Sorry to be so quiet here. Life has been really crazy. Or rather, Leelu has been really crazy and I’ve been really stressed.

When last we met, Leelu had been put on Carprofen for pain (which is working very nicely) and Prozac for anxiety. Only the Prozac ratcheted up her anxiety big time. It is one of the possible side-effects of Prozac, and very few dogs experience that one, but leave it to Leelu to be unusual.

It was, to put it simply, a week or so from hell. Leelu was terrified non-stop, wouldn’t let me near her. I had to leave her halter and leash on full time so I could get her out, and even grabbing the leash dragging on the floor was challenging. Her fight or flight instincts kicked in constantly. She wouldn’t go out to potty with me unless Gracie came with us. She spent most of her time cowering, licking her lips (a calming signal for dogs), yelping when I hadn’t even touched her, and so much more. I couldn’t get near her, or help her in any way.

I didn’t realize it was the Prozac at first. Leelu has a habit of “holding a grudge” against people she associates with her various episodes when she is totally over threshold, and I was the person present for the last two of those very recent ones. But I have always been Leelu’s person, and she has never held my presence at one of her fearful moments against me before. I was truly at my wit’s end and ready to give up when I went online and researched the side effects of Prozac, and made an educated guess that Leelu was experiencing one.

I am very lucky to have a vet who knows I am a careful observer and she believed me when I left a message saying that Leelu was 10 times more stressed on Prozac than before. She hadn’t been on it that long, so we were planning a very short “weaning off” period of a pill every other day for three doses. But after she skipped the first day, and had been off it for 48 hours, she was back to being the Leelu I know. The vet gave me permission to skip the “weaning off” since she was sooooo improved quickly, and she had been on it less than 2 weeks.

The timing was good. The vet wanted her to lose another 2-3 pounds (she was 42 lbs when I got her and is now 33) because of the old ACL injury and the spinal issue. Less weight is good. But she was losing the weight and I hadn’t been able to adjust her harness or collar without risking life and limb. When I took her for a walk this morning she slipped a leg out of the too-loose harness, right next to a very busy street. I took a deep breath (since dogs can sense stress and will respond in kind), relaxed as best I could, and thankfully, she let me get the harness off and hook her leash to the collar. She could have slipped out of the collar easily enough had she seen a squirrel or something, but we headed home and got there without incident. Deep breath. After I let some of my stress go, I was able to adjust her harness to fit her more svelte body. I’ll tackle her collar later…enough for one day. I never had any trouble with her harness, collar, Adaptil collar in the past, and I hope we are back to normal now.

There is still work to do. Leelu still has anxiety and goes “over threshold” quickly when she is scared. Pain, or the threat of pain, is a big trigger, and hopefully some of that is being handled by the Carprofen. Hands are another problem for her, especially flat ones coming toward her. The vet and I decided not to try another drug for the time being, and I will start her on a relaxation protocol created by Karen Overall to see if I can help her learn to relax more effectively. Once she is a bit calmer, I will also be doing muzzle training with her, so we have an option when we know she’s got a situation she can’t yet handle. We’ll give all of this a month or so and see where we are. Phew!

On the positive side, my little foster kittens, Leia and Luke, went together to their forever home a few days ago.

My foster room is empty, which is hasn’t been for more than a day or two since last March. I’m taking a little break since kitten season will start up usually in March or April at the latest. Cats don’t get pregnant when it is really cold, but it hasn’t been terribly cold this winter, so I suspect kitten season will be early. My poor brain hasn’t caught up with the empty foster room yet, and at least 5-6 times a day I remind myself to go check on the kittens. By the time my brain adjusts and I stop doing that, there will probably be kittens ready to come hang with me!

Lastly, it was an amazing week for some of us here in the United States. I was glued to the TV on Inauguration Day, and I feel like I can breathe again. So much work to do, but at least the work is finally underway. I know that there are millions who are probably very unhappy, and we have a lot of work to do to bring people closer together, but I am hopeful. It was a long four years.

