Prozac Puppy’s Progress

10/25/2006


 


PROZAC PUPPY’S PROGRESS


 



I am happy to say that QB hasn’t bitten me for well over a week now, and already it seems to be a thing of the past.  He has been taking Prozac for two weeks.


 


QB seems less intent on barking at humans now, and more interested in barking at trees and attacking telephone poles.  He rarely jumps on people now while he’s on leash.  While he gets very upset with large trucks and other stimuli he can generally be “bribed” with treats to behave in a reasonable manner around them.  Much of his shenanigans have to do with anticipation of a stimulus rather than the actual stimulus itself.  For instance, as we approach the “B” elevator, QB frequently gets very excited and may even jump and growl or bark, despite my reassurances, only to find, once he gets to the elevator, that there is nothing there!  The anticipation is worse than the real thing.  I am reminded of a child’s visit to the pediatrician.


 


QB’s behavior in the apartment continues to improve, just when I thought he was so good that there was no room for improvement!  He can now be left alone loose in the apartment for short periods.  I would leave him for longer periods but I worry that someone (maintenance people, for instance) will enter the apartment at that time and perhaps there would be trouble of some sort.  He can be trusted to stay away from “contraband”–anything he’s not supposed to chew–for the most part and understands what items are toys if I tell him, “Toy!”  He barks less and is more polite overall.


 


Prozac diminished QB’s appetite considerably.  After about ten days of eating less than he should, QB’s weight appeared to drop, so I decided to add canned food to his diet.  The crafty little boy picks the canned food out and leaves the kibble much of the time, but I’m happy to say that this morning he ate his entire meal.


 


My opinion of QB’s progress so far on Prozac is “wait and see.”  Except for making him a fussy eater, the Prozac hasn’t been detrimental to QB in any way, and the positive strides in the apartment seem to be a good sign that more progress is on its way.

Dog knows best

10/19/2006


 


WHY, OH WHY DIDN’T I LISTEN TO MY DOG?


 



Why did I listen to the Beings instead? 


 


QB told me, in every doggie way he could, that I needed to take my PRN (meaning, “as needed”) medication, Thorazine 100 mgs.  First, he bit me.  That should have been enough of a message.  I took a PRN and he bit me again, meaning that I needed more.  I didn’t follow through.  QB became as aggressive as he’s ever been, barking at one thing after another, attacking tree trunks and telephone poles, and of course, me.  He threatened to kill the janitor guy in our building even though he wasn’t vacuuming or picking up trash–QB wanted to kill him simply because he existed.


 


The Beings ran rampant, and depression took hold.  I stumbled through each day sleepily following the commands and non-commands of the Beings.  Yes, it’s true, I could easily enough have taken one or two Thorazine tablets to eradicate the Beings, but I didn’t.  First, the Beings erased the idea of taking Thorazine from my mind.  Second, they erased the idea entirely from existence.  The verb “to swallow” and the noun “Thorazine” could not coexist in the same sentence. 


 


QB did what he could, biting me a total of four times, and nipping several more times.  My friend Joshua, who has correctly interpreted QB’s strange signals more often than not, urged me to take a PRN, but the Beings erased Joshua’s words before they got from my ears to my brain. 


 


Sleep became not only necessary, but a desirable I hated, as was eating.  I slept about 11 hours a night and frequently added a two-hour nap when I could in the afternoon.  I dragged through each day ready for bed as soon as I woke up in the morning, ready to eat as soon as I put my fork down at the end of a meal, if I had a meal at all; most of the time I ate a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting, once or twice a day.  I held the jug in my lap and dug into the soft ice cream with a large spoon, over and over while the Beings cheered me on. 


 


By Tuesday (two days ago) I was ready to die.  I figured that if I were dead, the Beings wouldn’t be able to torture me anymore.  As I trudged down Lexington Street for the zillionth time, I prayed that I would disintegrate and be absorbed into the sidewalk.  Later, as I sat at the computer, I imagined myself dying and becoming a tuft of grass.  Beings can’t destroy grass; nothing can destroy it, I thought, and then a Microsoft Calendar reminder popped up to remind me that I had an appointment with Dr. P the next day, Wednesday, which was yesterday, at 9am.


