About Me

Twenty years ago I asked a Tarot card reader what would I be doing when I was 50. She replied, “I see you doing something so wildly creative, it defies a job title.” Only recently did I realize that was a slick way of saying, “I have no idea of what you’ll be doing.” But that prediction kept me charging ahead to the fifties with zeal and anticipation. Now that the future is today, I’m ready for anything!

Can Dogs Have PTSD?

I'd give anything to find out what my dog Jerry experienced at the hands of his first owner. Because I'd bet anything that he's a rescue dog with post-traumatic stress disorder.

When Jerry doesn't see my husband in awhile, it seems like the dog forgets who Mike is—especially if Mike is emerging from a darkened room. Something triggers Jerry to bark. It only happens indoors. Outside, the two are buddies.

Sometimes you can tell it's a bark just to make noise. "Weimaraner, please," Mike will scoff.

Jerry hasn't barked at Mike for a few weeks. But something triggered it and he's doing it again. With his basso profundo bark, Jerry doesn't sound as if he would be afraid of anything. The other day he cowered as he barked. Maybe his first owner was a big burly guy like Mike who smoked cigarettes. If so, that's the only similarity the two men share.

Malnourished Puppies
The woman who rescued Jerry and his brother said she met the owner at a chicken swap. She basically shamed the guy into giving her the malnourished puppies. She kept one puppy and called him Scooby. She gave the other pup to her sister, who named him Chester. The sister placed an ad looking for homes for the rescue puppies, which is how our paths crossed. Chester eventually became Jerry.

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.
I once attended a lecture about post-traumatic stress disorder. The speaker said that PTSD, like ADD, is a term that's often used incorrectly, and that specific criteria must exist for the disorder to be PTSD. As closely as I can remember, the criteria include:
  • The traumatic event is triggered by something: a person, place, sound, smell, sight.
  • The person's behavior adapts in response to memory of the event.
  • The maladaptive behavior can't be a one-time event but must continue over a period of time.
We've had Jerry six months. When Mike brought him home, Jerry rushed to my side and pressed against my leg. Apparently men have been the abusers and women have been the rescuers in his life. Mike has had incredible patience to not take the barking personally. At times we've both considered whether we should find another home for Jerry. Luckily for the dog, we've never arrived at the same conclusion at the same time.

"We married him in church. We're stuck with him," Mike says with affectionate resignation.

We both agree, though, there's one condition that won't be allowed: biting. Luckily, Jerry hasn't bitten. Or had a housetraining accident either. For both we're extremely grateful.

Jerry's safe zone is the living room. He can see all the goings-on of the first floor because we have an open floor plan and the living room is raised one step above the dining room. He doesn't like loud noises or sudden movements, and the living room is relatively free of both. (Unlike the kitchen, where dishes regularly tumble from Mount Dishmore in the drainer.) As Jerry eats, he'll stretch waaay out to reach his dish on the dining-room floor, with his rear feet one step up in the living room. He calls to mind Lengthy, the 1960s children's book character by Syd Hoff.

"Jerry, you're a pip," Mike will say.

Mental Health Help for Dogs
According to VetInfo, rescue dogs can indeed have PTSD. They can also suffer from anxiety and depression. A change in environment can be a trigger. We'll be moving later this summer, and will have to be watchful. Jerry has been rescued from neglect but not from a dark memory that only he knows.

Have you noticed signs of PTSD in your rescue dog? How have you helped your pet cope?

Post the Purple Paw on your Facebook page and help the Animal Rescue Site raise money to feed animals in rescue shelters. Thank you Amy Cooper for passing it on to your followers. 
Flickr image of Lengthy by flymissy

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