Dogs with separation anxiety can freak out badly if they feel boxed in. With the crate left open and outdoor access through his dog door, Harvey had the choices he’d needed all along. It’s hard to wring your paws and fret while scrounging for survival, so I advised Don to bury food toys in an outdoor digging box before leaving home. Now, this hungry spaniel had to work for a living, darn it. No more loafing around and bellyaching. Carefully dosed anti-anxiety medication plus at-home treatments with a pulsed electromagnetic field device (Calmer Canine) reduced Harvey’s anxiety, making it much easier for him to succeed. Still, the poor dog struggled with an unsolved mystery behavior.
Residency training in veterinary behavior medicine prepared me to diagnose and treat a myriad of malfunctions between the ears of non-human species, but wild lunging at a clothes dryer? That was a new one.
Diane and Don lived in a semi-rural outpost north of Santa Fe. Local wildlife? “Oh, yes,” exclaimed Diane. “We see deer and bobcats and coyotes and …” She didn’t mention rodents but there was no need to ask. Clothes dryers vent to the outside of a house. It was late fall. A warm place to nest for the winter – well, who among us doesn’t want that?
Please don’t get me wrong. I am quite fond of all creatures great and small. But deer mice in northern New Mexico are known to carry hantavirus, a dangerous human pathogen. Mindful of Diane’s propensity for Olympic-level hand-wringing I gently suggested that the interior of her dryer may be worth a look. She could call an exterminator.
Diane, Don and a securely leashed Harvey watched with baited breath as the brave first rodent responder gently removed the rear panel of their clothes dryer. There were nesting mice snuggled up inside, three of them. These little varmints had reason to hide. Waiting patiently, also inside the dryer, skulked a ravenous 5-foot-long bull snake. Harvey, of course, was ecstatic. He knew all along.
⋄ For help with behavior problems, you can sign up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.
Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109