May 24, 2008

On Canine OCD, Compassion, and Human Limits

I've not been much of a blogger the past few days, though I hope my excuse is a worthy one. Pictured on your left is Dutch, a year-old male terrier we have been fostering for Planned Pethood. He came to us under less-than-honest circumstances, as another area dog rescue worker assured us that Dutch was housebroken and relatively free from negative behaviors.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Dutch, it turns out, has some significant neurological problems, most notably manifested with his obsessive desire to chase his tail. He spins in circle for 20-30 minutes at a time, frantically barking and whining and gnashing his teeth to get at the unseen demons that plague him. When placed in a cage, he throws himself about with such force that the heavy metal cage actually looks like it will topple over. Moreover, Dutch can leap over our 42" fence, so there is not even an outdoor respite for his behaviors.

We took the dog to the veterinarian yesterday, and Dutch was prescribed phenobarbital to help control his erratic, bizarre behaviors. To this point, the drug seems to only have a slight effect on decreasing the tail-chasing, though I did observe Dutch sitting a few times, which is something he did not do in the first 48 hours he was with us.

I'm now in a real dilemma, as I might be the last person on Earth who will be willing to put forth the effort needed to save the life of this dog. If I surrender the dog, he will surely be euthanized by the county dog warden, as no sane person would ever want to adopt this poor, miserable creature.

Yet at the same time his incessant barking makes it impossible for me to think, which is of course a necessary quality for a writer to have. Heck, I've hardly collected much sleep the last few days, let alone having much luck with work-related activities. But if I give up on the dog - even acknowledging that the person who dumped Dutch on me pulled quite a con job - I know that I am essentially signing his death certificate.

So I suppose this post is just an opportunity to clear my thoughts and vent a little, and I thank you for taking the time to read this. If you have personal experience with a dog who has obsessive-compulsive or seizure-related behaviors like those of Dutch, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section.

And if you believe God answers canine-related prayers, say a few for Dutch. This dog needs all the help he can get.


Anonymous said...

What, are you trying for sainthood, Mike? Foster kids, foster dogs, next thing you'll probably be housing Burmese refugees!

historymike said...


No, I am a million miles away from sainthood - no worries there. If anything, any good karma I incur or good works I do as a responsible adult just balance out my misspent youthful years.

And I admit to a tendency to feel compassion for social "throwaways," believing (perhaps naively) that almost every person or dog has some redeeming qualities that can be brought out in the right environment.

Carol said...

Mike - I have no personal experience with this type of canine behavior, but I trust the folks out at Sylvania Veterinary Hospital with the lives of all our animals. They are state of the art, extremely diligent and VERY VERY up on the latest diagnosis and treatment techniques. They are also very supportive of Planned Pethood. Perhaps it would be productive to take Dutch out there and let them look at him.

He's a real handsome little guy - I'm sure he's just suffering some type of errant behavior as a way of acting out ---- not unlike people.

J. Rowsey said...

Hi. I just stumbled onto your blog and have been enjoying your posts. As a fellow animal lover, I hope you don't give up on the guy. Just like people with OCD, there are many other types of medication that can be tried.

We just found a stray kitten on the side of a major road last night and brought him home. It was about midnight and he was wandering and was obviously very underfed. We are now up to four dogs and two cats.

Only fellow animal lovers can understand!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's karma, hmm?

Molly said...

Certainly true that you are most likely Dutch's last hope. I can't think of anyone else who would be both capable and willing. If it's any consolation, the poodle who arrived with Dutch is really not very likeable and hasn't had a bit of interest.

Now let's see how many times I have to do the captha thing before the comment goes through...