I recently have been traveling quite a bit away from home and the office. It seems like I have been consistently on a plane away from home for the past six months and my travels have kept me away anywhere from 1-3 weeks at a time depending on the trip. While the travel has been hard on me, it has been especially difficult for my dog, Camry.
Camry is a 6-year-old Metlakatla mix terrier. I adopted her from the Ketchikan Humane Society at about a year old. There was an immediate connection between her and I. There was something in her eyes that spoke deep down to my soul and for whatever reason, the moment we met, she “chose” me. We bonded and we bonded hard, her more so then me at first as I had the love of my life, Matilda Josephine, who was my yellow Labrador, that saw me through some major changes in my life. I would come to later find out that even though my bond was strong with Matilda, I would come to have “the one” true human-dog relationship with my dog, Camry.
Camry is about 15 pounds, which makes it easy for her to go everywhere with me. She comes to work with me every day, she patiently waits in the car for me while I go grocery shopping, go have lunch with the girls, go to the bank, or go to community events. She just patiently waits for me to come back and often greets me with a little kiss to the chin, always over the moon that I returned to her. When we are at home, she sits next to me on the couch or chair, if I am outside, she is outside. If I am in the bathroom, she is in the bathroom, and if she is not in the actual room, she is in a position that she can always watch me to make certain that I am not going to go anywhere without her. Camry is the first to run to the door if I am putting on my shoes or getting my coat.
I will be the first to say that Camry has a bit of separation anxiety. She is not destructive, she does not bark, and she does not pace when I am gone, but she does become quite sad and mopey. She will not come into the house on her own when I am gone. She plants her 15 pounds at the top of the road and waits for me to drive up the driveway. She will not come in the house for my husband at all. He has to pretend that they are going to go somewhere, get her in the truck and then take her out of the truck to put her in the house. On my last trip, it was snowing, and she stood out in the driveway and would not come in, my husband, actually put me on speaker phone to call her and when she heard my voice, she ran right into the house looking for me. Let me tell you, I felt horrible about that incident. I could go on and on about this girl and how bonded she is to me, but I think you get the picture.
As a dog owner, I love this. There is nothing quite like feeling of adulation that this dog has for me. I feel her undying unconditional love for me. She adores me and I am her whole world. As a veterinarian, I am concerned for her. She is stressed, anxious, and overcome with worry, and like us as humans, that is hard on our overall bodies. I am aware of her becoming more and more grey with every trip that I take, and that continued stress is aging her, just as it ages us. Overall, it is just not healthy to be under that kind of stress continuously.
Camry is lucky in the sense that her anxiousness is limited as she goes where I go, except if I am traveling off island. When I do have to make those trips though, I plan on providing her with as much consistency as I can. I leave her with a person that she knows, accepts and is willing to go with. I provide her with natural supplements, like rescue remedy, or essential oils to help keep her anxiety lower. I like to (but sometimes forget) to leave something that smells like me with her. I like to send her with her own things, her crate, her bed, her food bowl, things that are hers and that smell familiar. Thankfully, I have not had to give her a prescription to help her cope while I am gone but would reach for it if I felt it necessary as it is important to help them transition without as much stress as possible.
Traveling is necessary in my personal and professional life and while I have Camry, it is important that I do what I can to help her adjust during my times of travel. I know that she misses me when I am gone, and I will tell you that I miss her too. Many dogs have crossed my path during my lifetime, and I am without a doubt am so blessed to have this one that loves me the way that she does. I cannot wait to get home and watch her be so overcome with joy to see me when I walk through the door. Sometimes, I think I might have just as much separation anxiety from her as she does from me.
Submitted by Dr. Marna Hall