You might have heard this before, but my dog is crazy. Not Gryffin (short for Sir Godric Gryffindor of Harry Potter fame) -he’s my first dog, the older dog, the perfect dog. Firstborn son dog. Dog that finished every training class they had at the local animal shelter and was recommended to be a pet therapy dog for hospitals and senior centers because he was soooo good and soooo perfect. That dog I like. But I liked him so much I figured, hey, why not get a second dog? Then my pet can have a pet. I think he’s lonely when I’m not home. He needs a puppy. Great idea, right? Wrong.
Welcome Nicky. Short for Nicolas Flamel, also of Harry Potter fame. Except the only magic this dog has is that he hasn’t managed to kill himself. From the beginning he wasn’t “normal”. Most dogs can be crated and learn not to poop in their crate. This dog pooped in the crate and rolled in it so that anytime I left the house for an hour I had to bathe him. And get poop off of him. Gross. So away goes the crate. He doesn’t like to be contained or restrained. I get it. Except when I leave now he starts eating not just anything he can find laying around, but also the walls. Not just the corners, or the moldings, although he ate those as well, in addition to the actual walls.
He steals packages, opens them, and spreads them across the house or the lawn (including the one from Victoria’s Secret all over my front yard). He steals books and shreds them like a zealous book censor. He steals and eats shoes, clothes, hats, toys, Nerf guns and ammo. He eats the arms and legs off of Barbies rendering them quadriplegics. He eats markers, pens and pencils like treats. He eats things he really shouldn’t like my prescription eye glasses. He eats, on occasion, expensive things like rugs and carpet. And furniture, whittled the wood down to scraps. Tissue boxes, toilet paper and paper towels become his favorite because they magically replenish themselves. We start spraying everything we own with bitter apple. He steals the bottle of bitter apple. And eats it. We label him “VBD” – Very Bad Doggie. And after every bad episode, he smiles. And I get it. All those things were exciting and crunchy. And delicious. I defend the dog. The VBD.
His behavior outside the house starts to stink more than his inside behavior. He lunges while on his leash and scares the daylight out of random joggers, people with other dogs, people with baby carriages. I buy collar after harness after choke chain to try and contain the 95 pounds of beast that he has become. He doesn’t like tall people. I think he has Napoleon complex. He spends his time in the yard barking at every pedestrian, puppy, bike, skateboarder, and vehicle that goes by. And then he smiles. I get it. All those things were very exciting and potentially delicious. But I get worried as I think – We can’t have him eating the people and things that pass by the house. Maybe he needs more exercise. I defend the dog. The VBD.
Brian tries taking him on a run. They run for miles. I follow it up with a walk. The kids follow that up with a game of tug and chase. We put him outside. He nearly eats a grandmother with her little old dog. He doesn’t tire. He doesn’t get it. He smiles. He is a VBD.
We are now on to trainer #4. Not joking. The first three couldn’t help us because they think our VBD is indeed aggressive, so they tag out of the ring like pro wrestlers. Trainer #4 is Caesar Milan incarnate. She is a pro and lectures across the country. We go through all of our issues, our bizarreness. She wants to hear more about the times we went on vacation and left him home (with my patient and wonderful parents who stayed at the house and took care of him and cleaned up bodily fluids, books, shredded socks and what nots). Yes, one time he got so sick he had to go to the vet because he was disgusting at both ends and got dehydrated. Yes, one time he had such a bad reaction that he scratched his face and ears until he had a hot spot (a hot spot, for those who are not in the know, is a disgusting patch of scabs and pus and infection that dogs can give themselves when they scratch obsessively).
The Angel Trainer nods and takes notes. He’s not aggressive, she tells me. He just misses you and doesn’t know what to do with himself. He’s anxious and scared without his Alpha. Does he ever do any of those things if you’re with him in the yard? No. If you’re watching him in the house? No. What about the walks I ask? I’m there then. Yes, she says. But he’s in a constant state of fear. He thinks he’s protecting you. He has anxiety. He needs medication.
Medication. My dog is so anxious and crazy he needs medication. Suddenly I’m full of relief. You mean that nothing I could have done would have helped? Meds will help, the Magic Trainer tells me. And then everything will be fine. Yes, I sigh, then everything will be fine. I’ve been saying for years we should have Prozac in the water supply. We all have a little crazy. We just don’t all eat furniture. We eat cookies, ice cream, drink too much or exercise too much or not enough. We yell at each other or ourselves. We act out in different ways than poor VBD Nicky. So I’ll get him some meds and he’ll be fine. And if that doesn’t work, then we’ll try whiskey. That should help take the edge off. And in the meantime, Nicky, I’m here. Not going anywhere. You might be a VBD but I love you anyway. Most of the time anyway.