Disconnection Nervousness

James Pykonen

© Copyright 2020 by James Pykonen

Photo of the dig Fisher.

In March, 2014 my 10 year-old black Pug, Smokey Joe suffered an incurable illness, euthanasia was quick and painless. After leaving the veterinarian hospital home was where I did not want to be nothing but echoes of silence to greet a heavy heart so I aimlessly walk through late night crowds in a nearby department store, distraction is what I desired. Arriving home well after midnight there is no dog to greet me suddenly, I succumb to grief as if I’d just lost a mother of father; Smokey Joe was ten years of my life and now that time washes over me. Restless days pass my life is out of balance home is too quiet; this chapter has come to a screeching end but I am afraid to let go, afraid I will forget. The door leading to the garage, in the house I lived at, had a cat door and every day I returned home from work and pulled into the garage Smokey Joe’s silhouette would appear, best part of the day. I miss stress relieving walks, his constant shadowing, watching Joe submerge face into food and water, after a bath Joe expressed his cleanliness by racing about the house as if chasing a cat; I mean Pugs are naturally low to the ground but once out of the tub Joe became aerodynamic running from one end of the house to the other, I chuckled at the entertainment. Time marches on though and just as if I’d walked through an invisible wall leaving the past 10 years to one side and step into what will be the future that of obtaining another animal companion. I forgo the breeder route taken with Smokey Joe for I was in need of rescue and what better way than to rescue a rescuer. Living in Vancouver, Washington, at this time I drove past the Southwest Washington Humane Society many times so here, being in the fore-thought, is where I look in this time of sorrow, I call to get the lowdown of pet adoption.Hello, my name is Sherrie how can I help you.”Hi Sherrie, I would like to know what I have to do to adopt a dog.”OK, have you acquired a pet from us before?”No I haven’t.” Sherrie continues with information gathering, “What brought you to think about adoption through the human society?”A few weeks ago I had to put down my Pug as he suffered from a type of cancer detected too late. I’ve driven past your location numerous times so you where the first thought to obtain a pet from and what better way than to rescue a rescuer.” Chuckling, Sherrie continues, “Rescue a rescuer, I like that,” then with compassion and an uplifting attitude, “I am sorry to hear of your loss we’re here to assist you. How old was your Pug?” Without missing a beat, “Thank you, he was 10.” A short pause then Sherrie goes on, “OK so before you come down to the shelter go to our website,” with confidence and empathy she reads off the site address, “there you will see pets for adoption along with biographies, is there a particular breed you’re looking for?”No.” Sherrie continues, “No problem but before coming down search the files and find the dog that matches your lifestyle then when you get here we’ll take you to meet the dog you would like to adopt.” Never before adopting a dog this method did not solidify confidence so I question, “What are the chances the dog I choose has already been adopted?” Sherrie must be asked this often for she is ready, “I won’t worry much I have yet to see any problems.”Good to know, thank you I will look over the website,” I rattled the site off to confirm, “and I look forward to the visit,” Before I hang up Sherrie recommends filling out the application through the website and bring a copy when I come down. Still not 100 percent convinced I decide to take a chance. Arriving early I hand over the application, “Good morning, I talked with Sherrie the other day about adopting a dog is she in.” Shelter co-worker Melinda makes eye contact, looks over the paperwork and with an upbeat voice informs, “No, Sherrie is not in today but I can certainly assist you. Do you know which dog you would like to adopt?” After spending two hours looking through dog bio’s, to which the human society’s website overflows with domesticated animals looking for a stable environment, and filling out paperwork I answer, “I do, the mixed retriever Fisher.” Melinda leads me into the kenneled area where the chatter of Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, Collies, and Dobermans is uplifting; noses sniff, some move excitedly about as if in a fashion show.

We stop in front of a yellow/white furred dog Melinda informs,“This is Fisher as you know a Mixed Retriever, 2 years old, and weighs in at 73 pounds.”

Hey he’s a handsome guy the photograph online doesn’t do him justice.”

Fisher appears well mannered, eyes forward, attentive an inkling of affection, Melinda goes on, “Fisher suffers from separation anxiety brought about from being confined to a small area; one day upon returning home his previous owner found that Fisher had torn through the door frame of the small room he was locked in thus winning a trip back here.”  

