Home on a Saturday night…babysitting a neurotic dog!

Yes, you read that correctly.

Poor Zena.

I had delightful plans to spend time with a friend tonight, but a Zena emergency interfered! I told you she’s been very upset at the sound of off-in-the-distance Fourth of July fireworks. We aren’t leaving her alone at the moment.


Take an already nervous dog who suffers (greatly) with separation anxiety, give her additional upset when the family has a few changes in schedules that slightly affect patterns and routines, and then bring on the fireworks and apparently this is what you get!

During our time away from home this week Zena had what Jay called a “freak out” and I called a “meltdown.” Both seem to apply! She broke the screen door, ate the door frame down to the metal flashing, and had a good start on the solid wood back door.


I’m not a dog psychiatrist.

But a trip to the Veterinarian today was revealing.

Did you know that an anxious dog can develop Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

How about experience an anxiety attack triggered when her human family is busy and she needs them for comfort?

And did you know that even in a dog anxiety creates depression?

I’m going to be honest; I’m feeling a little anxious myself!

Oh my goodness! A tortoise that eats all my succulents,


a heron that comes into our yard and eats our fish,



and now a depressed dog.

A dog on a new regimen of anti-anxiety drugs…


Does she look anxious or depressed to you?

83 thoughts on “Home on a Saturday night…babysitting a neurotic dog!

  1. Oh no, Debra…. That makes me sad… No. Depressed! Zena is such a loveable family member and so happy at the beach… I hate to see her like that… My oldest daughter’s corgi squeezes himself behind the toilet and won’t come out during the 4th so I know what you feel… Just give her all the cuddles you can…

    1. Thank you for your kind thoughts and warm wishes towards Zena, Koji. I think she’s going to do well this week…or at least better! The medications are already calming her, and we’re just doing the best we can to reassure her. I always pictured smaller dogs, like your daughter’s Corgi, as being more inclined towards nervousness than a larger dog. I now see that a large dog can be just as insecure! I hope you have a good week, my friend. Thank you for your nice comment.

      1. Do you remember the Northridge earthquake? I had a loveable Golden; well, it was my oldest daughter’s but “Baggies” eventually became my dog. We lived in a two story house and I trained her to stay on one side of the house and only on the first floor. She was a good dog, doing anything to please me.

        That night, that 90 pound Golden jumped onto our bed. She was panting badly and couldn’t get close enough to me. That’s what woke me up – her jumping on top of me… not the earthquake. She was a mess – just like Zena.

        1. How frightening for you and for Baggies! She sounds like she was a very smart and sensitive dog and she obviously knew who to come to in an emergency! But to have 90 pounds jump on your chest had to be quite the jolt! Zena was in the house when we had one of those very small “shakers” a few months ago and she didn’t like that very much. I hope we don’t have anything more significant. She’ll never be able to take it! Thanks for sharing your story, Koji. It’s funny and it’s not–you know what I mean!

  2. Anonymous

    Over here it’s New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July the dogs freak out hopefully she calms down with some extra loving she might be feeling needy. funny how dogs in their personalities are.

    1. It’s so true that dogs have different temperaments. We have spoken to friends and learned that some with more than one dog in their home have two totally opposite responses. One dog never shows any signs of stress, and the other cowers and shakes in fear at the drop of a hat. They are more like people than we think, I suppose. 🙂

  3. Sandra Young

    I knew fireworks could upset animals but not to that degree My neighbors use to drug their dog on the fourth and keep it inside. Sounds like you have your hands full.

    1. We thought we had things under control, Sandy, but I think it is more than the fireworks. She misses us when we aren’t home. I guess we are indeed very important in the life of our dog, right? 🙂

    1. Isn’t that the truth, Cristine! Our nest has definitely suffered some damage! I was just shocked when I came home and found splintered wood all over the place. I think she’s already responding to the medications and I am very hopeful that this week will go much better! I hope you have a good week, too, my friend.

  4. Poor Zena! I have heard of dogs that suffer terrible anxiety when left alone. We took both our dogs to training schools when they were young, and it’s amazing how much we learnt from the dog trainer and other owners and dogs about behaviour. It may also be worth seeking out a trainer who can give some advice. I do hope she settles down again soon!

