I mentioned in a couple of posts that Hudson and I had some difficulties after we were forced to be separated for 3 hours a week ago on Sunday. I believe it was the first time in his life he was left entirely alone – always before, there has been company. First his litter and his dam, then his puppy-raiser (who I know never left him alone because he was part of a prison program, so there is no leaving the dog in the other room for the night or similar) , then his kennel-mate and his trainer, and then me and the boyfriend. He is a very emotionally needy pup, and will often come over and nosebump me to get my attention and a pat on the head. When he is parted from me, he is always extremely happy and eager to be returned to me. (this happens, for example, when I am ill and the boyfriend must take him out, or when I have a severe IBS attack and must run for the bathroom while the dog is eating his dinner, or when I need x-rays and other imaging done that would either be a health hazard or so loud as to unsettle him)
Being a very sensitive, needy dog who has never been left alone, he was quite upset to have it happen to him, and for so long! It was somewhere between 2 1/2 and 3 hours altogether that he was left home. I am quite happy to note that he did not become destructive at all. I worried mostly that he might hurt himself trying to get back to me, but fortunately that did not happen.
That is not to say it was smooth sailing.
When I first came home, he was delighted to see me again. He scooted around like he does when he was excited, his tail whipping so hard back and forth that it struck his own flanks. He nearly leapt into my lap.
However, that was short-lived.
Like a small child, Hudson went back and forth – he was upset and wanted my comforting, but he was also upset with ME and wanted nothing to do with me. He’d come over and bump me with his nose or his head to get my attention like he does sometimes when he wants affection, and after just a moment of petting he’d walk away from me. It was totally abnormal for him, because usually he wants to hang out as long as I’ll pet him! Other times, I’d invite him to come be petted and he’d just lay there looking at me, sometimes not even bothering to look at me.
Worse yet, from my perspective, is that he started ignoring commands. It’s one thing for him to ignore me when I’m offering affection – it’s a bit of a snub and hurts your feelings a bit, but it’s not removing the very capabilities you rely on. On the other hand, when your service dog won’t even follow you out of a room on command, you worry about relying on them. When I tell him to stand, the command I use when I need to use him to steady me when standing or transferring, will he ignore me and keep moving, risking injury to us both? When I ask him to pick something up for me, will he? When I need him, can I rely on him? Or will he keep ignoring me?
I suppose I’m lucky that I continued to be sick and not leave the house. I had to do things for myself that he usually does – get up and turn on and off the light, figure out how to pick up things off the floor, use the edge of the bathtub to steady myself instead of the dog when getting up off the toilet, kick things out of the way instead of having the dog move them…it was a rough couple of days, but managable. I don’t know what I would have done if I had to leave the house on Sunday or Monday.
On Tuesday, I had to go out, because Hudson and I were due to be tested for our recertification. I was very, very worried that we wouldn’t pass. A big part of the test is how well the team works together, and to judge by Sunday and Monday, we might not work well at all that day! He ended up behaving fairly well. Not at our best, but it was good enough to pass. It was a huge relief to pass…and be done. To not have to worry about this for another two years.
But I went through 2 1/2 days of my service dog not wanting to have anything to do with me, and that was their fault for separating us. I went through more pain at the hospital, I was alone, and I had to deal with days of my service dog ignoring me. If it weren’t for them, all I would have had to deal with last week was a nasty stomach virus.
And THAT, that I could have handled.