Crating and Indoor Dogs

I see, constantly, folks berating the use of crates when working with dogs. Let them run free! Crating is cruel! That isn’t how to treat a pet! Well, as someone who has seen what a dog can do, or what can happen to a dog running wild, I completely disagree. That is not to say I think dogs should be crated all the time, but crates, from my experience, have benefits.

When I first adopted Nakama a few years ago I had him crated when I went to work, mainly because he was young and I was working on potty training him. He was only in the crate when I went to work or to the store, but was out the rest of the time, including when we slept. Nakama didn’t have as severe an anxiety issue as Tomodachi, but that crate, for the first two years, was his cave of comfort. He had no issues in the crate and at two years he was able to stay out of the crate permanently, which is good because Tomodachi came around quickly thereafter.

Tomodachi has a much more severe case of anxiety. The crate is her comfort zone and she is happy enough to go into the area even when she doesn’t need to (because I am home). I live with anxiety myself as a side-effect of my ASD, so I know full well why a safe zone is a comfort. I crate her fully in the morning, then come home quickly at lunch to let her out for a bathroom break. During the afternoon I let her roam free, which is a plus because she can be with Nakama. He used to glare at me when I put her up as if to say, ‘You brought me this new toy, but you lock it up!?’ I leave the door to the crate open when I leave so if she wants to go inside then she has that option.

Crating a dog is a personal preference. Some dogs can’t go the day without chewing a hole in the wall. Others like to find their human’s shoes! Tomo and Naka have done that, little imps. I will say this, though, as many folks hate the idea of even keeping dogs inside. The dangers in a man made society are not conducive to letting dogs roam. Two hundred years ago, yeah, a dog roaming free was okay. There weren’t people driving vehicles, shooting off guns, and basically taking over the land. Where I live it is well known that the village pays the cullers twenty dollars a dog to keep the population down. If my dogs were running free I can only imagine the torture they might endure, at the hands of humans, mind you. There are also natural issues to worry about such as feral dogs, wolves, and porcupines. Any of those could get at a domesticated animal and kill it pretty quickly. So, yeah, I am all for indoor dogs, in a crate if necessary.

I am not here to make people change their minds regarding indoor dogs and crates. However, I will point out that what may work for one may not work for others. Many people in this village let their dogs run amok. They get quilled, hit by vehicles (and survive), or shot by people and live to see another day. Personally, if that were my dog then I would consider myself an unfit pet parent because I wasn’t monitoring their activities. I’ve seen the poor dogs with broken legs trying to run around. I’ve seen the dogs with quills in their faces countless times. I’ve seen the dogs who were shot by disgusting people. I don’t want that for my dogs. Nakama and Tomodachi are happy enough and we make it outside for occasional (for the moment due to weather and Tomodachi going through her first heat) walks and playing in the snow. Their happiness and safety come first.

Bordetella

Today I managed to get Tomodachi one of the vaccinations I need so she can see dog groomers while in Anchorage. I know vaccinations are completely debatable for some people, but for me they are not. I am pro-vaccination for myself and my puppers. Both Nakama and Tomodachi will have the required vaccinations and updates, just like I get them every update.

Administering the Bordetella by myself caused quite a bit of anxiety. As a person on the autistic spectrum I have anxiety overload at times. I want to do it correctly because it is the best thing for my pups, which is the primary reason for the anxiety issues. Doing it myself in the middle of nowhere also causes my anxiety to jump. There isn’t a vet here, so if she has an adverse reaction then we are going to have to rely on friends and advice. Currently she seems okay, but a search in the Internet revealed she could have a reaction up to ten days afterward. Nakama never had a reaction, so I am hoping this is how it goes for Tomodachi.

The vaccination isn’t all that difficult to concoct, you mix the fluid with the powder. I watched a tutorial on YouTube, but what she had to do and what I had to do were slightly different, which triggered quite a bit of anxiety more so than I had already experienced. Luckily I did keep my calm enough to read the directions and follow them without too much of an issue. Mixing; easy! Getting into their nose isn’t such an easy task, though. Tomodachi didn’t like the process and neither did Nakama, who ran off and didn’t want anything to do with me. I am pretty sure he thought he was next. I am grateful he is up to date and now that Tomodachi has the parvo vaccinations and the kennel cough vaccination, she can go to the groomers in Anchorage after we land and not wait till the end!