 


How Dr. P, my psychiatrist, manages to knock sense into me when no one else can is beyond me.  Maybe it’s her clipped, self-assured manner.  Or maybe it’s because she’s got the M.D. after her name.  I briefly told her my situation, as best as I could, while she scurried among my records, then she looked up at me, nibbled on the cap of her blue Bic pen, and said, “Julie, I really think you need to take some of that extra PRN Thorazine.”


 


Knee-jerk response: “It makes me sleepy.”


 


Dr. P scribbled in her notes for a minute.  When she wears skirts, I can’t help but glance at her legs, which are incredibly muscular.  Whatever she does at the gym I’m sure would put me to shame, and the awe and distraction I feel is intensified when her arms, too, are bare. 


 


I quickly looked down at my feet.  She said, “You know it’s better to be sleepy than to have symptoms.”


 


“QB has bitten me so far four times.”


 


Dr. P removed her reading glasses with a twist of her hand.  I could see a piece of her hair caught in the frames.  “Well, then, there you have it.” 


 


I took both PRN’s yesterday, and felt a hell of a lot better by evening.  I decided to look over some papers for graduate school.  The Beings were furious at this, but already I had my weaponry against them!  This morning I awoke and felt as though I had another chance at life. 


 


Why didn’t I listen to my dog in the first place?  For 13 days, the Beings tortured me.  Those were 13 days I could have spent writing, 13 days I could have been happy, 13 days I lived my life the old way, the way I lived when my medications were not right.  QB’s bites were not lacerations; there will be no scars, there were only small breaks in the skin to remind me: Don’t go back there, not even for a visit.


 


 

Prozac Puppy

waiting for walk

10/14/2006

PROZAC PUPPY

Here at my little hideaway at the library, I am seated near the “dog” books again, and I happened to pick up one on dog behavior treatment. I leafed through the last chapter, which included drug treatment, and I noted with amusement that the author had listed many of the psychotropic medications that I had taken in the past, almost as if he’d copied the list from the Physician’s Desk Reference. Then the author presented the list again, pared down to only the drugs used for dogs, Prozac among them.

QB started taking Prozac on Tuesday. His aggressiveness has gone a step too far. He bit me three times within two weeks while we were out on walks. I didn’t do anything. I just happened to be in the middle, while he barked at the offending object–twice other dogs, once a guy carrying tires (yes, the kind you put on cars)–and he became overstimulated, snarling and carrying on, and bit me. Dr. Marder, his behavior specialist, said this was no accident. QB did not want to be dominated at that moment. Also, QB has shown unusual hostility toward children, and frankly, I’m scared. I’m scared of what QB might do to someone–some stranger in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Dr. Marder told me that the only significant side effect of Prozac was decreased appetite. QB is taking 10 mgs daily, quite a dose for a 29-pound dog! The capsules are sea green and cost about a dollar apiece. I sneak the medication into his kibble breakfast and add Iams Savory Sauce, in the flavor of the week–this week is bacon–along with his vitamins. I’m guessing he likes his Prozac because it gets eaten fairly early in the meal.

Prozac isn’t the only med QB takes. He also gets Benadryl at night, which he takes with a gob of peanut butter. No, the Benadryl isn’t for allergies–it’s to make sure he sleeps at night.

QB and I take our bedtime pills at the same time. The alarm on my watch goes off at 7:30 sharp to remind me to get his Benadryl ready, and to take my own bedtime meds. QB, however, is cleverer than that. He starts bugging me about his Benadryl at 7:25.

Is the use of Prozac for dogs “unnatural”? Is it “cruel”? Consider this: the majority of dogs that are brought to vets for euthanasia are not old or sick, but have behavior problems. Some communities require euthanasia for dogs that attack humans. I don’t want QB to be among these unfortunate pets. I want my dog to live a normal, happy life, and if Prozac enables him to do so, then so be it.

