Today for the very first time since he became a part of our family, Bruno stayed home, alone!
Something about recounting The Odyssey yesterday, and the comments received from readers (thank you, Shazza, Davina, Baby, others) made me wonder if I could help him, learn to stay home alone, if for only a minute.
I’ve tried teaching him. In Singapore, when he first arrived, I did everything I’ve done with all my dogs. Bruno howled and cried, and wailed and moaned. Someone mentioned SPCA and asked about abuse.
Having never experienced separation anxiety in a dog before, we all had to learn to adapt to him.
He is also overly protective. Approach us suddenly, hover too close, or appear menacing? Bruno will attack.
The local paper once sent a reporter unfamiliar around dogs, to interview me. Because all animals can sense masked uncertainty and fear, Bruno was in a foul mood, and I, crossed with his poor behaviour.
Once we set up home in London, I tried re-introducing the concept of letting me leave. I even bought one of those fence-like structures to create a safe, Bruno only-zone to reinforce this idea of comfort away from me.
I could send him into his zone with a look, a smile, a word.
I could not however step away from his perspective without him breaking down. We practised this for a week. Our efforts were futile. My dog has separation anxiety.
As Bruno has just returned from his vacation exhausted and happy to be home, I decided to use this as an opportunity to attempt leaving him. Instead of his usual morning potty walk, I intentionally hiked him, tiring him more. Then I sent him to the bedroom with a treat. When he settled down, I said, Bye, Bruno- stay home, good boy, ignored his sunken shoulders and tail, and slipped away.
Outside my flat, for the very first time ever, I did not hear an operatic chorus in G minor belting from the little guy. I left him for an hour, and went for a walk with Cookie instead.
I received a earful from Bruno when I came home.
He’s not allowed me out of sight since.
Fact is, I will never leave Bruno home alone for stretches of time. All I want is to teach him to settle by himself, so that I can go ride Cookie.
In high school, I went to an Over-Achieving, “Elite” Institution, where no matter how hard I worked, I was always at the near bottom of my class. This school is surfacing in memory now, because one of the things often preached was- “The Impossible We Do At Once. Miracles Take a Little Longer.”
Well Bruno, I think we experienced a mini miracle today. We’ll just have to keep practising and turn this miracle, into a habit.