After persevering with the all of the tools Penel and Laura gave us, and implementing all things TTouch learned from Jacqui, we returned to Dog Comm months later with what we thought was a much less stressed Milly. We weren’t completely wrong – she was less stressed than she was (it’s all relative right?), but she was still too stressed to learn in that environment.
It was time to call in the big guns.
Penel and Laura said they would like us to consider a referral to veterinary behaviourist Jon Bowen. They told us Jon was very experienced in difficult cases. He is the man to help dogs where other methods have failed. There was no doubt Milly was a difficult case, and despite doing everything we were told, our other methods had ultimately failed.
Of course we didn’t hesitate – we were past the point of no return, and there was nothing we wouldn’t do to try and get closer to the end point. After seeking a formal referral from our Vet we contacted the RVC at the Queen Mother Hospital and made an appointment.
I will never forget our the day of our consultation. It was my 30th Birthday. Despite leaving bags of time, the M25 was a total nightmare and we ended up being late. Thankfully clinic was running behind schedule as well that day and we got away with it.
We relayed everything to Jon – everything we knew and didn’t know, everything we had done so far, everything that we basically hadn’t achieved. During a really long consultation he listened intently, asked lots of questions and gave us a plan of attack, following up a few days later with a thorough written report.
In summary we needed 1.Medication 2. Training and 3. Time
1. Medication was fluoxetine.. which you may recognise by its more familiar name of Prozac. Despite not being licensed for use in dogs at the time, neither of the two licensed medications were appropriate for her situation. So. Prozac it was. I used to “joke” that at dinner time it was one for Milly one for Mummy but the truth is that I was so overwhelmed with Milly and with just about everything I only just swerved going back down that path for myself.
So. Milly started on Prozac, where we expected to see beneficial effects within 4-6 weeks, and with a minimum treatment time of 6-8 months.
2. Training, in two stages The first being in a dog-free zone, with the objective of reducing anxiety. The instructions for this were very similar to what we had already deployed with Penel and Laura – short walks, get Milly’s attention, click and treat. At least I had already sussed out the best place to buy bargain hotdogs. We certainly went through a lot.
I have Jon’s full report in my hand….
“Anxious dogs are vigilant because they are trying to find sources of information about their environment; they need to know about everything happening around them in order to feel secure. The problem is that dogs, like Milly, who have an anxiety disorder will never be able to find enough information to enable them to feel secure. They keep scanning their environment but never feel like they really know what is happening or how to cope. We need Milly to learn to look to you for information, so that in any situation where she is unsure what to do, you will be her source of guidance”
When I first re-read that it brought a lump to my throat. The Milly we had then was so different to the Milly we shared the last few years with. Yes – perhaps she was never ok with other dogs – but seeing that in black and white print reminds me of how bad she was, and just how far she came.
It also makes me feel desperately sad and protective. I know it is wrong to project human emotions on to animals, but Milly had anxiety disorder #truestory. As a sufferer of anxiety myself in the past, I know too well how scary and crippling that can be. My poor little Milly. She needed me to be her security and, so far, I wasn’t doing a stellar job at it.
(The second stage of training was instructed to be with other dogs – but that was so far down the road at this point I’ll leave it for a follow up post)
3. Time. There was NO QUICK FIX. Whatever we did, it was going to take time. I think from our efforts so far we already knew this, but Jon re-iterated that it was going to be a slow process. He expected that good results would be achievable, but that we couldn’t rush the pace.
Off I went back round the M25, aged 30, and armed with Prozac and instructions, to start the next phase of rehabilitating Milly…
This photo I have already shared, and I absolutely love it, but on checking again I can see it was taken the day after our consultation with Jon.
At this point it really was prescribed rehabilitation. Everything we had seen and suspected had been confirmed and diagnosed. Milly 100% genuinely needed help. Of course we knew that anyway, and had being doing our best so far, but to have it all explained so logically and succinctly by Jon the Vet, the undisputed Top Dog of behavioural consultants, really helped.
My commitment to her was never ever in question, but seeing Jon at a time when things were really tough gave me the added strength I needed to carry on carrying on.