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12/06/2005 Archived Entry: "Update on Bear"

I thought I'd update you on Bear, the dog Brad & I rescued from our local animal shelter, as the story has a happy ending. I'll pick up the plot where I left it. Bear bit me -- suddenly and without provocation -- for a third time about 2 months ago; under our vet's supervision and coupled with behavior modification, we put him on an anti-anxiety drug anecdotally called "puppy prozac". [Click 'more' to continue.]

The improvement in Bear has been remarkable. There have been no biting incidents and only a few minor 'snapping' ones that we are controlling by eliminating the triggers. For example, we never bend over him or pet Bear when he is lying down; months from now, when his/our new habits have become old ones, we may try to patiently desensitive him to this circumstance...but not now. Meanwhile, none of the side effects we feared have materialized. No vomiting or lethargy, no lose of appetite. Two pills a day seemed merely to take the edge off the clear and constant anxiety he felt. And why wouldn't he? His last family abused him and abandoned him to live in a cage for three months before Brad claimed him as 'ours.' Clearly, it had been the woman who was responsible for most of the abuse and, so, his anxiety/hostility toward me was really marked -- I have the bite scars to prove it. But now Bear follows me around the house with a ball or pull rope in his mouth, begging me to play yet another round with him; I can't sit down without his nose on my leg; the futon in my workroom is one of his two favorite places.

We've just lowered his dose to one pill a day...so far so good. His energy level has increased somewhat -- not that it was dragging before -- and he is acting puppylike. For example, when Brad shovels snow, Bear lunges after the tossed shovelfuls, trying to give the invading white-stuff its come-uppance. He leaps into the tossed snow and bites at it, growling even as his black fur gets totally coated and white. He is really adorable. The habit I find most endearing, however, is the fact that he sleeps under our bed every night -- his other favorite place. Although I cleave to rationalism, I must admit I have never entirely shaken the childhood panic I had for years about monsters in my closet and under my bed. Now the residual, unreasoned fear is entirely gone because Bear is under there. It is oddly reassuring to drowse off or to wake up in the middle of the night and hear him shifting position or having a dream.

We intend to take him off medication altogether but we'll wait until after the holidays when visitors have left and life is back to normal. If taking him off doesn't work...well, we've already talked to our vet and we'll keep him on for as long as necessary. But I'm optimistic.

What a relief it is that Bear is working out. The town in which our shelter is located recently passed a law requiring all dogs with a history of biting human beings to be caged and isolated almost constantly. It also mandates strange requirements, fees and inspections that no owner would willingly assume for a dog he/she did not already love. If we'd needed to return Bear, then he would have been unadoptable in the wake of this law. He would have either lived out his life in a cage or been put down. As I said, what a relief.

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