The Calm After the Actual Storm and Before the Repair Storm…
This past weekend was blissfully quiet at home! I didn’t have any dog training assignments, so I was enjoying the calm after the storm and the massive cleanup from tree and branch removal! After having a long and full day of saws, thuds, strange voices outside, and the mess of the initial cleanup, it was wonderful to have peace again!
We live in a very quiet neighborhood, with woods all around our house, and that peace feeds my soul, since I’m a bit of an introvert at heart! Rugby loves it too. Our back yard is surrounded by forest, with ravines on one side and behind us. We only have one near neighbor, so life is quiet, and the back patio is a bit of a retreat for us all. The greenery is lush and provides sanctuary for the usual backyard critters and lots of song birds, and we enjoy that so very much.
And the Repairs Begin….Gulp!
To be honest, it was difficult to really even know how to prepare for all of this! It was our first time ever really having serious construction done at our home, and certainly our first time with a horde of construction strangers in the house along with Rugby! We weren’t sure what to expect to begin with, and then throwing a nutty dog in the mix was a real fly in the ointment, and we knew that we were going to be flying by the seat of our pants for the expected week of construction.
After a wonderfully quiet and calm weekend, our Monday started with the reconstruction process. There was a house to be repaired! We expected the roof team about 8:00, and knew that we would be in for a day of banging and noise as they repaired the places where the tree had punctured and fallen into the roof. What we didn’t expect, was that the interior work was going to be done all at the same time! So…we were completely unprepared with Rugby, as we expected all of the work to be exterior that day.
Yikes and egads, even!!
So quickly at 8:00, we were hit with the first of many curve balls to come our way that week! Suddenly, we were going to have banging and noise all around, because not only did the roof have to be repaired, but the ceiling in our bedroom had been damaged when the tree fell and was being replaced. There were some minor cracks in other rooms, which were going to be repaired and repainted. Many dogs can quickly adjust to a situation like this, where there can be a bit of initial excitement and then the dog can sort things out and adjust.
Rugby is not one of those dogs. He simply does not cope well with any sort of change, and strange voices…especially male…in his home and yard can throw him for a loop like nobody’s business! During the construction process, when he saw or heard a stranger, he barked furiously long after the perceived threat was gone. He just can’t calm himself in any way, shape or form, even when the threat no longer exists. Once he’s all spun up….he’s stays all spun up until he’s done, which can be an hour or more.
Normally, I try to prepare for things like this, to minimize his stress levels, but got caught completely off guard for having someone in my house! Unfortunately, I didn’t have his Thundershirt on him, and I didn’t have him crated because I really thought that all of the work would be outside that first day. After the fact, I realized that a PB Kong may have had a calming effect on him, but when he’s very stressed, he’s typically not at all interested in food.
Fortunately, we have a couple of dog gates set up in our house for emergencies such as this, and it was very easy to confine Rugby to the kitchen behind the gate just before folks showed up at the door. However, he can quickly and easily become aggressive in his reactivity, and no one….including Michael or I…will be safe, if he’s looking for an outlet to work out his frustrated and excited response! We always use his crate if there will be strangers in the house, because that’s completely safe for everyone…Rugby included!
When the interior work was to begin, we had expected to crate him in the kitchen rather than his usual crate in my office, because most of the damage was at the office end of the house, and that’s where the beehive of activity would be. Michael and I could easily hang out in the kitchen to keep him company for the day, and we knew he would feel much safer with all of the noise and activity if we were nearby. When Rugby is stressed in his crate, he roots around and rubs his nose raw on his bedding. I was concerned about that happening again, as he had just recovered from his last “raw nose incident!”
Fortunately, I’ve taught him the command “Crate up” and he is very good with commands, so he easily went into his crate, which was going to be a much safer arrangement if strangers were actually in our home. Michael and I knew we were in for a day of incessant barking, so I made my mental adjustment, covered Rugby’s crate partially to give him a “den” in a quiet corner of the kitchen, and did my writing from the nearby table, so Rugby would know I was close.
I am Rugby’s safe person….probably the only human that he really trusts, and I don’t take that trust lightly. It’s really all Rugby has to give, and it took him many years to really believe that I would consistently be good, and fair, and kind to him. I try very hard to honor and respect that trust, because it was a hard process to get there, believe me!
If I’m nearby when things are strange around him, he trusts that I will prevent anything awful from happening to him. His crate is a safe and calm environment for him, and of course he had his tiny bed that he loves, some additional blankets, a stuffed toy and two polka dottie piggies to help him cope. I put his rabbit water bottle on the side of his crate, because I knew with the stress and anxiety, that he would be panting and need some extra water for the day.
Immediately, he began to bark, and to dig at his bedding, frantically working out his anxiety and fear. I hoped he would settle down and stop that behavior, and he eventually did…but it took a very long time….well over an hour. As the morning went on, he finally began to accept that it was going to be a stressful day. He panted so heavily….big dry, heaving pants that told me that he was very stressed. I wished that I had been able to put his Thundershirt on before everyone arrived, but that ship had sailed, and it was time to make the best of what I had left.
From time to time throughout the day, he exploded with that behavior again, but in between that, he was calm and tried to rest. I knew that he was wound up tightly inside, and wouldn’t rest or relax until everyone was gone and his house was quiet once again. I also knew that it was going to be a very long day for him…and us.
To be continued…..