I Adopted a Dog with Severe Separation Anxiety

I knew her pain, and when she looked at me, I knew she understood mine. We saved each other.


In the city where I lived, the local animal control had a hard and fast rule about dog bites: Three strikes, you’re out. Just like baseball. Only in baseball the player went to sit in the dugout. In my town, three strikes meant that the dog would be killed.

When I started looking for a dog to share my adult life with, I didn’t expect to adopt a dog with two strikes. I didn’t expect to come across a scared little bear-like face, hiding under coffee tables and snapping at anyone who walked by too fast. And I certainly didn’t expect to come across the creature that would save my soul, become my closest ally, and teach me more about peace than anyone else.

That’s Kira. She was officially named Shakira when I met her, living in a vegan household (the dogs, too). and being consistently bullied by two Thai street dogs. Her uninvolved owners had adopted these dogs, but they didn’t train them or address their issues. They barely even walked them, which is how I came upon Kira. A dog-walker friend of mine knew that I was searching for a kindly pup to enter my life, and she suggested that I inquire about Kira.

I took her home with me for a trial run. She was so frightened on our walk home that she wouldn’t step on any of the cracks in the pavement; she stepped over them. She stepped over garbage, too, and half-eaten pizza, even puddles. At home, she was restless.

I was abandoned, and so was she. I was abused, and so was she. I knew her pain, and when she looked in my eyes, I knew she understood my pain, too. We decided to save each other. I knew my life would change and my crazy party-girl ways would be dampened. I now had to be home every four to six hours to attend to Kira’s needs. I still went out at night, but always managed to come home at a reasonable hour. I thought things were cool between us, that I was giving her what she needed.

About a week after adopting her, I came home at midnight to find a police cruiser stationed outside of my house. They asked me if I had a dog. Then they asked me if I was abusing said dog. I calmly explained that I was crate-training my new dog. They laughed, asked me to inform my neighbors about it, and left. When I got inside, I found that Kira had ripped her nails bloody by trying to get out of the crate.

Crate, nixed. I tried every trick in the book to eliminate her separation anxiety. I parked myself at the coffee shop on the corner for increasing intervals; first five minutes, then 15, then 30. Each time I returned to increasing intervals of Kira’s anxiety. First she chewed up my gloves, then the box spring of my bed, then the door frame — the whole door frame. She tore it down and left the rubble in a neat little pile, which she then urinated on.

I tried not saying goodbye to her, taking her for extra-long walks before I went out — I even wrote to Cesar Millan. Nothing changed.

One day, I got wise. She was a smart dog, with a sharp Border Collie brain. I knew that I would have to outsmart her. So I started leaving something on the counter for her to tear up, usually a piece of old tupperware or a half-eaten sandwich. And it worked! She would destroy my strategically placed item and act all sorry when I came home. It was good for a while, until we entered the pee-on-my-bed phase. That went on for about a month. At one point, I swear she pulled back the covers, peed, and then pulled them back up again. Either that or I had been driven to insanity.

Breaking points usually signal a change is coming. One day, Kira just stopped. No more chewed-up shoes at the door, no more little surprises on the sheets. Naively, I chose not to question it. Hooray! She had been cured! She realized that I loved her and would never leave her!

Another month went by. I started dating an incredibly charming and cute fellow, and was able to spend more time with him because Kira was okay with me being out of the house. I’m extremely picky about who I let into my home; what’s mine is not yours until you prove your loyalty, and until my dog approves of you. I had finally decided to invite this admirer home after a fun afternoon at the beach. As we approached my door, I spied a CD poking out of my mailbox. It was accompanied by a note:

Dear Resident of Unit 3
This is a recording of your dog barking for 5 hours straight. She does this often. Please address this issue.

An anonymous neighbor.

My new flame thought it was hilarious. I did not. He thought we should listen to it. I immediately ran inside and threw the disc in the freezer.

Humiliated. Ashamed. I couldn’t believe she had fooled me! Or rather, I had fooled myself. I kicked the guy out and burst into tears. Had adopting her been the right choice? Was I a bad dog-mama? How would we ever solve this?

As I sat on my bed and cried, I felt Kira snuggling her wet nose into my hands. When I looked down, she stared up at me with her soulful brown eyes. I got down on my knees and hugged her close. It calmed me immediately and I knew that we were meant to be.

So I did what any neighborly person would do: I moved. I found a place with an enormous closed-in and covered deck. I took Kira out with me all day, and when it came time to leave her, she stayed outside. The deck became her playground, and she loved it. She would even sit out there when I was inside the house.

Now, 11 years later, Kira is my closest companion. We know each other’s looks and sighs almost as if we were one. My years of love and consideration for who she is have made her no longer afraid to be left alone. She has turned into the calmest, best-behaved dog I have ever met. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my soulmate.

Read more by Maya Bastian:

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