26 thoughts on “Leelu Chronicles: Crazy Times

  1. Good news on Leia and Luke! I hope the new relaxation protocol works for Leelu. Wishing you good luck there.

    Yes, it has been a long four years, and a crazy start to this one. Hopefully people will start working together again towards the good of all.

    1. Thank you for the good wishes for the critters, and I am with you in hoping people can find some ways to start working together. I don’t think it will be easy, but hope it can happen.

  2. So happy with Biden/Harris at the helm!! Great news with the kitties. Leelu–poor little one. I hope everything works out. This has got to be hard on both of you.

    1. Amen to Biden/Harris! And yes, it has been very hard on Leelu and me. Hoping we can find ways of helping her so we have better days ahead.

  3. Poor Leelu. Lucky you are perceptive. With the change in administration I’m hoping some of my anxiety lessens. The constant background noise was grinding. We need some “nice.”

    1. The grinding of the background noise is a good description of the last four years. I, too, hope for a lot of nice coming up. It was so touching to see Dr. Fauci at the podium SMILING yesterday. The poor man hasn’t had much to smile about for a long time.

      1. He was battered and bruised. I’m surprised he stayed. He’s beyond retirement age. There was a collage of his facial expressions during briefings as he “heard” things. Hilarious! I couldn’t stand the negativity any more.

      2. Perhaps he is one of those saints, like RBG, who stayed because they were so trusted and needed. I couldn’t do it, but am grateful.

  4. Aw, poor Leelu. At least she’s with you. It’s tough on both of you, I know; but I also know you’ll both get through this. I have faith in you. And I’m here if you need an ally.

    As to the Biden/Harris inauguration, I’ve slept better these last two nights than I did the entire four years before it! And it’s been a welcome relief to NOT see their predecessors’ faces all. over. the. news this week! I can actually watch the news again without wanting to throw a brick at the TV every 30 seconds.

  5. Gosh, what a roller coaster ride you have been on! Hope things improve quickly for poor Leelu.
    I echo your relief, so glad that nightmare presidency is over– so much anxiety on a daily basis will take a while to get over!

    1. You’re right, Eliza. It has been a roller coaster for Leelu and me and for our country. I’m ready to get off…hoping lots of others are too. Lots of deep breaths…

  6. Leelu is a lucky pup to have found your family. I empathize with your situation. The Overall relaxation protocol is a really good one that works very well for many dogs, though there are a couple of other relaxation protocols out there as well. I’ve found if one protocol seems to be a struggle for a dog, often a shift to one of the other protocols helps in making progress. The slight differences in approach can make a difference for some dogs. Might be helpful to keep that in mind if you find yourself hitting road blocks in the relaxation protocol process. In terms of practicing recovery, oi, one of the most challenging, but valuable, parts of behavior mod I think. Sometimes it’s such a roller coaster for sure! You’re doing a great job!

    1. I wish I felt I am doing a great job. I feel like I’m driving around randomly without a road map. This is outside of my skill set, though I’m trying to learn. Thank you for mentioning other relaxation protocols. I looked at Suzanne Clothier’s Really Real Relaxation Protocol and also the Treat/Retreat ones, and wonder if those might be better options for Leelu. They would give her choice/agency rather than just trying to execute cues, and that might be helpful for her. Given how hand shy she is I’m guessing someone in her past was used to punishing her for not doing what she was told. When I started Nose Work with her she was afraid to even try and just closed down until she started to understand that all decisions were hers to make. I saw that Clothier does online/video consulting, and looked at another company that does that as well, and may investigate that further. I would feel better about what I’m doing if someone could help me with some kind of road map and plan rather than my just doing this and then that and seeing if anything helps. I have no idea how to teach Leelu to practice recovery, and she sorely needs help with that, and so many other things. But she’s a sweet dog at core, and really wants love, and I think and hope I can find ways to make her life richer and less scary. If you do this kind of work, or can suggest others who I might hire, I’m open to suggestions! I know my limits!!

