This past week, Eddie and I’ve been working hard like little bumblebees. So much so, I’ve dreamt I’ve been .chased down by them. The bee theme even continued in my waking life from bees trying to get in my house and even stinging my little Boogs to hearing about bees on NPR. Whatever the relevance, we know the bee is symbolic of our week.
You may be wondering what’s precipitated all this buzz and energy? Well, we are moving. Eddie is in the military and with that comes many, many moves. Once we get settled, he comes down on orders for another move. Such is our life and one I don’t readily accept. I’ve built a life for myself here and I’ve delved into a new career path as a dog trainer. I’ve forged friendships and partnerships and it can make me tear up thinking about parting ways. I know I feel the stress of strangers coming into my home and touching my things in order to put in boxes and see all of our things get put on a truck and hoping things don’t get lost, stolen or broken. I wonder how my Jack and Bernie Bear feel?
I’ve learned a thing or two of dogs and dog behavior. I understand my own dogs’ limitations and I strive in keeping things as stress free as possible during this time of our lives. We decided to board them for a couple of days while the packers and movers are here. I know they enjoy their time at Howl A Day Inn and I’m rest assured they are relaxed and having hours of playtime.
Moving is an unbelievably stressful experience for a dog. First a stranger comes into the home wearing a uniform. This alone can set any dog off. I know my pups would be constantly trying to figure out this person or persons and trying to make a determination if they are ok people. Then pile on these strange people coming in and putting together boxes and watching the packers put their stuff into them. I know this would heighten any level of anxiety. I know I feel uncomfortable when we allow for strangers to touch our things and pack them away. Its out of our control at this point. Thirdly, watching the constant door opening and closing, this alone can make a dog decide on fight or flight response and bolting can totally add to the stress of this event.
In thinking about all these triggers, I wondered what other people did who are also wearing similiar shoes. How do other people, military or not, manage their pets when movers are in the house. I asked the experts. During lunch on the first day of the packers being here, Eddie and I asked them if they had any crazy stories of packing people’s stuff. They shared with us some of their both misfortunate and funny experiences. One thing they did highlight for us was a usual response by families with dogs. The packers often hear, “Oh don’t worry, he/she won’t bite”. When I heard them start the story by saying this, I thought “uh oh” this isn’t going to be good. They told us a story of one of their colleagues who was packing up a house. The family dog was watching the packer and standing nearby him. The packer asked the family if the dog is friendly with people. The owner said, “Oh don’t worry, he won’t bite”. So, the packer took the owner’s word for it and started packing. If you ever watched packers, they are fast and with laser focus, well at least the ones who came to our house. As the packer was wrapping and tearing tape, the dog still stood there. No one was observing the dog or even interpreting his calming signals (like lip licking, hard stare, rigid body to name a few) because I can almost guarantee he was giving them. As the packer started on the next box, the dog lunged and bit the packers hand. I saw a picture and it was a severe puncture to the hand. The packers we had who worked with him said he was given worker’s compensation since he had to receive medical treatment for this injury. I don’t blame the dog. I blame the owner of the dog for not understanding and interpreting the dog’s stress response to this situation.
After hearing this story, I said, a response to a family who says “Oh, don’t worry, he/she won’t bite” is “the dog has teeth, he/she can bite”. Maybe them saying this to a family will make the family think twice about keeping their dog away from them. Maybe they will consider saying this to a family, maybe not, but I know I was relaxed knowing my Bears were playing in a safe, caring environment and away from all the chaos.