The Psychobarometricist revealed

8/30/2006


 


QB AS PSYCHIATRIC BAROMETER



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It is clear to me now that QB’s behavior is a direct reflection of my psychiatric condition.  This is not a hoax.  This is not psychosomatic.  I am not making this up.  If dogs can predict seizures and sniff out cancer, surely they can be psychiatric barometers as well.


 


The incident with Carol M’s handbag that I described in my previous entry occurred on Saturday; in brief, QB tore into a neighbor’s handbag because he knew it contained treats for him, and although nothing was damaged, we were all rather shook up.  This extreme gesture had me worried that something was drastically wrong with me, given QB’s psychobarometric tendencies (I knew spell-check would love that one). 


 


The following evening I was mildly depressed and decided, in the absence of my psychiatrist (who doesn’t want to communicate between sessions) to increase my Risperdal to 6 mgs a day.


 


But I didn’t increase soon enough.  Monday noon, the Beings decided to pay a visit.  Not nice.  I was terrified.  This is the first time the Beings have harassed me since March.  I can’t go into detail because all this is so fresh in my mind that I’m afraid, if I bring up the memories, the Beings will come back.


 


Fast forward to this morning.  QB waiting patiently for his walk.  Oh, I do love my dear little dog.  Tell him to sit.  Snap on the leash, and off we go.  And you know something?  He behaved.  He was a good boy for the entire walk.


 


And that’s when I knew I was okay, that my little psychobarometer was back in the black, that the Beings were gone and I could again breathe easy and enjoy life.  And so I am.


 


Does this make QB a service animal?  Probably not.  No one would believe that little rascal, who jumps, barks, and carries on could possibly take on the role of psychobarometricist.  Let’s just say he’s incognito.

QB, Again

8/28/2006


 


QB, AGAIN



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QB has the uncanny ability to reflect my mental condition well before I am aware of the changes that occur in me.  For instance, I have mentioned before the drastic changes that occurred in me when I started taking Topamax.  QB, I found out, noticed the changes as well, perhaps even before I did, because it was at that point that he began sleeping when he was supposed to, instead of keeping me up night after night.  The change in him was dramatic, but not apparent to me until I checked my records only a few days ago.


 


So every time QB does something unusual or naughty, I ask myself, “What is going on with me that I need to pay attention to?  Have I changed my medications recently?  Am I having unusual symptoms?”


 


A couple of days ago, we were working on obedience exercises in the lobby, Carol M approached us, wanting to give QB treats.  QB was overjoyed, as usual, and bounded up to her, jumping and scampering around.  I kept him from jumping on her and encouraged him to sit for his treats.  Carol uses a wheelchair and keeps treats for the dogs in a handbag hanging on one of the wheelchair’s handles.  She asked me to help her get the treats out of the bag.  Immediately, QB tore at the bag, snarling, attempting to get at the treats himself.  He growled at me when I tried to control him, but finally I got him away from the bag and away from the scene while another neighbor put everything back in its place.  Nothing was damaged, thankfully, but we were all quite shaken, I most of all.


 


I have come to realize that the improvements I’ve seen in QB’s behavior over the past couple of months were not true progress, that the improvements were in my own ability to handle QB.  I have been increasingly worried that QB will harm someone.  He has already bitten people–in play, yes, but I fear his behavior will escalate into something more serious, possibly soon, and I don’t know what to do.

QB, again

8/17/2006


 


QB-RELATED STRESS


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Stress isn’t the problem; it’s how one handles that stress that matters more.


 


1


An incident that may seem minor to others has caused me nightmares.  When I picked QB up at doggie day care www.thepoochpalace.com the person who got him for me, a new employee, obviously didn’t know how to properly place a choke collar on a dog, because when he brought QB out, the collar was put on in such a manner that it would have slipped right off him had I not seen the employee’s mistake and corrected it before leaving the building.  Had QB gotten loose, he would have been hit by a car within minutes. 