  7. What a time you’ve had but it all seems to have worked out well….it’s just GETTING to the “worked out” stage that’s wearing on us. Glad the fosters are “home” and glad Leelu has you in her life. Pups like Leelu just need to be understood. She’s so lucky.

    Hugs, Pam

    1. We’re not there yet, but we’re sure working on it. Leelu’s definitely had a rough life.

  8. Sounds like you have your hands full with Leelu. At least you figured out it was the Prozac. I am also happy for Leia and Luke and I love their photo,

    1. Leelu has been a big challenge. We haven’t got it all figured out yet, but working on it.

  9. So sorry Leelu is struggling. Poor thing…these rescued pups have such heavy crosses to bear but she couldn’t have a better partner for realizing her full potential. Kudos to you for all you do for her (and for all your fosters!). We’re sending extra doses of pawsitive energy to help out. BTW, that weight loss is amazing! How’d you do it? Elsa had her annual bloodwork and could definitely stand to lose a few pounds (weight gain is a side effect of her Pheno medication). Well done!

    As for the past week, it was the first time in 4 years I felt proud enough to fly the flag. While there’s so very hard work ahead, at least there is an adult (and well placed professionals and not just political cronies cow-towing to an obviously insecure president) doing work and setting plans in place on all the challenges to combat COVID and the economy. I wish him and his administration all the best in tackling an enormous set of challenges left by the previous occupant.

    Enjoy a very well deserved break and pat yourself on the back for fostering your latest batch of kittens. Hugs and tails wags from all of us.

    1. My hopes, dreams and prayers are with the Biden/Harris administration as well. Apparently “sleep” and “breath” were trending on Twitter after the Inauguration, as in things we can do again.

      And I found someone who is going to help me with Leelu – hooray! I’ve been operating without a road map and just trying things, and I have found someone who has all sorts of behavioral and dog training credentials and has done this kind of work for many years, and we meet virtually on Wednesday. I feel much more hopeful about being able to have and execute a plan to help her.

      The weight loss was actually easy for her. I control the food, so I gave her the amount of kibble the vet suggested and lots of canned (low sodium) green beans to fill her up. She was walking about three miles a day as well, so that helped. She lost about 9 lbs in 4 months. It has to be harder when a pup is on Pheno – not a simple task since they are more hungry all the time, but maybe veges to fill the tummy would help. Not sure. Now, if someone could just control MY diet. I could stand to lose 5 lbs or so easily.

      I am missing the foster kittens, but am forcing myself to take a break. My brain keeps telling me multiple times a day that I need to go care for the fosters! But I was getting pretty tired at the end and it will be very bus when kitten season hits, so I am forcing myself to take a month off. Leelu needs most of my attention for now anyway. It is isn’t one animal, it’s another!

      1. How exciting that you will have a partner in Leelu’s psychological rehabilitation. It should be most helpful!

        I control Elsa’s meal and treat intake too but she managed to put on about 6 lbs. so I’ve reduced her kibble and upped her pumpkin and added beans or sweet potatoes which the vet thinks is a good idea and also added some organ meat once a day which she is really loving (protein is extra critical for epi-warriors and hope this helps out). Hopefully results will show up soon. I feel badly that treats are pretty much off-limits for the most part now because they help redirect her behavioral issues but will make extra efforts to assure she doesn’t get to redline status before redirecting her attention using visual cues rather than small treats. Now if someone would monitor me! 😁

      2. Sounds like Elsa’s situation is far more challenging, at least weight wise, than Leelu’s. We’re sending you good thoughts and hope the new regime works. What does she do in terms of redline status? I don’t think I know her story.

      3. She’s a puppy mill survivor and was basically feral when I adopted her. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with epilepsy. She displays a lot of fear aggression. Lots of issues but she has some good days and is super sweet toward people. It’s dogs (especially blacked colored dogs-probably because she was bred to a black standard repeatedly) that send her into orbit which amps up Norman, who assumes he must protect her. The dynamics between these two is complex.

      4. Wow…that’s a lot to manage. Makes Leelu sound like a cupcake! Elsa is lucky to have found you.

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