In celebration of National Dog Day on August 26th (Who knew? Did we have it last year????), I’m going to tell you a story of Edgar and Bandit.
Bandit was born with a full blown case of separation anxiety. Extraordinary extreme separation anxiety. When we first brought her home, her goal was to be velcroed to us. Sometimes I thought she was trying to smother me because she start by lying on my stomach, then slowly inch up my chest and eventually try to sit on my face. Why? All she wanted to do was to get as close to me as possible.
Whenever I took a shower, she’d freak out. In our old condo, the shower had a clear door. Because there was a physical barrier between us, she cried, whined, and howled until I came out. Once when Ben took a shower, she begged to let in the shower even though she hated getting wet. She sat in the corner of the shower enduring the drops of water from the shower because as much as she hated it, it was better than “being alone,” which wasn’t all that alone. But for Bandit, any type of barrier was equivalent to being alone.
Don’t even get me started to what it was like when we actually left her alone. Even animal trainers who have worked with separation anxiety have stated that Bandit had the worst case that they had ever seen.
A year later with months of training, Bandit now only has extreme separation anxiety instead of extraordinary extreme. Puppy steps. Puppy steps.
The first couple of months of having Bandit were rather anxiety-inducing for me because I hated how Bandit felt whenever we left her alone. As a consequence we rearranged our work schedule so someone could be with her, took her pretty much everywhere, and rarely left her alone. I tried everything to comfort Bandit, including buying an expensive stuffed dog.
Meet Snuggle Puppy, a $40 behavioral aid toy. At the time, Bandit was as big as the stuffed dog. It came with a beating heart that you could turn on or off and a pouch where you could place a heat pack, like a hand warmer. The idea was that the warm stuffed dog with a beating heart would provide comfort to a lonely puppy and it promised to ease separation anxiety. If all it took was a $40 toy to get Bandit to not suffer from separation anxiety, then it was the best $40 ever spent. In the end, I simply spent $40 because it did nothing nada, zip for Bandit. Bandit wants a person and no toy or another dog (we tried several) would do.
She did kinda like the snuggle puppy at night (or at least we like to think so as a way of justifying what I paid for him). At the time, Bandit slept in her crate that was near our bed. The first night we had the snuggle puppy, I turned on the heart and stuffed a heat pack inside. There was a pleasant slight thump, thump, thump sound and the puppy was warm. It very much left like something rather nice to snuggle up with. Bandit went inside her crate and I placed the snuggle puppy in there with her. Then we turned off the lights and went to bed.
As Ben and I tried to fall asleep, we both heard a persistent throbbing beats coming from the floor. What was that odd sound? It was even a bit creepy. After puzzling over the noise, I realized that the snuggle puppy’s beating heart made a noise that was barely audible during the day but was clearly audible at night when there was less noise pollution. I jokingly complained to Ben that the snuggle puppy’s heart sounded like the “beating of his hideous heart” that drove narrator crazy in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” This is how Edgar got his name.
While Bandit didn’t care about Edgar when she was alone, she did love playing with him when we were around. And by playing with it, I mean destroying it. After a few months (I only think he lasted that long because she was a puppy of a few months and her jaws were weaker), she found the seams and ripped out his stuffing. She would have ripped out his heart too, but we quickly grabbed it before she got to it. After Edgar lost his innards, Bandit then went on to tear his face. She took out his eyes and ears. There isn’t much left of Edgar now. Even though he’s a shell of what he used to be, Bandit loves him. She loves playing tug-of-war with what little is left of him. She spends about an hour every day to chewing on him and ripping him up some more. One of these days, there really won’t be anything left of Edgar but bits of fur. Til then, Edgar is still here like some sort of sad limp ghost.
In honor of National Dog Day, I’d like to honor and thank Edgar for his service to Bandit. Although he didn’t get rid of Bandit’s separation anxiety, she definitely got a lot of fun and enjoyment out of him (and I mean the out of him literally).
Another exciting news, Bandit made the Huffington Post! Check out her debut in this article about the 30 Times Dogs Made Weddings Exponentially Cuter! We show up at #30 (save the best for last, right?).
Bandit, we love you, you crazy puppy you and we wouldn’t change a thing about you. Well, except maybe having you be less prone to separation anxiety. Snuggles. Your mommy and daddy love you to bits.