 


That night, and every night following, I have dreamt horrible scenes that I needn’t recount here.  I even have these nightmares during the day when I take naps.


 


2


I was awakened from my nightmare last night by my building’s fire alarm.  Loud and annoying, it was doubly annoying because QB fears it almost as much as he fears vacuum cleaners.  The alarm rang for about ten minutes and QB carried on with his barking for another ten minutes or so after the alarm had ceased to sound.  I tried to calm him.


 


3


While QB and I were out Tuesday evening, we saw some kids I wish now I had completely avoided.  I knew, as soon as I saw them, that there would be trouble.  Several of them piled into a fenced in yard while two remained on bikes outside the fence.  I proceeded ahead, cautiously.


 


“Lassie, Lassie!” the kids screamed, riding close to QB, then pulling away, teasing him.  More kids ran into the street.  “Lassie, Lassie!”


 


“Lassie, the barn’s on fire!”  The kids jumped and whistled in front of QB, who at that point was barking and jumping out of control.  “Lassie!”


 


I realized that in addition to trying to get a rise out of QB, the kids were trying to get a reaction from me.  They didn’t get one, but on the inside, I felt like crying.  I know I acted like a brat when I was a kid, but that doesn’t excuse their bad behavior.


 


4


This morning, maybe around 5am.  I was hungry, and still frazzled from last night’s fire alarm annoyance.  My hands were shaky when I took my medication organizer out of the drawer.  I dropped it on the floor.  Pills bounced out everywhere.


 


Panic.  The dog.  I was in panic mode.  I put my guitar in front of the entrance to the kitchen, to “suggest” to QB that perhaps it wouldn’t be the best idea to come in, then I grabbed some Iams Puppy Biscuits (his favorite) and tossed them toward the front door.  While he was eating the biscuits, I picked up as many pills as I could quickly find.  Here, I draw a blank entirely; I have no memory of putting QB in his crate, but somehow I got him in there and swept the floor.  One pill was missing!  Did QB eat it?  Did he?  Another look at my pill organizer indicated that there were no missing pills, that we were in the clear, so I let QB out of his crate, and I could breathe again.  The scare was over.


 


Stress isn’t the problem; it’s how one handles that stress that matters more.  I’m still shaking, I’m still exhausted, I’ve still got pictures in my mind of QB eating pills and getting teased and hit by cars and trapped in barn fires, but I’m not falling apart.  I’m sitting here in the library writing, making something of these stories instead of keeping them inside and letting them stew.  I’m making constructive something that could have destroyed me.  I’m twisting these stories and shaping them in such a way that they make sense and relate to each other in a way they never did before, except that they are all about my beloved dog.


 


When I was in Metropolitan State Hospital, now closed down, my life had more to do with survival than recovery.  The threat of being beaten or otherwise harmed, by staff or other patient, was just as real as the threat of self-harm.  One of the workers was a prisoner on work release, who told me in confidence that Met State (or “The Met,” as we called it) was as restrictive and as cruel as any prison he’d been to, that it didn’t make sense that we should be punished for being sick.


 


As you can imagine, my stress level was very high.  It was not an atmosphere conducive to recovery.  Any outburst on my part, even tears, would delay my discharge from the “hospital.”  I had to stay in control even though my insides felt like something that just came out of a blender.


 


It’s how one handles stress that matters.  I had some paper and pens with me, and I began to write.  Staff and patients alike looked over my shoulder to see what I was writing, but that did not stop me; I kept writing.  I wrote about everything I saw and heard and felt and experienced.  I wrote about the fight that had broken out that morning just outside my room, and the worker who had made a pass at me.  I wrote every detail, from the lace on a patient’s blouse to the sound of a worker’s nails clicking against her clipboard.  Everything.


 


Writing was what kept me together in that cruel world of The Met.  I was released, and as soon as I had the opportunity, I wrote a long piece, about 65 pages, about my three-day stay there.  The piece wasn’t very good.  It wasn’t even passable.  But it got me writing.  It got me to realize that writing could save me, and indeed it has, many times.


