For the love of Kong

When Shiva first came home with us she had separation anxiety. Ha ha ha ha ha, okay, I lie. Shiva has separation anxiety. It’s not as bad as it used to be because she’s adjusted to a routine, but it’s still there. It’s the reason she needs to be crated when we leave her alone. It’s the reason I get anxious if we alter her routine.

Luckily, Shiva’s case is relatively mild. I’ve heard horror stories of dogs barking themselves hoarse and chewing on themselves until they bleed.  Shiva’s anxiety has manifested itself primarily in whining and in eating the house. (I still haven’t fully recovered from the Great Shoe Disaster of 2009.) These behaviours are controllable, especially with understanding neighbours like ours, and I think she’s gotten a lot better. Of all the methods we’ve tried – there have been a lot – the one that worked the best was the Kong.

Oh, how we all adore the Kong. Before adopting Shiva I read many books and many websites. They all recommended it. The medium-sized classic Kong was the first toy we purchased after leaving the shelter. It is quite likely the first toy Shiva ever called her own. Back then, Shiva didn’t know how to play at all, as difficult as that is to believe now. We tried tossing her things to chase; we tried initiating tug games; we tried just getting her to look at a toy. No dice. But as soon as we scraped a little peanut butter on the inside of the Kong, Shiva was in love.

Shiva gets a stuffed Kong every time I leave the house. Every morning, ten minutes before I head to work, I can sense her excitement building. She gets all fidgety and will lay down right in front of me. Then she just stares like she’s willing me to get up and get ready to go. Sometimes she puts her chin on her paws in an attempt to look sad. Can’t I have it yet? It is never a struggle to get Shiva in her crate. As soon as I open the freezer door, she dives in all on her own. The sooner she’s in and laying down, the sooner she gets her prize.

At this point, I think we’re on her third. Maybe fourth. Though this one now needs replacing as the small end is in danger of falling off. It has lasted the longest of all of them so maybe there is hope for the fifth. No toys last long in our house anyway, not even the cat ones if Shiva gets into them. Other than Nylabones, the Kong is one of the few toys she can chew on without completely destroying. She loves it so much she often plays fetch with it and attempts to use it as a tug. Given how much that thing gets chomped on, I’m pretty impressed with its durability. Not much can stand up to the jaws of the Shivster.

The one thing I need to start working on is Kong recipes. I’ve experimented with a few different things, like frozen beef broth and mashed up bananas, but I haven’t found anything that works as well as peanut better. Maybe melted cheese? Since she’s so experienced with it now it doesn’t take her long to clean it out. There have been times where my husband or I have forgotten something and needed to return to the house within twenty minutes. Within that short span of time, Shiva has had the Kong licked dry. I think some days I spend more time stuffing it than she spends working it out. Everything with Shiva is a new challenge. Our next dog will be amazing after all we have learned through her.

Now I know why they say never bring home a dog on an impulse.