Please keep in mind as you read this article that I love my Neva. She is a passionate hunting dog and really wants nothing more than to please those that she loves. She lives every day to the fullest, is an awesome trail dog, and a wonderful cuddlebug. But, to no fault of her own, Neva has slowly driven me insane for over a year. Absolutely I-N-S-A-N-E……. Until recently.
Neva came to me as a foster dog through Louisville Weimaraner Rescue. She had been jumping out of 2 story glass windows and had been running around with a shattered kneecap for a few months. One lucky evening, a rural Kentucky shelter volunteer found her owner tying her to the side of the shelter after hours. She was taken in, destroyed a few shelter volunteer homes, a car, a few crates, a few walls, a few more windows, and finally found herself with LWR, a repaired kneecap, and on her way to my house.
While most Weimaraners that come into foster care really only need a good schedule, plenty of exercise, and rules, Neva quickly proved to be the exception. Itʼs a good thing I like challenging dogs!
Her separation anxiety was the most extreme I had ever seen. She was climbing 10 foot fences and appearing at my front door. She couldnʼt be trusted in a crate, out of a crate, and literally would go ballistic with anxiety and fear when left for a few minutes–even with constant and consistent training and reinforcement! There would be times that I would come home after 20 minutes or 2 hours to find her standing in a puddle of saliva, urine, and blood from trying to chew her way out. If I was extra lucky she would of redecorated with all of it AND added feces for an extra fun cleaning bonus.
Her daily routine consisted of several hours of free running and romping with an entire gang of Weims and other dogs in the morning, crate time, training time, dinner, more running, lounging, then crate time for bed. We rarely deviated from this schedule, but nothing was working! I also started to notice that Neva was having these phases of hyperactivity where she couldnʼt focus and was very compulsive (especially seen in day to day routine and training). I would ask her to wait until I opened the back of the car for her to “kennel up” but there was absolutely no waiting- she would literally slam her body repeatedly into the car before I could get a good hold of her and make her stop until I could get the door open. She was also all over the map with apologetic behaviors, and in the other extreme, aggressive and territorial behaviors.
I had several talks with dog trainers, my vet, and other Weim enthusiasts, but no one could really offer any suggestions, so Neva and I kept chugging away… for better or worse…
None of the “natural” calming or anxiety drops or wraps, diet changes, tweeks in training, or praying to the Weim gods for a little peace did anything for Neva or me. I was at my wit’s end with fostering her and was about to suggest that she move on.
It was then that it was decided to put Neva on some anti-anxiety drugs, in hopes that it would help us to help retrain her brain and hopefully find an understanding family to adopt her. She was put on Clomicalm for a few months, but I didnʼt notice any real changes in her anxieties, attitude, and working with her on a daily basis was almost more than my brain and body could handle. She was stretching me beyond my comfort zone and knowledge zone, but I couldnʼt help but see little glimpses of the dog that I knew she could be.
Now, I say all of this with nothing but absolute love for this confused little Weim. At this point I had been fostering her for over a year, she had earned a few titles, and found a permanent spot in my pack. When the time came to refill her, what I called, “crazy drugs” I started to go through other possible possibilities such as tickborne diseases and hyperactivity problems in dogs. Thatʼs when I realized that I had never had her thyroid checked. We drew blood at the vet office I work at, sent it to Jean Dodds, and sure enough, Nevaʼs thyroid levels were below the minimum.
I was surprised, but not surprised. Besides the behavioral issues Iʼd been having, Neva didnʼt show any “outward” signs of having a thyroid problem, or really didnʼt show any signs that most vets look for that that you generally hear about. She is super active, has a great coat, is very healthy, and hunts like no other– yet her levels were all very low. At the clinic I work at weʼve seen dogs that have everything from thunder phobia, to attention disorders, to bad attitudes have thyroid test results come back showing imbalances.
Neva started her meds about a month ago, and Iʼm slowly seeing improvements. Sheʼs calmer, can stay in her crate without the application of padlocks and 50 zipties, and has a short, but concentrated sit stay! Her eyes arenʼt bouncing out of her skull and I think, think that weʼre getting somewhere, slowly, in our relationship.