With the new year in swing I want to discus a topic I’ve struggled with since first becoming a dog parent almost four years ago. Separation anxiety from my dog Jack is something I have been tackling over the years and I know I’m not the only pet parent with struggles with this.
With every year, I make significant progress in learning to spend time away from my dog but the anxiety still lingers. By blogging about this I hope together we can better understand and share new ways to help each other deal with it. A resolution I personally work on every year and I want to let others pet parents are not alone— I mean, what’s not to miss about your dog!
I’ve heard about dogs who suffer from extreme separation anxiety from their owners, but in this case I’m more than certain it’s the other way around, mostly because I worrying my dog is sad a home and the idea of that makes ME sad. The reality of my anxiety became more apparent one night when I made plans to spend the evening with friends- OUT. OF. TOWN. to see Puff Daddy. I was looking forward to it because beside Diddy being one of my favorite artists I needed a night away (every mom needs a break). But with all the excitement there was still a looming sense of worry . I began worrying about Jack.
Who could watch him while I was gone for the evening? Who would entertain him? How many hours will he be alone and how will he handle the loneliness? My brother who at the time was my roommate, also had plans to be out of town that night. I eagerly began skimming through my phone for a dog sitter. While a dog sitter could really make a difference, there have been many times when dog sitters have sent me text messages saying Jack spends a lot of his time looking out the window wondering when you will come home. IT. BREAKS. MY. HEART. to know he gets depressed when I’m gone. This is not for every case he has a sitter, but most. Which meant if I was my goal to get him a sitter who he was familiar with and enjoyed being around. Unfortunately for the following the night, none of Jacks favorite sitters were available. And the only realistic option was for my next door neighbor to come by and check on him. Jack has always liked her so the plan would be she that she come by to take him for a walk and play with him for a hour at one point in the evening. Even though I knew I was going to have someone to come keep him company at one point while I was away the idea of my absence from him still made me sad. Knowing that I wasn’t going to be spending the night with Jack and his favorite sitters were not available made me worry about how bored and likely sad he would be while I was gone. I don’t like being away from him for too many hours at a time, especially at night. So when it comes to spending the entire evening away from him plans have to be made to implement ways of distraction for Jack and to diffuse the anxiety for me. I have trouble sleeping when I’m away from him at night… he’s all I think about. Many times I have trouble letting myself fully enjoy an evening out because all I can think about is him being at home missing me.
I’m envious of dog parents who can just leave Fido home without anxiety. How do they do it? Or is it just a front! Parents who have two dogs have it much easier because they can leave the house with a piece of mind knowing their dogs keep each other company. Parents like myself who only parent one dog are always looking for new ways to distract their dogs while away. I have tried everything! From long lasting raw hides and durable toys. I have also gone as far as ordering DOGTV, a network scientifically made for dogs to entertain them while mom and dad are away. But no matter how many raw hides, toys, or television entertainment I personally provide for my dog Jack, my anxiety will never fully subside. Do any of you struggle with this with your dogs?
The day of my night out I took Jack to the dog park, the beach, went to the dog wash and did some chew toy shopping. I bought him all kinds of long lasting raw hides I was hoping would distract him while I was gone. I mentally began to prepare myself how incredibly hard it was going to be for me to be away from him but I also had to remind myself that I was going to have a great time and gosh darn I deserved it!
The night ends up being a huge was a success! I had the time of life. However through out the evening I found myself anxiously making two countdowns; the first one with my friends until Puff Daddy hit the stage, and the second one in my head as I subtly counted down the hours until I was reunited with Jack once again the next morning.
The next morning, before any of my other friends woke up, I left the hotel we stayed at bright and early at 7 am on a Saturday. I was not interested in sleeping in and enjoying a hotel buffet breakfast with my friends to round out the festivities- I wanted to get home to my dog. Safely, but quickly I drove myself home I could not wait to see Jack. I walked in to see he Jack barley touched his raw hyde which instantly made me wonder if he was too sad to chew on it. I don’t know what goes on in his head when I’m gone, but I’m constantly worried about him. The reason why I worry so much is because I know that I am Jack’s entire world. I have my friends, my entertainment, my life but for Jack — all he has is me. So I always make an effort to be extra considerate of that as a parent to him.
Many of my friends like to argue the case think I’m obsessed with my dog and have an unhealthy dependency on him. They might be right, who knows? They don’t understand my anxiety. I tell them it’s not so much I miss the physical companionship but more that I worry that he’s at home sad and lonely without me. Anyone who know’s me knows that I tale Jack with me everywhere and I mean everywhere. If for any reason I have an afternoon engagement that does not allow me to bring him along he goes to Kamp Kanine a outdoor dog daycare in Encinitas which he loves!
Truthfully, I still don’t like being away from Jack especially for long hours in the evening. However with every year I have noticed I have been making more progress on this issue. I have also invested in more dog sitters to come by and spent time with him so I can do my own thing now and then because it’s healthy to get “you” time. I believe the goal as a pet parent is to enrich the life of your pet and by helping them grow and distinguish themselves as their own. They key to this I cannot express enough is harvesting a home and lifestyle situation that translate to a better mental and physical health of the canine and dog sitters can make a productive difference that way. If you have separation anxiety from your dog I encourage you hire a sitter to take the dog a few times a week because it’s healthy for you and the dog to spend some time apart, but this way you won’t worry the dog is alone. What are ways you cope with treating your separation anxiety from your dog? How do you tackle the nervousness? Would love to hear your stories and suggestions!