ASD, PTSD, Anxiety, and an ESA

As someone with autistic spectrum disorder (not that I consider it a disorder, but that is the proper vernacular) and anxiety, I realized a while ago that I would probably benefit from an emotional support animal. Not to be confused with a service animal, which puts me on a soap box because of all the people abusing the terms incorrectly. My Nakama-kun is an ESA, which means (until recently) he was able to travel with me on planes and I could not be denied housing due to having a dog. An ESA is a pet, they are not trained like a service animal; though I was told I could qualify for a legitimately trained service animal, I chose not to because, from my understanding, a person with a legitimately trained service animal is not to have any other pets in their household. I love animals and wanted a second dog at some point, so forking over tens of thousands of dollars for a service animal who could go everywhere with me did not seem necessary. However, my ESA has transitioned into service animal mode quite nicely, and I am sure his little sister will get there, too.

Animals are rather intuitive and can easily tell when there is a physical wound. Tomodachi licked the burn of a flatmate the other day after he admitted he’d burned himself making his family Thanksgiving dinner. Nakama is like that, too. When we were doggie sitting last winter holiday the pup was losing his teeth and Nakama was over in that poor pup’s mouth licking the wounds. I am pretty sure that’ll happen when Tomodachi loses her milk teeth, too.

For me, even though I’ve had the physical wounds licked by Nakama, it is the ones that we can’t see that require more attention. I’ve lived with a few issues that can stop me dead in my tracks in terms of anxiety. One major issue is PTSD brought on by a fear I inherited from when I was six years old. This fear was brought back to life rather quickly on a Thursday when I was dehydrating kale. The smell reminded me of this fear so much I was in a kind of state of shock. Nakama sensed something was wrong and decided it was time to go on a lengthy walk (by lengthy I mean we went on a half-mile tundra trek that took almost half an hour). During that time I was able to calm myself and walk with my puppers.

My PTSD issue is from a childhood experience that many might consider ridiculous, mainly because I always hated how it affected me. So, here is the start of this fear. When I was six I had an opportunity to go to the high school in my hometown and gather with a bunch of other students in elementary school for some various activities, including woodwork, music, and theatre. I still have the tic-tac-toe board I made in that woodwork class, and I remember the music class, but didn’t get any further than that in the day.

During lunch I was standing with my group and one of girls pointed to a girl in another group and commented on how her brother was extremely ugly. I looked at the girl and didn’t pay much attention to the scarring on her legs. Then, when we entered the cafeteria I saw her brother and I ran, like legitimately ran and hid under a table. What I saw may or may not be what I remember seeing, but the fear was definitely real. This young boy, a year older than I, had been burned so badly on the face that to my recollection he was blackened. I do not know why seeing him affected me so, but it terrified me enough I had to be taken home. The following year a family friend told me this boy was there and I ended up going home with her and playing with her daughter instead of staying at the school.

Sadly, it gets worse, and in truth, for me, more ridiculous. For two or so years after seeing this boy with the unfortunate accident, I lied every Thursday to get out of having to walk to the daycare center from the bus stop after school. I claimed I was sick because by doing so I would already be at the daycare center and not have to run into this boy. My folks thought I was being bullied and didn’t find out the truth till much later. In a stroke of luck for me, this boy and his family moved away and I was able to move on, slightly. A couple of movies, Batman and The Neverending Story had a couple of scenes that scared the absolute bugger out of me. I still can’t do Batman, and when I see even pictures of Nicholson’s Joker, I shudder. I did finally finish The Neverending Story movie while in uni, so it took eight years before I knew the ending of the movie (not that it mattered much since I loved the book growing up). I still, at the age of 40, close my eyes during the one scene that brings about the PTSD.

The brain is a funny thing, though. By the time I was a senior in high school I was sure that the movie Batman had caused the fear and that the burned boy was something I saw second. It wasn’t until even later, around the age of 30 I realized that my brain had mixed the two up horribly. I know I was six when I met this boy because I recall almost every time I saw him. The movie Batman didn’t come out till 1990, which would have made me nine, but I couldn’t have watched the movie on VHS until I was ten or so because that was how movies for rent worked at the time. Renting a VHS was almost a year after the movie was in theatres. Clearly my fear had caused some timeline issues with my brain because I couldn’t have seen Batman until the boy and his family moved away.

