Saturday, April 02, 2005

Dixie's Still Depressed

Erma Bombeck once wrote a book entitled – “If Life’s Such A Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing In the Pits?” Now that I’ve been living in Waltham for a month and a half, it’s finally stopped snowing and we’re moving into the spring rainy season, the jury’s still out on the status of my bowl of life. I’ve decided that it’s going to take a while before I can truly determine whether moving from Baltimore to Boston, from Maryland to Massachusetts, from one BM to another, was a good idea or a bust.

I’d thought a lot about the opportunities that might open up by journeying north, and I thought I’d pretty much covered the pitfalls. However, never in my wildest imagination did I ever think my dog would fall prey to the big D. Depression, that is. It never occurred to me that she’d be anything other than an Airedale Terrier: rugged, independent, full of life, charging full steam ahead into the next adventure. Her personality was always one of being the kind of dog that just wants to have fun.

We’d moved before, from Catonsville to Parkville, from a house to an apartment to a house. We’d made new friends in new places. She’d run with new dogs and adjusted to her new surroundings without obvious difficulty. However, seeing her now with her tail between her legs, walking incredibly slowly, head down, eyes downcast, not eating, was not something I’d ever considered. It made me question everything I’d ever done to and with her. I started mentally going back and forth between angst and guilt, frustration and frenzy. I was told that a dog could literally will itself to death by stopping eating. I was getting depressed trying to deal with her depression.

This all started the very day I started work, almost two weeks after we moved up here. The first day I went to work she stopped eating and sunk down into a depression that hasn’t lifted yet. Over the last 16 days she’s lost four pounds, going from 43 to 39. I want to give her a haircut but don’t dare because I’m afraid she’ll look anorexic. When I run my hands along her sides I can feel her ribs.

It's gotten so bad that I have done two things out of desperation – I made an appointment with the vet to have her blood tested for whatever and I also contacted a pet psychic. I went to the vet today and she is going to have a CBC test done on Dixie’s blood and also have it checked for Addison’s Disease. She took Dixie’s temperature, which was 103 degrees, one degree above normal, and also checked for any enlarged organs. Dixie’s innards seemed ok, she got a shot of penicillin and a prescription for Cephalexin.

The pet psychic, in a three way conversation between her, Dixie and me earlier in the week reached a somewhat different conclusion. The psychic said that Dixie said that she felt lonely, isolated, without any stimulation; her stomach hurt and she may have a cracked tooth. Dixie also said that her joints ache; they don’t hurt her, they just ache. She said she missed looking out the windows and front door. On the advice of the psychic, who said that Dixie agreed to work with me on this, I switched her to canned food, stopped giving her the Cosequin, built a box so she can look out the window and take her out three times a day.

We go out first thing in the morning, as soon as I come home from work and again at the end of the night. I’ve noticed that during the morning walk, which is at 6 a.m., she alternates between being her old self and being lethargic, almost as though she sometimes forgets to be depressed and then remembers. During the after work walk she walks like she’s on a death march. There’ve been times she’s walked so slowly that I thought I would lose my mind. It was slower walking than when my kids were toddlers. During the end of the night walks she comes alive, tail up, sniffing, going into yards and bushes, chasing a scent; unfortunately, by that time I’m ready to go to bed and so it consequently becomes the shortest walk of all.

If I prod her, she will climb up on the box I made, which is sturdy and easily climb-up-able, and look out the window but I haven’t seen any evidence of her doing it on her own. I leave the window open during the day hoping she’ll hear sounds, catch a scent and become curious enough to check it out.

By the end of the week she started eating the canned food, at least most of a can of it. I read on the can that a dog her size is supposed to eat 2 to 3 cans a day. Dixie may get one down. She has started eating milk bones again and has yet to refuse a Nawsome or a bacon flavored Beggin’ Strip. Next week I’m taking her to the vet to have her teeth cleaned and to check to see if she has any cracked teeth.

Each time she perks up I think we’ve turned the corner. Some people tell me that she’s going through an adjustment period and just needs time. Other people have suggested I put her on Prozac. Fortunately, the vet doesn’t agree with that latter course of action. I’m concerned that her psychological state may subject her to physiological consequences. I know that when people have depression you’re just supposed to be supportive and encourage them to continue to participate in their activities as best they can. Ultimately, it’s up to them. So, I go back and forth between taking Dixie out, putting out then throwing away uneaten food and walking with her at her rate of speed versus telling her to just suck it up and get on with life. Even the psychic agreed that it’s really going to be up to her.

What I do know is that she has, for better or for worse, consumed my life. I can only hope that she will eventually get back to being Dixie, the Airedale Dog. I don’t even want to think about the alternative.


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