Tuesday, May 24, 2011


It came suddenly, the storm that rocked our neighborhood this morning, shaking the apartment and igniting the sky south and east of us with tall lightning that razored the dark morning with brilliant streaks like outstretched fingers. It was not the kind of storm I remember from my days in The Shire-like Midwest, and it wasn't even the worst I've experienced here, but it was enough to make me nervous. Pip scrambled under the couch to take comfort with his gang of dust bunnies while Winnie hunkered down deep among the pillows on the bed. Olive was hardly fazed and slept through it in the center of the floor throughout the entire thing. Duncan, however, did not do well at all.

He began whining long before I heard even the first distant rumbles––little more than the sound of heavy trucks on Bowles––but by the time it arrived he was pacing and panting and trying to climb into my lap. I moved my computer to the couch so he could crawl up next to me and take comfort by leaning his full weight against my body, but even that wasn't good enough. He wanted to crawl onto me, maybe even push himself all the way through me.

I am no stranger to anxiety. I have been well-acquainted with the terror it brings since the Spring of 2005 when it changed my entire life. I remember driving to work and feeling the horrible flush of adrenaline course through my body, grabbing me by the knees first, then moving upward, flooding my joints and muscles, terrorizing my stomach and bowels, finally grabbing me by the brain and shaking me until it was all I could do to keep from passing out. That Spring was the worst of my life because we did not know what the problem was, but even now that we know and I have been trained to manage it, behind the safety of therapy and prescriptions, it occasionally has its way with me. Duncan was there with me through the worst of it, still only a puppy, less than a year old, but courageous and wise enough for the two of us.

Pressed against me as he was this morning I could feel his heart racing and every muscle of his tight little body quivering. He big, pink tongue lolled out of his mouth and desperation ignited his eyes. I kept hugging him, pressing my lips to his cheeks and brows, whispering soft words of encouragement and comfort. It was the least I could do after the days he laid with me, leaned against and supported me when I was so dizzy I couldn't walk to the bathroom, or the time he stood on my chest, stared straight into my eyes and matched his breathing to my own until he eventually calmed me down.

When I finally had to climb into the shower (something I rarely do because of my not-entirely irrational fear of being electrocuted while bathing) Duncan followed me to the tub. My voice was not enough, nor my constant conversation with him. I showered as quickly as possible while he continually tried to climb in next to me, peeking around the curtain and sliding it away, lifting his paws onto the edge in an attempt to pull himself in.

I know that fear and know there is little reassurance anyone can offer. Ken was with me during many of my attacks and tried his hardest to comfort and calm me, and while I knew I was not going to die, I wasn't entirely convinced of it. There was little I could do for Duncan except hold him and offer him two droppers of Animal Apawthecary Tranquility Blend herbal tincture which Chelsea at Hero's Pets had recommended for our long road trips to Idaho. It's foul smelling stuff, brown and syrupy, and I don't even want to imagine what it tastes like (we always wash it down with a nice treat afterward) but it does the trick. Duncan soon found a cool spot on the linoleum in the kitchen and relaxed.

I left shortly after that for a meeting and when I returned home two hours later he was fast asleep next to Ken on the couch. I understand the exhaustion that follows such episodes of anxiety, so I curled up next to him, around him, whispered in his ear, held his paw and took a brief nap alongside him, matching my breathing to his.

It was a tough morning for Roo and although I felt helpless to ease his fears I know I did all I could, which was not half of what he has done for me. We give each other what we can when we need it and that is why we are best friends.

1 comment:

Lori said...

Something I'd never heard before: Dogs with storm anxiety often start the panic cycle due to the increased static electricity in the air ahead of a storm. It's suggested to rub the dog with a dryer sheet! I don't know if it will help, but it can't hurt.