 


But dear little QB, could you please, pretty please stay out of trouble for a while?


 

The QB method of study–read carefully!

QB FOR PRESIDENT!

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If QB were still a puppy, say, five months old, he’d have no qualms about grabbing that upside-down book from Our Dear President’s hands and tearing it to shreds.  Shredding things has always been a favorite hobby of QB’s.

Given that QB has more brains than Bush, I would say that QB would, in the act of shredding, absorb more of the content of the book in a matter of minutes than Bush could after several semesters of study at Yale on the subject.

Needless to say, I would not recommend textbook-shredding as quick-fix method of learning.  You won’t necessarily pass the final exam, and, unfortunately, when it comes time to return your book to the student bookstore for a refund, they will not accept it in shredded condition.

Plus it could be very messy to clean up.

Enjoy the school year.

Le plus je vois des hommes, le plus j’aime mon chien!

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7/15/2006


 


QB: PART TWO


 


QB’s visit to the doggie shrink, Dr. Amy Marder, along with a student vet from Northwestern University, went well (www.petbehaviorproblems.com).  Dr. Marder detailed a program for QB that included simple training exercises as well as doggie day care three times a week, play time, wearing a head harness on walks, and future visits from a private trainer at my home.


 


Perhaps the most striking changes stem from the exercise, “Nothing in Life is Free,” which is simple but extremely effective.  QB must sit for everything: sit for his food, sit to get his leash put on, sit to go through a door, sit for the elevator.  Furthermore, he must sit outside whenever I stop.  Each time he sits, I give him a treat.  Recently, I’ve been giving him treats at select times, and leaving them out at others.  Here’s the disciplinary key:  When QB sees something he gets “crazy” over, I turn in the opposite direction, and ask him to sit, praise and reward him.


 


Simple?  Yes.  But this amazing exercise works wonders.  QB is now able to ignore bicycles, joggers, slow and fast-moving cars, pedestrians, people entering and exiting cars and buildings, and yes–today he even turned his back on a squirrel, unheard of two weeks ago.  He rarely goes “crazy” anymore.  The next thing I need to work on is establishing the command “stay,” then teaching him to come when called.  (Right now the little guy ignores me when I call him, unless he feels like obeying.)


 


Most important, he needs to learn how to say “hello.”  I don’t mean he needs to speak the word, but simply to greet friends and strangers politely instead of reverting to “crazy” behavior, including barking and jumping.  He needs to sit and stay seated, and wait to be petted.  This will be my biggest challenge.


 


While working with this program, I encountered a new problem: QB wouldn’t go to sleep at night.  Instead, he barked over and over, keeping me awake; in fact, he would begin his tirade as soon as my head hit the pillow.  Dr. Marder, whom I call every Monday evening, suggested that I give him 25 mgs Benadryl at night to sedate him.  I have no qualms about this; for years I took Benadryl for sleep, and Tiger took Benadryl as well, for allergies.  So I felt safe administering it to QB.  The trick worked and he now sleeps through the night.


 


QB’s behavior on buses is exemplary.  As soon as we board the bus he lies down, generally in the center of the aisle, but he graciously defers to my pushing him off to the side so people can walk past.  And indoors QB behaves excellently, never chewing anything contraband or “stealing” off the table.  He knows what’s a toy and what isn’t.


 


I feel that I’m going through a journey with QB, a journey of love and learning.  I feel like I’m preparing him for the world, and although this training is overdue, he is still at a perfect age to learn new habits.  He is eager to please me and obeys most of the time, waiting for praise and perhaps a treat and a petting.  I am getting more out of the relationship, so much that I am sometimes moved to tears when we are out on walks when I see him putting forth such an effort to be “good” instead of seeking out ways to be “bad” as he was before.  QB is my best friend, my true companion, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

6/27/2006 QB: Yes, dogs need shrinks, too!

QB: Yes, dogs need shrinks, too!