Wow, you’re kidding,” I exclaim in disbelief, Smokey Joe settled into his environment rather easily Fisher, on the other hand, would be an investment in time in order to overcome his affliction but there was no hesitation, “OK, so he still suffers from anxiety?”

Yes,” replies Melinda.
Nodding my head, and in a calm assured voice, “OK, alright so he would be adopted with the affliction?”

Reassuring Melinda explains, “That is correct. It would be up to you, upon adoption, to assist Fisher with his separation anxiety.”

Do you have any information that I can use,” I query.

Yes there is, at our website under the ‘resources page’ you will find in-depth information on treating anxiety,” Melinda informs then cautions all the while maintaining a professional attitude, “It won’t be easy but with time and patience Fisher can come around.”

We head to the front office to finalize the adoption.

Shortly after introducing Fisher to his new home I begin operation separation anxiety relief with basic sit, stay, and come commands which he picks up rather easily, maybe from the previous owner. In a week’s time we move on to the crux of the matter, leaving Fisher home, alone. Looking over the behavioral information found on the human society’s website they recommend leaving your dog alone for a few seconds and gradually work into minutes however, I decided to expedite the process and choose five minutes time as a starting point doing so for a week. With no upsets the time is increased to 10 minutes and by the end of the second week with no problems a bold leap forward I take leaving Fisher alone for 30 minutes.

Before the defining moment Fisher and I go for a long energy burning walk and upon return I remove his leash and harness, Sit Fisher.” I don’t remember where I read this but giving your dog an assignment before leaving is suppose to keep the dog calm, kneeling before him I make eye contact and in a soothing voice, “You be good now and make sure no one breaks in and I’ll be right back.” Exiting the house and, through the gate in the chain link fence in the backyard, I enter a city park.

Thirty minutes later as I step into the backyard from the park a prolonged mournful cry, Awoooooooooooo, greets me. Taken aback I listen but because it sounds as though drifting on the wind I cannot pinpoint its origin so I ignore and head inside and am immediately greeted, breast high, with the massive front paws of Fisher moaning as if saying, where the heck have you been, I missed you!

Down Fisher, sit. Good boy,” the palm of my hand flashes, “Stay,” then a quick check for any damage, Fisher watches from his sitting position. A walk through the living room and upstairs reveals nothing upended but my attention is quickly drawn to the kitchen counter were a yellow coffee cup, a favorite, lay smashed, porcelain shards splintered across it, except the portion with the handle, this is intact.

Dumbfounded, I look at Fisher, still in the sit command eyes on me, then to the remains of the cup, “What the heck?”

I try to make sense of the mess, “This is deliberate, yet no one else was home, so how?” I ponder the conundrum while looking at Fisher looking at me as if he is saying, yes go on.

Astonishment, I address Fisher still at attention, “Holly canola, you grabbed the cup by the handle with your mouth and smashed it on the counter in defiance,” goosebumbs race down the spine. Then revelation, “The howling you were in distress!” I kneel in front of Fisher and scratch his ears.

Bingo, right on.

Never before with dogs I’ve had did such training have to occur, I scale back on the time Fisher is unaccompanied for his sake and that of the remaining coffee cups, his anxiety gradually lessens yet, at times when I come home he leaps chest high but the command, “Down Fisher,” then out for a long neighborhood walk. I wonder, though, did he consciously use my cup or was it just handy to drive home the point of being home alone?

My name is Jim Pykonen I was born in 1958 and raised in St. Clair Shores, Michigan (near Detroit).  I am a baby boomer.
I am also a late bloomer having stumbled around, sort of, aimlessly but writing down bits and pieces of life events I guess to etch the event in memory kind of like the student that rewrites notes in order to better understand and recall. Not until at a friend's Christmas party in 1994 did the wheels of writing truly began turning, I started journaling with meaning and daily, took a few writing courses, and in 2013 started a blog in order to showcase my writings and in 2016 writings became more passionate.

I love the process of writing from beginning to end, the frustration, feeling defeated than snatching victory out of the jaws of that defeat.  Research invigorates.

Currently, I live Eugene, Oregon working for a medical transit company and write in my spare time.

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