    1. I asked the Veterinarian about a trainer, Cathy, because that’s been on my mind, too. He thought we’d better wait a while, though, and let the medications kick in. He thought the trainer would stress her even further. LOL! Can you imagine! I wish we’d had her in our home when she was younger and perhaps we’d have avoided some of this. But we’ll hang in there and see what we can do to get her sorted out. Thank you for your concern, too, Cathy. We do love our dogs, don’t we?

      1. I wish you lots of luck Debra! Yes, I’d do anything for our dogs! Our little one was from a rescue home and also had problems when she was younger that occasionally recur, but our old wolfhound calms her and she feels safe near her “big sister”!

  5. ” . . . She broke the screen door, ate the door frame down to the metal flashing, and had a good start on the solid wood back door. . . ”
    I am amazed. Seems like she has perfect teeth. Nothing wrong with her teeth, right? And now, with the help of drugs, she has a wonderful sleep. May this restful sleep help her to overcome her anxiety. Would it help perhaps, if she had a companion dog? She probably does not regard the tortoise or your fish as suitable companions! Sorry, Debra, that you have to cope with so much at the moment.

    1. We have wondered if Zena needs a companion, and it may be an option if she doesn’t calm down soon. Thank you for your shared concern, Uta. She’s a dear, and we are just so sorry she’s having a hard time. And yes, I think her teeth must be really incredibly strong and healthy. If she keeps this up, though, she could really hurt herself, and that’s part of the concern. We may need to make really good friends with a building contractor, however. 🙂 Have a good week, my friend.

  6. Oh, cripes. I commiserate – loud noise is no good for dogs. I remember getting up in the middle of a storm at a friend’s home in central France. The fuses had blown and when I opened the bathroom door I heard loud panting in the dark followed by the sound of thirsty drinking. It was OVNI, the terrified German Shepherd, who had hidden there and was drinking out of the toilet bowl.
    I hope that Zena gets over her emotions soon.

    1. I think that Zena is doing much better now that she’s on a medication. It’s only been one full day, but I noticed that she actually let me go in and out of the house today without following me every step. That’s a first! Now the real truth of the situation is going to be seeing how she does when we go to work this week. There isn’t much left that she can do to the back door. 🙂

  7. What a time you’re having with all God’s creatures. I’m so sorry to see the damage to your home but in my experience, whenever a dog is anxious, that’s when the damage is done. She’s a beautiful looking dog and looks like she’s recovering well xx

    1. I used to say that I wanted to live on a farm, and I’ve realized that I probably wouldn’t do to well, Charlie. I love my animals, but I like them to all behave. LOL! My menagerie is small and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with animal problem-solving. 🙂 Zena’s meds are starting to kick in, and I think she’s doing better, but of course, the real proof of that is going to be when we go to work this week. I’m hoping we don’t come home to any more surprises! 🙂

  8. I’m so sorry for Zena! To be chewing through and eating the house, she MUST be feeling quite bad. I hope the meds are helping. She probably needs that good sleep she is having in that picture.

    1. That’s what I have been focused on, Colleen. How upset and frantic and fearful has she been to be able to chew a door casing down right to the metal flashing! I think the pills are already doing their trick, though, and this week should be better! Thank you!

    1. I think the meds are already helping Zena calm a bit, Nancy! I think we’ll have a better week. Now I just need to find a contractor ready to patch it all up! LOL! That door casing just amazes me. I’m not sure how that’s going to be fixed any time too soon!

  9. Roughly 40 years ago, an acquaintance gave my boys a beautiful dog. He arrived on a Friday evening after I came home from work and was the most perfectly behaved fellow; housebroken, not a picky eater, romped and rolled with the boys all weekend and seemed to fit right into our routine. Then came Monday, me off to work and the boys off to their sitter.

