I took our dog Penny to the Vet the other day for her regular check-up and she needed shots. I also wanted to talk to the doctor about the dog’s inability to stay out of her crate whenever we leave the house. She runs around the house panting to the point of almost hyper-ventilating (if I could get a paper bag over her snout without her eating it I’d be inclined to have her breathe into that). The dog, it seemed, suffered from anxiety. But she’s a dog. Dogs don’t get anxiety.
“She could definitely be suffering from Separation Anxiety.” Deadpanned our veterinarian.
“Come again doc?”
“Absolutely. In fact, it is very common with dogs to experience that sort of anxiety.” And just when I thought that layer of icing on this cake were not quite thick enough, he drops, “I could prescribe Prozac for her if you want.”
I didn’t know if I should take him seriously or look for hidden cameras?
“That would help to calm her down for sure.”
So would Quaaludes but I’m not feeding them to her in her dog food any time soon.
Then I look down to the dog and she is, quite literally, giving me puppy dog eyes. I give her the, “What do you know, you’re a dog”, look. I turn to my kids (who I had taken with me) and they are giving me the same eyes the dog is giving me. I give them the, “Just calm down”, look. My oldest, Hannah, asks me, “Daddy, is Penny going to be ok?” Her voice cracks as she is on the verge of tears.
“Penny will be fine.”
“Does she have to take medicine like Mommy takes?”
This is why, before we got this dog, I didn’t want this dog. Because I knew, as time went one, everyone in my family, including myself, would begin to ascribe humanity to the dog. We would begin to look at our dog as more than a furry genitalia licking mouth full of teeth hell bent on eating every last one of the socks in our drawers. We would look at her like our family.
And now, sitting in the exam room at the veterinarian’s office, I’m looking at my family. Penny’s my best friend. I know right where, on her ribcage, to rub to get her hind leg to start kicking like she’s peddling a bicycle. She thinks jumping into my groin when I walk in the house from work is what I look forward to. I know where the spot behind her ears that, when petted, will have her almost groaning with pleasure. She knows I enjoy a rousing game of “fetch” with her. She follows me around closer than my shadow. So, as the doctor explains further the serious epidemic of Separation Anxiety that afflicts dogs nationwide and how Prozac has done wonders to help, I’m nodding in agreement with him like an idiot.
Separation Anxiety? Sure. Prozac? Uh huh. How many milligrams did he say? Does this fall under my prescription plan?
I shook my head after a few minutes to clear away the haze of the Prozac suggestion and asked the doctor, “What can we do besides the Prozac? Is there a simpler solution to her anxiety? Therapy? Counseling? Keeping her in her crate when we leave?”
“Sure, you could leave her in her crate. There would be no problem with that.”
So we (read: me) decided against Prozac unless the veterinarian was going to be prescribing it for me.
I love my dog. A lot. Sometimes even more than my wife (the dog never asked me to empty the dishwasher once). We brought her home two years ago and in that time, she has become not just a part of our family, like some sort of footnote. She has become one of the family. That being said, it took the vet, on the verge of scribbling a script for Prozac, for me to remember she is just a dog. I think she’ll be just fine.
But if she isn’t fine…you better believe I’ll be getting a prescription for Prozac filled for her.