I’ve been working hard these last few months, preparing seminars for the upcoming APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) conference. The first time I presented for the organization was back in 2000. Eleven years later, the excitement of reaching new trainers and connecting with experienced ones has still not worn off. This year one of my seminars deals with canine separation anxiety. Ironically, I am experiencing anxiety at the mere thought of having to leave my dogs for even a few days.
Since the conference is being held in San Diego this year and I live just outside of L.A., I’ll be driving down. That means I’ll be away from home a total of four days. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, as my husband would arrange his schedule so that the dogs wouldn’t have to be left alone for long. But as fate would have it, the biggest job of the year at his place of employment falls on the very same dates I’ll be gone. So for the first time, Sierra and Bodhi will have a pet sitter coming in to feed them during the day.
Sierra originally came from a shelter, and had a pretty serious case of separation anxiety. The up side was, the experience gave me a whole new understanding of what living with a dog with separation issues is like, which in turn led to my writing Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety. We worked through her issues to the point that she could be left alone for four hours at a time, and some time after that we adopted Bodhi. Surprise! He had worse separation issues than Sierra ever had. This was obviously not what I’d been hoping for when we got Sierra a companion. Oh, well, more things to work on—because we trainers like a challenge, right?
I’ve arranged not only for the pet sitter to come in during the day, but for one friend to be on call to pet sit for a few hours in the evening if my husband ends up working late, and for another to come in and check on the dogs during the day. Overkill? Maybe. But Bodhi in particular gets verrrry destructive when he’s anxious or upset, and keeping the dogs calm will help me to stay considerably calmer while I’m away.
We often talk about how stressful separation anxiety is for dogs, but the impact it has on owners is very much underestimated. I know a lot of you can relate!