I will start out by saying, it didn’t go well.
On Friday last week, we booked Shiva in for a half-day at a doggy daycare centre. Until that day, we had never left her alone with someone else, not even for five minutes. The closest we came was the three minutes of angst during the Canine Good Neighbour test. Given that our family lives on the other side of the country, we may have to put her in a kennel one day. Emergencies happen. It would be great if we didn’t have to worry about our dog’s sanity in such an event. Since we were off work, I thought it would be a good chance to experiment. Start off small with a half-day, and then if that went well, maybe next time try a full day, and then maybe an overnight stay. Maybe.
As far as I know, most dogs love doggy daycare. What’s not to enjoy? They get to hang out with a bunch of cool people with new toys and a whole pack of other dogs that like to play. It sounds like a blast to me and I am not even a dog. One would think it would beat staying at home in one’s crate. Most dogs would be thrilled at the opportunity.
Unfortunately, Shiva is not most dogs.
We did everything we could to set her up for success. We chose to take her to a more expensive daycare just because the building is the same one in which we attend agility classes. After two years, Shiva is as comfortable there as a Shiva can be comfortable anywhere. The woman who owns the business is warm and ultra laidback. She understands our situation and was willing to be flexible. When we explained the basics of Shiva’s issues, she agreed to call us immediately if there were any problems. Shiva has met her before and likes her as much as she can like a stranger.
That morning I kept her routine the same. We went for a long off-leash walk in the forest at the usual time. She ate her breakfast, lazed around on the couch, and chased the cat. We brought along a bag of familiar treats for the I made sure my attitude was relaxed and optimistic. What was the worst that could happen?
I won’t lie. I was a little nervous when we dropped her off. My PH and I both felt a little like parents taking their child to her first day of kindergarten. It was a little intimidating. For the first time, Shiva was going to be with other people. We weren’t going to be able to control the situation or her reactions. We were opening up ourselves to the judgment of others. It was time to see if all of our hard work had made a difference.
The worst part was when we walked away. Shiva seemed fine. She was running around the front room, sniffing and bugging a cranky dog in his crate. Crossing our fingers, we slipped out the door. And then I looked back.
Never look back.
Through the glass I could see her little white nose peeking over the gate inside. Her ears were forward and her brown eyes looked back at me somberly.
That’s when I ran back inside screaming and beating my chest.
Okay, I didn’t do that, but I felt like I could. Instead, we walked to the car and drove away, leaving our baby behind. We drove a few blocks down to get coffee at a local place we’ve always meant to check out. Sitting down inside, my PH put his phone on the table and we waited. And waited. When our coffee was finished and we still hadn’t received a call, we went to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to complete some boring business. And waited.
Still no call.
We decided to get some lunch at a burrito place downtown. I’d never been there before but had heard really good things. It was kind of fun, being out and not having to worry about leaving the dog at home or in the car. We could both go inside the take-out place. One of us didn’t have to hang outside with the puppy. It was a novelty. After we placed our orders, we sat down to wait for our food, joking about how weird it all felt.
That’s when the phone rang. I looked over and my PH’s expression confirmed my suspicion. It was the daycare. Shiva wanted to come home.
The good news is, Shiva did really well with the daycare workers and with the other dogs. She was polite and obedient, willing to work for treats. The owner couldn’t say enough good things about how smart she is and how sweet. The last was kind of a shock to me.
The bad news is, her separation anxiety was making her miserable. The whole two and a half hours she was there, she stood by the door and whined. It was obvious she did not want to be there. They did all they could to help her relax but her anxiety just kept building. The owner didn’t want to call us but she also couldn’t stand to see a dog looking so unhappy. She refused to accept any form of payment. I was grateful to her for trying and even more grateful she had called. We picked her up immediately.
Fortunately, once back with us, she was okay. Her anxiety faded as soon as she saw us. We even went back to the daycare the next day for our usual agility class and she was happy to be there. I have no doubt she would have had a terrific time at daycare had we not left the building.
Which kind of defeats the purpose.
Life with a Shiva is never simple, is it?