Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Torture Chamber

Apparently I am now into torturing my dog.

At least that's what she seems to believe every time I put her in my car.

Tess' behavior in the car is infamous.  Over the years she's developed some weird anxiety that has escalated to the point where she is impossible to have in the car without some kind of restraints (or Valium, though in truth, the dog Valium didn't work).  It borders on dangerous and reckless driving, hurtling down the highway in a tin can at 75 mph with a whining, bouncing, whirling dervish blowing its coat all over.

She has very nearly run me off the road before.

Drunk driving? Try driving under the influence of dog.

I don't get it.  I have friends with dogs who sit demurely and elegantly in the backseat, just staring out the window, hardly moving a muscle.  One friend has a black lab who likes to escape and doesn't feel the need to come back right away even when called.  My friend has only to pull her car out of the driveway and call Bella that they are going for a ride, and the dog is right there, ready to leap in the backseat where she will sit like a perfect lady and enjoy the ride.

Not my dog.  She's the one that can't ride in the bed of a truck because she'd be hanging over the side, practically falling out.  Take a corner too sharply, and she'd land right on her head in the middle of the street.

She wasn't always this way.  I adopted Tess from the Casper Humane Society, a two hour drive from my town.  When I first laid eyes on her she was ricocheting off the walls of her kennel, yapping like a dog possessed, and I was skeptical about loading her in my car.  I thought she'd tear it to pieces.

I drive a Honda Accord.  With velvety cloth seats.  It's not exactly dog-friendly, and it's definitely not hyperactive-crazy-dog-friendly.

I loaded her in the car, and she was fine, even for two hours.  The very next day I loaded her into my friend's truck for the seven hour drive down to Denver, and while she did explode in a tornado of fur, she did fairly well (she was in the extended cab, not the bed).

I drove her thirty miles every night for almost four months when I was dating the Drug Dealing Felon.  She's always been a bit of a whiner in the car, but I always attributed that to excitement because she does the same thing when we are about to walk out the door for a nice long walk.

So, what the hell is her problem lately?  In the last two years she has become increasingly worse about the car.  She doesn't balk at getting into the car.  She runs for the backdoor and jumps right in when I open it.  It's not until we hit the road that she starts screaming like I punched her in the beak, and spinning around, bouncing from one window to the other, or trying to scrabble into the front seat.  Nothing works.  The "travel pills" the vet prescribed to calm her down? Doesn't even faze her.  She barely gets loopy and she just behaves worse.

On the weekends when we drive two hours to visit California Guy I'm about ready to murder her as soon as we get there.  Some people have suggested that perhaps she knows she's going away from home and her territorial nature kicks in, causing anxiety.  Others have suggested since I adopted her from the shelter there maybe she thinks she's going back.

All good theories except for the fact that the ride home is almost always three times as bad as the drive down.

The last few weeks I decided I have had enough.  The pills don't work and there is no point even putting down a blanket to protect my seat because by the time we get to our destination she has wadded it up into a ball in one corner of the car from all the jumping around and stupidity.

I also do not appreciate a big furry tail slapping me in the face every time she feels the need to spin.

I got to thinking about how horses are cross-tied in their stalls to prevent them from moving around too much while getting tacked up or having their hooves cleaned or being examined by the vet.  I thought it might work on a dog.  I bought a super-duty highly durable backseat cover that supposedly attaches to all parts of the backseat to keep her from messing it up.  Then I took two leashes and wrapped one around each of the backseat headrests.  I put Tess' harness on her.  It has a D-ring on either side.  I attached a leash to each D-ring and secured her to the backseat.

You would have thought I was purposely trying to destroy her life the way she complained.  Within the first five minutes of the drive, she whined and screamed and yelped and tried to twist this way and that.  The cross-ties prevented her from jumping back and forth or spinning around.  She tried to duck under one in a spin attempt, and got it wrapped around her chest.  She tried to untangle herself and managed to wrap the other leash around her chest.  She made such a mess of herself that she found herself strapped to the back of the backseat, in a sitting position, completely stuck.  At one point she tried to climb up the back of the backseat, and what? Sit by the back window?  I yelled at her to get down, sit, and shut up.

She did.  Quietly.  For the remainder of the trip, which was almost an hour and a half.  I have never gone anywhere with her so still and quiet.

Honestly, we strap children in when we drive with them.  It's the law.  Children under a certain age or height or whatever must be strapped in a car seat (also so they can't bounce around and spin in the backseat). Dogs should be no different, but the setup in the back of my car does look a little like a doggy torture chamber.

If the dog's idea of torture is having to sit politely and quietly during a car trip, then I am torturing my dog almost every weekend.  Usually when we get to our destination she's worked herself into such a tizzy that she's dying of thirst and will drink a gallon of water.  This last trip where she was forced to sit still and quietly, she did not dive into her water dish the moment we got home.

She did, however, prance away from me when I took off her harness with the doggy equivalent of one finger in the air.

Really, I'm doing her a favor.  One slam on the brakes and she'd be through the windshield if we did things her way.  Now when I hit the brakes she's bound so tightly to the seat that she doesn't go anywhere and she doesn't get hurt.

She's also not dying of thirst.

If that's torture chain me to the wall.


The Pup Pit 
It looks scary, but no pups were harmed in the creation of this contraption.

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