“He’s got a terribly upset tummy again,” she told me. “He’s breaking wind in the most alarming and toxic fashion, and running outside every 30 minutes or so to do small, runny poos. Otherwise he seems ok though.”
He was jumping all over me, a boxer with a waggly stump of a tail, wiggling in joy, licking me all over (I was hard pressed to keep his tongue away from my face, fending him off gently). He didn’t look at all sick. I had seen him quite a few times for the same problem over the last year, and I hadn’t quite managed to get to the bottom of the cause of it all.
“So – what else is going on in your life?” I asked.
“I’m really pretty stressed, to be honest,” she said, slowly. “Work is super busy, and I’m still trying to finalise my separation from my husband- that’s been dragging on for years now. But that’s always in the background – do you think how I am feeling might be affecting him?”
“I’m sure how you’re feeling is affecting him – he’s a pretty highly strung fellow. Can you think of anything else that’s happened around the time of these bouts of tummy upset that he gets? Anything you have to do, places you go?”
“Hmmm,” She thought. “We are about to go away to Brisbane in the next couple of days, so I’m packing up. I wonder…. You know what, I think that’s it – when I look back, every time we’ve gotten ready to go away to visit to Brisbane, he’s had the same trouble. I take him with me, you know. He has such fun with the other dog down there!”
I sat there and thought about this, quietly, for a minute or two. How to break the news that what she was doing was not the best thing for her dog? Obviously the stress of being boxed up and taken on an airplane was more than he could happily deal with!
“You know what?” I asked. I paused for a moment, let the tension build, and she looked at me enquiringly. “I wonder if you’re taking him on these trips for you, or for him?” She looked a bit stunned, and I pressed on. “A flight on a plane is a stressful thing for a dog, especially a highly strung fellow like him – He’s all alone down in the hold, and the noise is loud even for people, let alone dogs ears. When you start packing, he knows what’s coming, and the stress of it all makes him sick. Have you put him in kennels before?”
“Well, yes,” she replied.
“Did he have a good time?”
“Actually, he seemed really happy,” she told me.
“So what do you think of giving him a lovely holiday with lots of other dogs in the kennels, next time you go away?” I asked.
“Oh, but I love him so much, it would be really hard to leave him behind!” she said.
“And this is the sticking point, isn’t it?” I asked her. “Because if it’s really not the best thing to take him, and he enjoys the kennels, then you’re taking him for you, and not thinking about what’s really best for him.”
A heavy silence filled the room, and i sat, quietly, allowing her the space to work through her feelings. After a little while her face brightened…
“You know what, you’re right.” She said. “I was really angry with you there for a little while, but I’ve had a good think; and I can see how I am not helping him. I’ll take your advice, and hopefully you won’t need to come around and give me that horrible pink medicine so often!”