    The horrific mess we found at 6:00 p.m. cannot be imagined nor adequately described! However, I can see it now as clearly as if it just happened! The curtain rods at both front windows were bowed and dangling, the curtains (nearly new) from both windows and the front door were mangled and ground through with dirt from the flower pot which had been on the sill; the front door jamb had been ripped from the wall to a height of roughly 2-1/2 feet from the floor, and there was a hole in the drywall on the adjacent living room wall roughly the same height and 6-8 inches wide….the drywall was in chunks and powder form, mixed with pink batt insulation, and the poor dog was only the aluminum siding away from freedom! He had had a panic attack of epic proportions, all because the person who had gifted him to us had neglected to tell me that he had NEVER been left alone INSIDE!

    My heart broke for him and for my boys, because he could not stay; we didn’t have a fenced yard and in those days I was far too poor to afford doggie day care.

    I’m so happy that your Zena has been a treasured family member long enough for you to understand and cope with her fears and foibles. Hopefully, she’s feeling better now that the Fourth has passed (although that didn’t stop some die-hard fireworks buff in our immediate vicinity who fired off half a dozen window-rattlers last night — our Lucy and Minnie were both quaking), the damage to your home was limited only to those spots pictured in the photos, and you were able to reschedule the missed time with your friend.

    1. Oh Karen, what a shock you must have experienced when you found the damage to your home. My neighbor told me that her dog had destroyed kitchen cabinets. Here you are describing drywall in chunks and I just can’t imagine how shocking that had to be. And as you say, very disappointing to your boys! Zena is an indoor dog when we are home, but has always been outdoors when we are not, so at least the damage is definitely all to the exterior of the house. Although she has only been on her new medications about 24 hours, I think she’s already feeling a little more calm. We will go off to work in the morning, so here’s hoping. LOL! Thank you for sharing your story, Karen. It’s an amazing story!

  10. She looks like the most loved dog of all time:) My dog has anxiety and separation anxiety as well. I ran into another owner of the same breed and his was the same and he was quite concerned about it.. 8 years later!! So I’m not too optimistic that this is going to change in Bella any time soon, no matter what we do. She’s happiest if I’m sitting on the couch and she’s dozing next to me with one paw on my leg:D

    1. It’s really difficult to see the dogs trembling and upset, isn’t it, Smidge? None of the dogs we’ve had in the past ever exhibited the kind of stress-related behavior that we’re seeing in Zena. I wold think that at least Bella can’t possibly do the kind of damage that a larger dog does rather easily. I would probably be even more upset with the destruction if it weren’t obvious to me that she’s really upset and these actions come out in a frenzy. She’s had 24 hours now of her new little pill regimen. We’ll see what this week brings. 🙂 Thank you for commenting and sharing about Bella, Smidge. ox

  11. My cats don’t like loud noises either but they just hide (or sleep) under the bed. So far no one has chewed the woodwork! I’m not as knowledgeable about dogs but hope the meds help. If you perhaps you can get meds for yourself?

  12. Tom McCubbin

    I babysit some dogs in Palm Springs that get depressed when their owners leave. For two days they will just mope around with the longest faces. It gives me anxiety seeing them feeling that way.

    1. I understand the feeling of helplessness when you’re a competent and loving dog sitter and you just aren’t good enough. LOL! I think it’s possible that leaving Zena earlier in June when we went to Morro Bay may have started this downward spiral, and we left in her in the very best situation–a good friend who doted on her. Zena didn’t eat and had hair falling out, all within three days. what can we do with that? LOL!

  13. Poor Zena! I sometimes wish someone would give ME good drugs on the 4th of July. I always get jumpy and anxious about those loud explosions and flying sparks. I hope life gets back to normal for her soon.

    1. Do you know there are still a few loud “booms” off in the distance! This many days after the holiday! I did have to laugh, though, as I read about the anxiety issues and read about dogs having a very hard time with thunder. Think of the stress Zena would experience if we actually had a thunder storm! The lack of rain has been a bonus for her any way. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Janine. I’m sure that the new medications will help Zena pull out of whatever is giving her so much stress. Just like people, she’s having a bad spell, I think. 🙂 Hope you have a good week with that little darling of yours!

    1. We have enjoyed a bit of calm this weekend, Celia. I think Zena’s new medication has at least helped a little. Of course, this weekend we were home. LOL! I’m not sure what to expect when we go to work. And I was so surprised when the heron visited our yard, as I’d never seen this particular species “so close to home.” I think the long necked herons are a lot prettier. 🙂 I’m so glad you stopped by, and I hope you have a great week.

