Today’s tale is another DIY triumph of minor consequence to everyone except the DIY-er, otherwise known as me.
I moved into my new house in late July and had about two weeks between when I moved and when my rent agreement was up with my landlords. Because Kyra is irrepressible when it comes to making friends (and spoiled rotten to boot), she had become accustomed over my time living at my last apartment to going up to the landlord’s house every morning when I left for work and spending time with him, occasionally his wife, and their dog Angie (a wonderfully mellow and shaggy creature). Kyra got food, sleep, company, playtime, and walks every day while I was gone. That she was so happy made it well worth tolerating some of the more irritating aspects of living in that apartment, and gave me quite a bit of guilt when I moved her out of there and into a big house that she stayed in all day by herself. I tried to make the transition easier for her by dropping her off at the landlords’ house for the first week after we officially moved…I’m not sure if that made things better or worse.
About two weeks after I had moved and a week after Kyra had stopped being dropped off at the landlords’, she had had enough of this being-left-alone nonsense. She began to refuse to come inside in the morning after being let out for her morning constitutional. She began crying and scratching at the door when I left, or refusing to leave the garage in the afternoons if we went in there and didn’t get in the car. She began methodically shredding things left within her reach, generally only when I was within eyeshot and not paying attention to her. She’s a smart cookie, because she knows that gets my attention instantly.
This is all very typical separation anxiety behavior and I knew eventually we would get through it, either by getting another foster dog to keep her company or by simply having her get used to the place. Before moving into this last apartment, I left her every day for work with absolutely no issues. Poor dog had seen the greener side of the grass, and wanted to go back there.
With all of this being said and understanding what was actually happening in her world, my Momma Guilt was at an all-time high. I was trying to move in and refurb a new house during my busiest season at work and keep a high-maintenance dog used to being paid attention to 24/7 happy with being alone 8-10 hours a day. I would have to literally drag or carry her into the house in the mornings and drag her back in at night as well. All day I would think about the pathetic face and sad eyes she would give me right before leaving her in the morning. I know some of you will say I should have just crated her during the day and not worried about it, but Kyra has never been consistently crated (my fault, I acknowledge) and I think that crating would have only made the separation anxiety worse.
With all of that happening and the Momma Guilt riding hard, one night in mid-August I bought her a chewy bone from a local department store with the hopes it would keep her occupied for a little while. I rarely give Kyra chewy bones – she’s allergic to beef and chicken products (thank you, AmStaff genetics) and the special-ingredient chewies tend to upset her stomach. This one promised no beef or chicken products and easy to digest, so I figured what the hell. Kyra happily gnawed for the rest of the night.
The next morning we went through our now-daily morning refusal to come in, my carrying her in, and her Sad Face and shaking when I left. I was trying very hard to ignore the behavioral and not let the guilt take over, because I know that would only make the situation worse. I dumped her on the bad and quickly left.
And came home that afternoon to mas destruction. The door to the basement/garage that I go through every morning when I leave had been shredded around the baseboard and trim, and the wall next to the door had deep gouges from claw marks.
I thought Kyra had finally cracked and reached the last stage of her separation anxiety. The trim on the door was very literally chewed off. But then I kept going into the house. There were two large puddles of poop in the living room (yes I use the word puddle deliberately, and no, I didn’t photo that for your edification) and more mass destruction leading to the deck.
Kyra had broken through the [open] screen door (rather than going through the doggy door, which she hates) and had proceeded to gnaw off rungs of the deck in an attempt to get off of it. She actually gnawed a big enough hole to be able to get through the fencing. Considering that the deck at the time had no connection to the ground (I’ve subsequently built stairs down to the backyard, a tale for another day), so if she hadn’t realized in her desperation to get out that the ground was 20 feet below, I would’ve come home to a very broken dog.
As it was, I think in the end this was not acting out as a result of separation anxiety. Kyra has very rarely in her time with me messed in the house, and it was nearly always as a result of my not paying attention to her signals to me before I left. I think the chewy upset her stomach and I misread her signals as SA rather than a need to go out and relieve herself. I was less upset with Kyra than I was at both myself, her potential hurt if she had jumped off the deck, and general upset that my (practically) brand new house had already been damaged. It was like pulling a brand new car out of the lot and promptly getting into a fender bender.
The deck was relatively easy to fix, fortunately. Generous daubs of paint over the lesser chew marks and a few extra railings filled in the blanks. I didn’t get to it until after the deck stairs were installed, and I have to wait until everything is cured to paint it all, but it looks much better now.
The door trim was more intimidating. I’ve never put up or attempted to cut a door trim, and after watching some youtube videos on how to do it I was even more intimidated. I don’t have a saw capable of cutting at an angle, a nail gun, wood glue, or anything else that the video used. However, seeing that destruction on a multi-daily basis really annoyed me. I guess I didn’t like the reminder of my failure as a Doggy Momma or the reminder of my new-car-fender-bender. I was determined to fix the trim before the family descended on the house for Thanksgiving 2016.
After watching a bunch of Youtube videos, I took some pictures of the trim needed and headed to my local Home Depot. Fortunately, while the house was built to a moderate standard, the materials used were typical cheap contractor stuff, and everything I’ve needed to match is readily available. I bought a length of trim a foot longer than needed to compensate for my inevitable errors in measurement, along with enough wood glue to counteract my lack of a nail gun.
I carefully pried the existing damaged trim away from the wall and used it as a template to cut the new trim. I had a handsaw with a holder to attempt to cut the darned thing properly at the angle needed. I then filled in any nail holes in the drywall with putty and fitted the trim to the space before applying quite a lot of wood glue to the back of the trim.
It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. So well, in fact, that nobody has really said anything about it like “Oh look! You fixed the door trim!” which is more of a compliment than if it was obvious that I had fixed it. Another homeowner DIY success!
And as a follow-up note, shortly after this gnawed-trim disaster I got a foster dog, who helped keep Kyra company considerably. Since he’s been adopted and the holidays are over, she’s starting to show some anxiety again…the other day in -5 degree weather she sat down in front of the garage and refused to come in for 15 minutes. I’ve put an application in to another humane society for a foster and am still waiting to hear back. I’m sure having company will help her tremendously, despite what it does to my stress level.