A little background on the boy, from my recollection of conversations had with my mother. He and his brother and sister had lived in a part of the world that had quite a few bugs. As a way to keep the bugs off the folks used a net to cover the beds at night. An unfortunate accident with a lantern and a net caused the three siblings to burn; the boys’ faces and the little girl’s legs. They had come to the United States for medical care. Why this boy’s burn affected me as it did, I will never know.

Jump forward to last week and I am dehydrating kale. The smell of the dehydrated kale was similar to the smell I remember from home after Ma had picked my sister and I up from the daycare centre. The owner of the centre had played the movie Batman and everyone else enjoyed it, but that one scene with the Joker and the joy buzzer terrified me to the point I was in shock. When my sister and I were at home, watching Bambi and playing dolls, Ma was making something in the kitchen that had a particularly pungent smell. My sister mentioned watching Batman at that point, and clearly from that remark the smell was ingrained in my brain as a “bad” scent. The kale from the other day had that same smell. Thus, the anxiety and the need for my ESAs, Nakama and Tomodachi. They helped me through it and I was even able to dehydrate the rest of the kale, but I am pretty sure I will not dehydrate kale anymore, which is sad because that stuff is good!

Weirdly enough, or maybe not, I am not a medical doctor, so I don’t know if this is random or not, to tell you the truth, but I digress (and make a horrible run-on sentence that I am not going to correct), I am able to watch shows like CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and Law and Order (whichever one) and see a burned corpse and it does not affect me. Clearly I am “over” the fear I experienced when I was six, but with PTSD it is the recollection of how afraid I was that gets to me, still. Plus, as I aged into middle and high school I developed an almost sixth sense when it came to watching movies. For some reason I was able to sense a part that would bring back that fear and leave the theatre, whether it be to pop into the loo or to grab a popcorn or snack. It never failed me.

Wow, that is a lot of possibly unnecessary information. I do tend to chatter on so, but I appreciate being able to write about this issue, especially since it surprised me as it did. The fact that Nakama helped me keep my cool by insisting that we needed a tundra trek right as I was about to have a meltdown proves just how much he and I are in tune with one another. It doesn’t end there, though, with the mental disorganization.

I also want to bring up that sporadically I end up with vertigo. I know when to expect these issues, so I’ve been lucky not to be driving or anything, or take precautions. The feeling is usually fleeting and I can get back to my regularly scheduled program quickly thereafter (which is good because they have hit me while teaching and that is not a positive). There is a surgery that would correct the main culprit of the vertigo, but thanks to the crap healthcare system we seem to embrace in the United States, I am denied this surgery for various, unnecessary reasons. Even my psychologist thinks it is rubbish, so I continue on with the vertigo and deal with the aftermath.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving I ended up with a heck of a spell to the point where Nakama stopped his playing and immediately was by my side. I was sitting at the time, so it wasn’t a big deal, but he was in my space and there for me as the best dog-tor in history. This particular stretch lasted four hours for me to recoup, so I was grateful for my dog because he definitely helped me feel safe. That is what a service animal does, makes a person feel safe. Whether it is a pet someone is claiming as a service animal (which really bothers me) or an actual trained creature (not trained by the person using the animal, but by a group who is trained in working with service animals), dogs are a wonderful companion and friend (thus, the names I’ve chosen for my two soulmates!).

Being soulmates to a companion animal is not for everyone. Dogs require dedication, training, love, and respect. The way I treat them is the way they are going to treat me. I play with my puppers, they play with me (usually when we are supposed to be sleeping!). I care for them, they care for me. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. Basically, I’d do anything I can for them and I know they would do the same for me because that is what folks who care about one another do. Now, if only I could train Nakama to not be a punk, that would definitely help! Whether a punk or not, especially since he is stubborn and still coming to terms with the fact that we have a new, third member of our tribe, he is definitely someone who has helped with my afflictions. We definitely belong together.