  14. Oh poor Zena. (And you!) I’ve seen this in dogs before. I think anxiety and depression must be basic emotions (albeit complex). Seems they aren’t unique to humans. Hopefully she’ll relax soon. I’m sure you’ll get her thru. Teach her to breathe lighter and exhale. 😉

  15. Poor Zena. Hope she gets rid of the anxiety before you become housebound with her. I know that some pet owners leave a TV or radio on to keep their pets company. Fingers crossed you can figure something out that works for her and you.

    1. I heard something the other day about a dog channel on some cable packages! Maybe I need to look into that. I hope her anxiety meds kick in and she relaxes! We have a work week coming up…I will NOT be home. 🙂

  16. I believe she needs a strong leadership to tell her how to deal with this situation, dogs rely heavily on repetition, the problem is that you have to spend a lot of time with her in order to create a daily routine, and you may not because of work, going out, etc; but then she will follow your orders as long as she feels you are still paying attention to her.

    Dogs are smart, they notice stuff like the tv is just noise after a while, and they can reject water and food until you come back. I dont think the drugs will work on the long run, its just tricking her emotions. If you get another dog, he may help her, or do nothing, or became a double problem.

    Good luck 🙂

  17. I’m sorry to hear that Zena is going through such problems Debra. I know that most dogs find fireworks frightening or, at best, disturbing. At least she hasn’t started on the computer cabling yet! I guess it’s been around 9 months since she moved in with you but healing is a slow process. Hopefully, she will relax and forget the anxieties carried over from her previous life, becoming comfortable in your home.

    Here’s one of my pet stories to cheer you 🙂 http://2e0mca.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/going-round-in-circles/

    1. That is a great story about your Budgies, Martin! Poor little guy with no directional control! That must have startled him, too! And yes, it’s been nine months, and Zena is so attached to us but needs constant reassurance. I think the medications are helping her calm already, and maybe after awhile she’ll develop some new and better coping mechanisms. Something better than ripping at our woodwork.

      Martin, I was wondering if you had heard the very sad news about Christine Whitelaw’s passing? I know that she was someone who always commented on your blogposts, as so often I noted she was at the top of the list! I thought of you when I read her husband’s initial very sad post and then a followup from her service, and just wanted to be sure that you, too, had been informed. The news was really a jolt. She was someone quite special, I think, and will be missed! http://dadirridreaming.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/vale-christine/

      1. Hi Debra, thanks for that. yes I was aware that Christine had sadly left us 😦 I posted my condolences on Stuart’s original post. The service looks to have been very much in keeping with Christine’s wonderful persona. It was so kind of the family to share that with us.

        1. I was quite certain you had heard, Martin, but I wanted to be sure. I knew you’d be touched with the same sadness that I’ve been feeling. There was something very special about Christine, I think. I’m sure her family is really feeling this loss in the most profound of ways, and I’m very glad Stuart and the boys were so open as to let us all in.

    1. How rude to unsubscribe you! LOL! I have certainly had the same thing happen and I always wonder who I’m missing! I have been so preoccupied with my new job as part-time animal behaviorist that I am very behind in my own blog reading. I think this week looks to be the first calm and routine week we’ve had in a while and I hope to play a lot of catch up! I want to get over to your site tonight and see if you’ve posted any updates on your eyes. I’ve been really concerned, Frank.

    1. Zena was severely neglected when we took her in, and it’s created quite a condition when we aren’t around. She is definitely a needy little thing, and if I could bring her with me to work, I’d do that, too! LOL! Someone is with her most of the time, and when we are, oh boy! She doesn’t take her eyes off of us. It’s nice to be adored–but maybe she could tone it down just a little bit. 🙂

  18. We had a Wiener Dog that once ate so much of our wooden fence during a bad storm that she had to be operated on! can relate to some of what you went though the next year we closed all windows and sat with our little dog and hugged her and watched a movie with soft noise to distract her! it helped! Love Deb

    1. Oh my goodness, Deb. She had to have surgery? That’s awful! I was concerned that Zena would hurt herself. The problems we’ve encountered have been when we aren’t home, so that’s been tough. I think the medications are helping. Fingers crossed!

