Our pack has changed; the inner workings of each and every pack are fascinating. Small and large happenings can have a drastic impact on the day to day activities within a family of dogs. As you all know we have lost two members in a very close time span; an almost unbearable event for the humans but how do our canine pack members deal? The passing of our little Jessie was most definitely noted; all three remaining dogs searched quietly for the tiny pack member. I could see them looking around corners and sniffing items that she might be behind. But due to Jessie being hit with dementia over a year ago her absence had already started back in the beginning of 2011. Physical and mental health plays a roll in a pack as well.
Jessie had been a force to be reckoned with; an ever presence very alpha bitch. No one messed with her; they learned quickly who the canine boss was and what you were allowed and not allowed to do. She was an amazing leader; she was calm and only jumped to action if things got out of control. Having a small dog with so much presence, so much "big dog" attitude is fun just to watch. The pack was multi-dimensional and I loved every second with them all. But nothing ever stays the same.
I was at the beach yesterday with Luke and Elsa; it is strange for me to have only two. One thing that has been interesting during these last weeks is the degree of interest in my packs shift. When I talk to other dog folks they are very curious to hear how things have changed. I realized that people want to learn about the passing of an old and the addition of a new; it can be a scary unknown if you've never dealt with either. Anytime someone is added or taken away things can change drastically.
For us it has been a big change and that includes Luke. Elsa has been dealt a softer blow by virtue of her age alone; she is resilient like most youngn's and can move on and adapt quickly and easily. She most definitely noted the absence of Tilley; she had very much been like a Mother/mentor figure for her. They were physically close; Elsa is a very touchy feely type and often chose to lay touching Tilley. She had also taken to caring for Tilley; she cleaned her eyes, face and ears on a daily basis, their connection was undeniable. But Elsa is fine and showing no negative signs of the loss. I feel ever grateful that Elsa was able to share so many months with such an amazing roll model.
As for Luke; he is not doing as well as I had thought he would. I assure you that he is okay and will be fine but he is displaying much more fallout than I had anticipated. Having spent his entire life with both Jessie and Tilley it goes without saying that he is feeling the loss. For at least a week after Tilley's passing he seemed okay; I did not see any signs that he was not dealing well. It took a little over a week for him to realize that she was indeed gone. Did he think she was just away? Did he not notice right away due to the upheaval in his life with the move? For whatever reason it took some time to sink in; then he displayed some seriously heartbreaking behaviors.
Luke has always been my shadow, from the moment he joined us we have basically been joined at the hip. But he has also always been completely fine with me going out; I work hard at making them really okay with my absence. So when we returned from dinner one night to hear Luke cry barking all the way from the car we were upset. I thought that perhaps it was just due to the fact that we had gone out at night, a first here in the new house. But the following day when I returned from the gym it was the same. He was also displaying some nervous energy in regards to his following; it had become more clingy, less relaxed. So the next time I went to leave the house I really noted his need for eye contact; his insecurity about my proximity to him.
It has been a tough time; I like to take my dogs out for one on one, especially the new ones. But with the monumental events in our life it has been difficult most recently. Imagine when Luke is feeling so insecure about the loss and move; taking Elsa out and leaving him behind, it is not an option. So they have tagged along with me for a good week. Then it was time to work on being at home; together but home. So I have been going to the gym with no problems. I leave the television on which has been a huge help; it typically is for any anxious or nervous dog.
I have yet to take Elsa out on her own since Tilley's passing; but we will get back to that. She has had a huge amount of one on one time before our move and will again; but trying to deal with so many factors in an equation is tricky. You must balance out the positive and negative; too much either way can lead to more behavior issues. I am trying very hard to keep physical touch as it was, too much can make it even more difficult to deal with absence. Even when we humans need more hugs than normal it is the dogs we must consider. Lavishing hugs, kisses and snuggles feels good for everyone at the time but can lead to an almost unbearable void in your absence.
As we all know, dogs share far too little of our lives with us. They pass through quickly, leaving a huge imprint on our heart. Change is a fact of life; how we deal with that change will hugely impact how our dogs manage to deal with it all. We must always be aware that change not only impacts humans but also our canine family and as such we must help them adjust.