Monday, January 25, 2010

Project Briscoe Phase I: Success!!

I am happy to report a positive step in the right direction for Briscoe and his separation anxiety.


A damp, muddy gated yard in a San Diego neighborhood; a house not yet tricked out with a doggie door due to recent inclement weather (insert whining sound). A dog, sweet, lovable and smart, but also terrified of being left home alone without human companionship. A female, wanting, er needing, er wanting, to get out of the house to view a multiple-nominated film at nearby theatre. A doggie daycare facility, closed on Sundays. What to do? What to do.

I got a burst of confidence and perhaps a long-dormant light bulb turned on in my head: I made the plan to leave Briscoe home alone with my door open for an extended amount of time. Let it be known that I always feel very safe where I live and am rather tucked away from the world, though I live in a central part of the city. Like most, I am not a big fan of keeping my front door open and unlocked when I plan to be gone for several hours. Fortunately, my concerns were abated as I have a very helpful neighbor who planned to be home gardening and able to monitor my domicile. And a handy padlock on the front gate, just in case.

Briscoe immediately became anxious when he sensed me preparing to leave. I tried to calm him with chews and treat-filled kongs, placed strategically around the house. These distractions can help keep him busy and focused instead of fretting about where I went and when I will return. Unfortunately, these are of little interest when his anxiety kicks in. He jumped and panted and was his own brand of whirling dervish. I dressed him in his
Thundershirt (which got a big FAIL the other night when my home experienced thunder and hail. I will give it a pass this time as he didn’t have the shirt on when the banging and clamoring began. Poor buddy shook and panted for over an hour and we snoozed on the couch all night).

Another concern for this project was my sassy Pomeranian (redundant) Toby, who is blind. He, too, would have access to the yard which is fine 95% of the time, but my yard does have areas where he could experience a slight fall or annoying obstructions. Good thing Mister Man already had an active day and wasn’t too interested in sniffing around the yard.

I packed up my purse, left my TV on, propped my front door slightly open and headed for the gate. I didn’t engage Briscoe as he hopped about in his futile endeavor to get me to stay. I closed the tall gate and latched it with the shiny padlock. My neighbor received her key and agreed to step in only if “the project” turned negative or an anxious behavior escalated.

I viewed and enjoyed the movie with a friend, exited the theatre and checked my phone: no texts! No voice mail messages! To me, this was a no-news-is-good-news situation. And it was! I returned home to Briscoe standing at the top of the stairs by the gate. Once he saw me he became very excited & happy & hoppy - this is an appropriate response. Had he been that amped up and agitated the nearly 2.5 hours I was gone, t'would be bad. My neighbor reported Briscoe only occasionally barked at neighbors as they walked past my gate to do laundry (this happens when I am home), but didn’t hear any whining or anxious yappy barking. She did hear him “paw” at the gate a couple times, but that anxious behavior did not last long – and when I say “paw” I do mean it in the singular. :)

This information tells me he was able to calm himself down and enjoy having the in/out privileges.

All in all, I have deemed this project a success. I am feeling more confident that there is a way to have my life and my dog and keep us both happy and content no matter where we are. I am much more hopeful for my future – together with Briscoe. I am also very thankful for my wonderfully supportive friends who are always there with comforting thoughts, helpful suggestions and the occasional lap to share with my sweet dog.

To be continued…

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