  19. Do you think poor Zena would share those pills with me, Debra? 🙂
    Seriously, poor dog, but how lucky for Zena to have chosen to live with you.
    Ran into a dear, long-time friend yesterday at the Garden Walk Faire. Talk came around to her dogs. She mentioned some sort of vest-like thing she puts on them and said it really helps with calming in July . Have you heard of them?

    1. I have only very recently heard of the vests, Penny. A friend mentioned that her dog needs the vest during thunder storms (Texas) and I can’t think of the name for them, but I must look into them. So far the medications are helping and she is calm. And you’re so right about sharing the pills! LOL! This last week I honestly thought if she kept up the destruction we were going to have to go into some kind of doggy analysis, and who knows what that would cost? I was quite concerned. It’s been very time consuming, too. I’ve been careful what I say within family and friends who told us we were crazy to get a dog in the first place. Oh dear!

  20. Oh, poor Zena and poor you, Debra. I guess it must always be a risk when you take on a rescue dog that events in the past have left anxieties that only show themselves later. I hope the medication helps to calm her and that she continues to learn that she can trust in your love and care for her.

    1. We have been so surprised that Zena has been acting out as much as she has lately because it’s a new behavior that we couldn’t quite pin down. But the Veterinarian really helped us see that she is hyper-vigilant all the time, and even when in a resting position is monitoring everything in fear we are going to leave her. She simply became overwhelmed. The good thing is that the medication has already really mellowed her out. At first I thought she was almost lethargic until it dawned on me that she is probably now just responding in a calm manner, and that’s what we were after. It’s just that the contrast is quite extreme. I hope things are very calm in France right now, Perpetua. Your summer is probably moving all too quickly! ox

  21. That’s wonderful that Zena is doing better. Many years ago, we had a much loved dog who also had major anxiety when we left the house. She ate through doors, doorways and molding around the doors, in an attempt to get out. We had her since she was a little puppy and there were no traumas, other than ones she may have perceived when we went to work or away. We loved her tremendously and maybe she missed that connection when we weren’t there? I’ve heard good things about the vests. I’ve heard they can really help with anxiety. Wishing her well!

    1. Thanks for mentioning the vests, Kathy. I don’t really understand how it works, but I also have heard good things about them. I think we’re going to have to look into one. It’s interesting that your dog did the same thing! My neighbor told me her dog actually destroyed the kitchen cabinets. Zena has done better since last week, but did have a little relapse today. We fortunately weren’t gone long! But our back door is beyond repair at this point. I don’t dare get anything repaired or purchase anything new until we get to the bottom of this. I sure didn’t see this coming. LOL! Time to exercise a great deal of patience, I guess. Thank you for stopping by and sharing. I appreciate your story, too. It adds to my awareness of how these poor animals cope!

    1. I was also very surprised to hear the Vet mention OCD, Marie. She is doing better, but did have a little ‘relapse’ this afternoon. I had hoped we have moved beyond the wood chewing! Hopefully soon. I hope you’re doing well, Marie. It is so nice to hear from you.

    1. Oh I’m sorry you lost your turtle, Carla. Did he ever show up? Our tortoise disappeared for a while but a neighbor found him. I was so relieved. Our Zena is doing a little better…just a little. LOL!

  22. Debra, I hope someone got back to you re the “vests” Penny mentioned in her comment; if not, see: http://www.thundershirt.com/ We tried a “generic” form of one with a small dog once and it didn’t seem to have much effect. Maybe we should have tried the real thing. Anyway, you can judge whether it might be calming for Zena or not. 🙂

    1. Oh poor Zena, Kate. She’s still having some trouble when we leave the house. Poor thing gets anxious and depressed. Today, in order to preserve what’s left of my back door, I moved two very large, heavy trash cans in front of the door and that seemed to help. I haven’t posted any new pictures in awhile…you should see our back door. It looks like someone came at it with an axe! I hope Zena doesn’t end up losing her teeth!

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