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Pets Large & Small

One is never enough!

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(2/2014) I get scared a lot -- I can't really control it. I especially get nervous when dad goes to that place he calls ''work." I mean, what if he doesn't come back? The first people that had me didn't come back and left me in the house and I had to be taken to an animal shelter.

What if Dad does that?

I mean, yeah, he hasn't done it so far and we've been together for six months, but I just don't think you can ever really know what will happen.

And what if Dad needs me at this "work" place? What if he gets in trouble and I could help him out? What if he needs protection?

It helps my nerves to chew on stuff. Dad wasn't really happy when I chewed through that crate he put me in during the first couple of days, but it's just, man, I didn't like being locked in there. It was like I had no control. I couldn’t protect the house or see if anyone was coming up the front walk. It freaked me out.

I know I had to go to the vet because I ripped up my mouth getting the bars of the crate open, but I felt better when I could walk around the house a little.

So now, I'm thinking I might be able to get through the door if I chew on the bottom of it long enough. Then I figure I'll go find Dad and be there for him if he needs me. It's better when we're together. He makes me relaxed and comfortable because when he's around I know nothing bad will happen to me and I know I can protect him.

I'm getting splinters in my jaws from the bottom of the door, but if I can make it through, I know I can find Dad and then everything will be better and I can calm down.

I've heard Dad say the words "separation anxiety" when he talks on the phone about me. I guess that's what I have. It's probably why I ended up at an animal shelter in the first place.

I'm really lucky Dad took a chance on me and I want to be so good for him, I really do, but I just get nervous being away from him.

I know he's been talking to people about me because he's started to change things. Sometimes he has this thing he calls his briefcase with him and sometimes he doesn't -- it's like I can't really tell what he's doing. Sometimes he'll go into his study and shut the door so I can't get to him. That freaks me out, too, but I can hear him on the other side of the door, so that helps.

He started leaving the house without even looking at me or talking to me. Sometimes he's gone before I even know it and I have no idea how long I've been without him -- especially if I'm sleeping or something when he goes. Other times, he goes out different doors, so I can't really keep track of what he's doing.

He doesn't even really greet me when he comes home at first, either, and it hurts me a little because I'm so excited to see him, but it really seems to work to keep me calm. I think I heard him call these "training techniques" or something like that. Human words are funny.

My favorite things are the walks we take together. We go all around the neighborhood and I'm so proud that he's my Dad and I get to show him off a little. I even think some of the other dogs we see are jealous -- and they should be. My Dad's awesome!

Our walks also help get rid of some of that nervous energy I have and I can focus a little more and feel less scared. One time, Dad fed me my favorite meal (he said it was full of carbohydrates -- whatever they are) and I fell asleep and was all warm and comfortable the whole time Dad was gone. It was weird how when he was gone that time it didn't bother me as much.

Dad has also started to leave the radio on all the time, too. He likes something called "Classic Rock" and swears to me that Foreigner is making a comeback. I'm not sure what that means, but he pats my head when he says it, so I'm happy.

The radio helps and so do the toys he fills with peanut butter. I keep trying to get into every nook and cranny to get that yummy stuff out. I'm telling you, that took up a whole afternoon one time. I don't know where the day went, but just when I started getting worried, Dad came home and everything was good again.

I even heard him talking about getting a friend for me. Friends are nice. I mean no one's as nice as my dad, but I really like the other dogs we see on our walks, so having one living here in the house to play with and nap with while dad is gone, could really help.

But right now, I'm scared. I know Dad's not going to be happy tonight when he gets home, but chewing on the door help calms me down, so I'll keep doing this until he comes home. I mean, if he comes home. Gosh, I hope he comes home...


Separation anxiety in dogs is pretty much exactly what it sounds like -- an animal's fear or stress from being separated from an owner. A lot of people struggle with this, so if you have a pup who can't be left by himself, don't feel bad -- you are definitely not alone.

Separation anxiety is one of the biggest reasons dogs end up in animal shelters, but there are ways to combat it. "Training techniques" as our pup above described, as well as medications can help.

Getting other animals, just so your dog knows he's not alone can take a lot of stress off an anxious pup. Animals in the wild live in packs, with a clear leader and other "followers." It makes an innate kind of sense for them to be surrounded by their own kind, so consider adopting a second or third pet if you've got one that's suffering with separation anxiety.

But the most important thing to remember is where the DOG is coming from and have a little compassion. If you take the steps to help him get through his anxiety, I promise, you will have a best friend for life.


Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau