The sudden loss of a loved one can test our emotional mettle, and each of us handles the stress of grief and loss differently.
For pets, the reaction to the loss of a beloved person in their lives can result in profound, and sometimes troubling, changes in behavior. Janice Dockum learned this when her husband, Jim, passed away suddenly. Their dog, Miss Molly, who had been very close to Jim since her adoption, began displaying some problem behaviors.
This is their story.
Q: When Miss Molly’s behavior changed, was there a specific event (i.e., biting) that made you consider behavioral therapy?
A: From day one of bringing Molly to her forever home she spent every day with Jim. Jim passed in his sleep February 2nd and Molly was there when the first responders came and when the coroner took him away. Once family started to arrive, the emotions were 21 people strong.
Over the course of just days, Molly started acting out. She wouldn’t eat or drink. She would sit and stare at me and bark uncontrollably. She became aggressive. If I would sit on the couch where Jim and Molly had their quiet time she, would pull at my clothes and bark. And if I would move, she would just lay there. She didn’t want to play, she didn’t want treats, and at bedtime she would start biting. Not nipping, but full biting hard enough to draw blood. I took her to our vet to see if she was ill or in physical pain, but her physical exam showed no problems. Our vet said she was grieving and recommended that I contact a trainer to help.
Q: What made you choose Lakeside Paws in TX?
A: My daughter had used Lakeside Paws for obedience/behavior issues with her two dogs and the outcomes had been amazing. Lakeside’s owner, Jenny, is there to help both the dogs and their people. She truly cares about the emotions and feelings of both the owner and dog. She has a passion and love for all breeds of dogs, as does her staff. They remain focused and their determination to overcome and create a positive atmosphere is inspiring.
Q: Can you briefly describe some of the hurdles involved in getting Miss Molly accepted for treatment at Lakeside—and how you overcame them?
A: Since I lived 1,200 miles away from Lakeside Paws, I knew this was going to be challenging. Jenny was on vacation, but she took the time to talk over the phone about Molly several times over the course of a few days. I sent several videos of Molly’s behavior for her to view. After seeing the videos, Jenny knew she could help.
My daughter and I drove Molly to Texas. It was the best decision I could have made. Molly spent 10 board-and-train days with Jenny with follow-up daycare over the following week. We then returned home to Goose Creek, SC, and even though it’s been difficult without Jim, I have my sweet puppy back. I wouldn’t have been able to manage her the way she was before the training.
During this time, Figo pet insurance was gathering information from Lakeside Paws in Texas and from Molly’s vet in South Carolina for pre-approval, so I would have peace of mind knowing this treatment would be covered.
Q: Can you describe and techniques the trainer/therapists at Lakeside used to help Miss Molly?
A: Molly was trained over the course of 10 days at Lakeside Paws. The trainers focused on restructuring Molly’s leadership program. Formal obedience was re-introduced and layered on with a remote educator collar. They were able to teach her recall, place, sit, down, heel, and leave it. Lakeside used stable dogs to help guide Molly’s training. She was taken on daily pack walks—both off and on leash. Molly learned which behaviors were acceptable, and which would not tolerated (like biting and barking). I wasn’t able to see Molly during this process. It was like a reset for both of us.
Q: Did Lakeside staff give you any instruction to help you manage Miss Molly’s behavior at home?
A: At Molly’s go home session on day 11, we went over how to properly use the remote collar. I learned how to become a calm and confident pack leader for her. I was given homework to work on, utilizing her food as motivation and a relationship builder. Molly and I worked on proper leash manners, learning about the importance of crossing each threshold and pausing. I was also shown training games to work with Molly at home.
Q: Did you have pet insurance for Miss Molly? And if so, what percentage of the treatment costs did the policy cover?
A: Yes, I have Figo. They paid 90% of the total cost, once I paid the $250.00 annual deductible.
Shae, one of Figo’s licensed customer experience reps, worked with me through the entire process. She went above and beyond what she needed to do. After Molly’s training was complete, Shae was still following-up with such care and concern for both Molly and me. Thank you, Shae!
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.