed whole raw animal sections from my grocer’s meat department.)

It has only been a few days, but I have already seen a significant improvement in Shelly’s demeanor. I’m gradually cutting back on her Proin as I replace it with Cornsilk. I’ve also started introducing the raw foods back into her meals. With four dogs, feeding completely raw patties is over my budget, so I alternate or combine the raw with kibble.

I feel that the storm anxiety for Shelly was two-fold. The chemical imbalance in her system was the source of her irritability, her craving for attention added to her anxiety level, in particular, during storms when Sniffles was my primary focus. Unfortunately, this situation continued to escalate, without my notice. I was not fully present for all my dogs. I had to do some real contemplating on how this could happen. This resulted in great in awareness for me.

When it comes to solutions for storm anxieties, I believe in layering. What I mean by that is using various methods simultaneously to bring about your desired results. I always suggest when introducing anything new to our pets, whether it is food, vitamins, treats, supplements or herbal remedies, use the smallest dosage possible, and increase up to a more moderate level of recommendation. Each pet is certainly different and since we don’t know how their systems will react to a new ingredient, supplement or treatment, it is best to start off with the smallest amount possible and build from there to the appropriate amounts. This also minimizes any allergic or negative reaction.

There are so many lessons here for me:
1) We have to be fully present to our pets (all of them) and that may be difficult as many of us have more then one.
2) In general, life happens, don’t be so hard on yourself.
3) If you feel something is wrong, trust your gut, ask your pet, listen and believe what you receive.
4) Before giving any medications, including supplements – find out what the side effects are and watch your pet carefully for these reactions.
5) If you are uncomfortable with a prescription or treatment, check to see if there are natural or homeopathic alternatives. (I’m available to help.) Many times alternatives can be used in conjunction with the prescriptions or treatment to boost the effectiveness, to expedite recovery, to lessen side-effects or prevent a reaction.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts be and stay present in the moment. Take care of ourselves so that we can care for our loved ones; (this is the lesson I fight with most of the time). I think as care givers we have a difficult time caring for ourselves first. If you’re a care-giver, recognize that you are human. Be gentle with yourself and your pets. We have not made it to the canine and feline level of purrfection and unconditional love.

Many Blessings, to you and your pets.