When your ESA has PTSD.

I think I wrote in one of my post that my new dog, Moo, who is my Emotional Support Animal (ESA) has issues. When first got him, I was living by myself since we where in the process of moving and my parents had already moved into the condo. So it was just the two of us. He loved me – I’d just saved him from shelter living and I liked him. I can’t say I loved him at that time because I was still grieving my old dog’s death, but he was something I could hold on to.

A little background on him so you get why I say he has PTSD. He was born on the IMG_0173streets of the Bahamas, one of thousands of dogs the run wild there. At three – four weeks old someone poisoned food and left it out for the wild dogs (instead of getting their pets fixed this is how people deal with the wild dogs in the islands). Moo’s mom got ahold of some of the poisoned food, and died. At this point he had to fend for himself or die too. For two or three weeks after his mom died he and this two siblings were on the streets alone. People chasing them, either to scare them off or to catch them, before he was caught. Then he went through being shipped to the USA, going through quarantine, going to the vet for things like shots, microchips, and getting fixed. He was paraded out weekly for adoption shows where it was loud, and people were passing him around, at which point it just got too traumatic for him. Then I found him at one of those shows and he sat in my lap so quietly I took him home thinking he was the “ONE” for me.

Then I started picking up on things. First, he followed me EVERYWHERE, I couldn’t move without Moo being right there. Which led to me tripping over him. Which is a problem because I’m already proned to accidents and falling. While we were still in the house he’d crawl into my lap whenever someone was in the house. If it was a man he’d try digging so he could get behind my back to hide. The only one who could touch him was me and my nieces when they’d visit. Any one over three foot tall that wasn’t me, he’d freak out, run away, hid, pee himself or play dead, somethimes all of them at once. Once we moved to the condo, Moo started hiding under my bed. Anytime he heard or saw someone that wasn’t  me, off he’d go, and he wouldn’t come out unless it was just him and I, and the door was closed. I actually had to move things around so he had a place to hide. Otherwise he’d get stuck under there and I couldn’t get him out. 

The condo move was already stressful for me, and now I  was dealing with a freaked out puppy/dog on top of it. I hate to say this and I never would have even thought it before, but I was close to returning him to the shelter. Up until this time I believed that once you take on a dog that dog is your responsibility for life – either theirs or yours, but I started wonder if our parting wouldn’t be better for both of us since he was driving my anxiety levels over-the-top big time. There was just one problem – by the time his PTSD became really noticeable we’d had three months of just him and I time in the house before we sold it, and I was attached plus I was still grieving the loss of one dog and didn’t want to loss anther.

So I had to come up with ways of treating his PTSD so he’d stop triggering mine. Yes, as crazy a this may sound I wanted to keep the dog that was triggering my PTSD. The first step was realizing that he had problems. The next was finding a way to work on his problems that not only helped him but didn’t trigger me. His biggest problem was people, guess what, so is mine.  I found out that he loves being around other dogs though, so where could he be around both dogs and people? Pet stores were out cause I can’t take them – to crowded and closed in, and noises. I then started looking into dog training classes. They were ok for a start but I really only did them because my dog need basic training and he liked them. I on the other hand didn’t like them so much, because well I was stuck inside with people and I felt weird about leaving in the middle of a class when I started getting panicky. The next thing we tried was the off-leash dog park. This worked for both of us. He got to be with, play with dogs, I was outside so I felt less trapped, and I could move or leave whenever I started getting panicky. It took almost six months of two-to-three times a week visits to the park before Moo would even go near another human, another six months before he’d let a woman pet him, we’ve just reached the two year mark and he’s finally going up to people (men and women) and letting them pet him. At home he gotten a lot better too. Most of my extended family he likes and most of my friends. He’s still scared of strangers, especially men, which he growls at before coming to jump on my lap. He still doesn’t bark but I’m ok with that. I still have to watch for signs he’s nervous around someone, usually I let him in my bedroom when that happens, but now he no longer feels the need to hide under the bed.

He has other little things that he still does like he won’t eat from his bowl if you are near him, if you come near him and he’s eat he leaves. So I feed him at night so he can eat while we sleep. If you give him a treat he runs off and hides to eat it. He has to be under the covers in my bed went it rains, thunders or there are fireworks or other loud noise or he cries. It is emotionally painful when he cries. And if I’m gone for longer than four hours he starts looking out the windows and pacing from door to door looking for me. Then when I get home he follows me around again. He has horrible nightmares but so do I so we keep each other company and calm each other down.  

I know I said early I thought of returning Moo because of his issues but I can truly say that I’m thankful I didn’t. I’m also thankful every day that when I went looking for a new dog, God saw fit to give me Moo. Not only do I understand him better than most people would, but he also helps me understand and be more accepting of myself and my issues, by dealing with and accept his.  And I can say now without a doubt that he enriches my life and I love him. There are a thousand ways he makes my life better, but mostly it’s his cheerfulness I love the most.

*** No, my dog is not named Moo. This is just his alias for this page. I’m not so mean as to name a dog – Moo. 🙂

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