        
QB, putting on a happy face!                            Age 2-1/2 months



 


I first met QB when he was only 19 days old, and I brought him home at age eight weeks.  He was a lively little guy with a major case of separation anxiety that still troubles him; I can leave him at home in the bedroom and he’ll be happy, but if he sees me leave him (for example, if I tie him outside a store and go in) he gets very upset, and usually barks until he realizes it’s doing him no good.


 


QB first showed behavior problems at age 18 weeks, upon finishing puppy kindergarten.  He bit me and jumped on me nonstop, snapping at my shirttails, pant legs, and shoelaces, and deliberately (I’m certain of this) causing trouble, and though he has never destroyed anything of value, he had me convinced that he would surely tear the house apart.  Nothing I could do would stop QB’s constant attack on me. 


 


One has to be aware of my circumstances at the time to understand the full impact of his behavior on me.  It was March 2004 and my boyfriend, Joe, has passed away suddenly the previous August.  In October, my dog Tiger died.  I had lost the two people more important to me than anyone in the world.  I was making a meager attempt at full-time graduate study at Goddard College’s low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program.  And there I was with an out-of-control puppy monster.


 


I began a “program” with him: We took five walks a day, three for an hour and two fifteen-minute walks for “potty.”  We covered three and a half miles every day, rain or shine.  In between walks, he slept in his crate.  Gradually, I introduced playtime, increasing its duration from fifteen minutes to a half hour, then longer as he became better behaved.  At six months he had outgrown the puppy “fear stage” and I was able to spray him with water whenever he jumped on me and bit me, using the command, “Off!”


 


It worked.  QB’s behavior indoors improved ten-fold, and continues to improve.  He is now allowed run of the house and needs almost no supervision except companionship and interactive play.  He no longer jumps on me or bites me, though he jumps on other people whenever he thinks he can get away with it.  His outdoor behavior is what concerns me now.


 


I cannot walk QB without disturbing my neighbors.  No matter the time of day, he snarls and barks at everyone and everything, including pedestrians, children and babies, bicycles, cars, trucks, motorcycles, lawnmowers, newspapers, basketballs, trash, telephone poles, other dogs, and so on.  Children and adults alike are afraid of him, even if I reassure them (though I may not be certain myself) that he is “showing off.”  He is completely unmanageable, quite the contrast to his indoor personality.


 


I began taking him to Pooch Palace (www.thepoochpalace.com – click on “boarding” for a full description of the premises) for day care once a week.  Just because I don’t have a social life doesn’t mean he can’t have one!  He runs and plays all day with other dogs, and when the day is over, sometimes gets a brushing, bath, and blow-dry.  What a life!  He comes home tired and happy. 


 


But even Pooch Palace didn’t solve his behavior problems.  Over the past week he’s been hiding in his crate all day sulking, refusing to come out and play, until around 4pm, then wreaks havoc when we go outside.  It’s true that people, when depressed, frequently feel worse in the morning, and this is the way it seems to be with QB.


 


One may argue that dogs can’t get the doggie equivalent of human psychiatric illnesses, but why not?  Surely, dogs can have chemical imbalances in their brains just like humans can.  Mental illness is a physical illness; not unlike disorders of the liver or kidneys, brain disorders can manifest in any creature that has a brain.  I feel confident that I’m giving QB the best life I can give him, but physical problems can’t be solved by love alone.  It takes experienced veterinarians to treat the animal and restore him to health.


 


Pet behavior problems have a stigma attached, just like human psychiatric problems.  I am the guilty mother.  People think I abuse him, or don’t discipline him enough.  People think all sorts of things.  I wonder if this is anything close to what my parents experienced when I became ill–embarrassed, ashamed, guilty.


 


Yesterday, I telephoned the New England Veterinary Behavioral Specialists (www.petbehaviorproblems.com) and made an appointment for QB.  I want him to have the best care possible, especially now that he isn’t feeling well.  I’m sure that with the right help, he can recover and have a happy life again.  He’ll be on a six-month program, which will include a physical exam and behavior observation, diagnosis, and treatment. 


 


Check back at this site for updates on QB!