Columbo, the retiree's dog cured of separation anxiety
by Dr. Carol Jean Tillman
Columbo is a 12 year old yellow lab that lives with his owner as the only dog. His owner recently retired and now spends more time at home.
After the owner’s retirement, Columbo developed a bad habit. He would tear up objects, chewing them to pieces every time the owner left the house. This is something that Columbo would never have done in the past.
The owner was baffled. Shouldn’t Columbo be happier to have me home all of the time and be more calm as a result?
After trying everything he could think of, the owner took Columbo to a veterinarian. After a long and thorough physical exam that made sure Columbo did not have any physical ailments such as vitamin deficiency or parasites, it was determined that he had developed separation anxiety based on emotional insecurity.
Treatment was determined based on a detailed discussion with the owner as to what he did differently now (whenever he had to leave the house for an errand) compared to what he did before he retired (when he was going to work for 8 hours every day).
After pouring through the daily details, the only difference the owner could come up with was that when he used to go to work, he would always take his hard hat and lunch pail with him. Since retirement, the hat and pail stayed in storage at home.
So they gave it a shot.
The owner's veterinarian instructed him to take his hard hat and lunch pail with him whenever he had to leave the house, whether for 10 minutes or 4 hours.
The owner was more than skeptical with lunch pail and hard hat in-hand on his first trip out of the house later that day. Upon his return a couple of hours later, he slowly opened the door and peeked his head in…
It worked! There was Columbo, excitedly greeting the owner with a wholly unaltered and intact home behind him.
Columbo had no more incidents of separation anxiety after that.
It is difficult to say for certain what was going on in Columbo’s mind… since his owner rarely left without his pail and hat during the day, Columbo may have felt that his owner wasn’t coming back. Regardless, Columbo’s cured.
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