Even though I’ve had Onyx for over two years, it sometimes feels like I’ve had him all my life. I’m sure that’s a feeling most dog owners would love, and I do, but my reasons are a little bit different. You see, Onyx, my Miniature Schnauzer mix, a glorified mutt as I like to call him, has separation anxiety. Here’s our story.
After a particularly bad breakup, I found myself in a rut. College and work at my dad’s business kept me busy enough, but the time I did have alone really got to me. We already had a dog, a little designer mutt appropriately named Chanel, but she was the family dog. I decided that the best way to get over my loneliness would be to get a dog of my own. So one day after work I bought Onyx.
From the beginning I knew Onyx was a little bit different from other dogs. He loved exploring, loved chasing Chanel (which was fine because she’s fat and needed the exercise), but he always made sure that someone from our family was always close to him. He’d climb up the stairs of our deck, but would always look back to make sure I was at the bottom.
At night, it was even more extreme. For the first month that I had Onyx, I slept on an air mattress next to his crate. No use, he kept crying the whole night. Eventually, I broke down and let him sleep on the air mattress next to me. Bad move, I know, but I couldn’t help it with the little crying black ball of fur, especially when it was 2 a.m. and I was tired.
Eventually, he got potty trained, but could not be left home in his crate without making a mess all over. I won’t go into too much detail, but it wasn’t pleasant to come home to the smell and mess.
I wasn’t a patient person before I got Onyx, but I became one quickly. As mad as I’d get when I came home, I knew I couldn’t take it out on Onyx. Whatever trauma he’d gone through as a baby made him yearn for love and panic when no one was home. So I’d come home, patiently clean the mess he left, give him a bath, and then play with him like a normal puppy.
Eventually, my dad, a huge dog lover, broke down and agreed to take him to work every day. Probably not the best idea, but the home remedies, medications, and extensive training we had tried did nothing to aid his panic. When I returned home from school in downtown Chicago, my dad would always let me know that Onyx was very well behaved.
I think that’s what’s so frustrating about having a dog with separation anxiety, at least in Onyx’s case. He’s a model canine citizen when someone’s with him, but when he’s left alone he loses it. He howls, cries, whines, and has accidents all over. It seems like tunnel vision takes over and all he can focus on is the fact that I’ve gone.
The saying goes “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.” I remember when I surprised my parents and told them I bought a dog they asked me why I got one. I said because I wanted something to take care of and nurture in the absence of a relationship. I definitely got that in the form of “little man” as I like to call him.
The thought of giving Onyx away has never seriously crossed my mind. In anger, I admit I’ve said it, but I was never genuine. I break down into tears at the thought of him going to a less sensitive family. He’ll always be by my side (metaphorically, although he’d prefer physically ALL THE TIME) and we’ll be here for one another.
Now, I’ve gotten used to the routine of taking Onyx out at 6:00 AM, giving him his Clomicalm around 6:15, and then handing him off to my dad at 6:45 when he heads to work. Then, I head off to work as a food and lifestyle editor at Recipe4Living and Fit&FabLiving and don’t see him until about 12 hours later.
Though I long for a day when I can finally leave Onyx alone at home while I go to work, I’m not going to be holding my breath. He’s on the highest medication dosage he can be, and I’m hesitant to put him on things like Prozac. I pray every night that he’ll get better, and I hope those prayers are one day answered.
Our story is one of learning but most importantly, love. I stopped counting how many times Onyx made me laugh within two weeks of getting him, but I’ve also stopped counting how many times he’s made me cry out of frustration. I’ve learned to embrace our relationship. Through our ups and downs, one thing has remained certain: we’ve always been and always will be there for one another, and that’s the wonderful thing about having a dog in your life.
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