Life isn’t Perfect; It’s Still Mighty Good


Last in a series

For many dogs, separation anxiety has a hereditary basis but changes in their environment often worsen the problem. It turned out that Newt had been adopted from a shelter, followed by a few moves with his new family. Videos of him home alone showed him not barking or vandalizing but quietly pacing, nonstop – except for the occasional indoor restroom break.

There was no changing Newt’s genome or his life story but we could reduce his anxiety triggers. That confident visiting cat, who routinely scared the daylights out of this nervous little dog, needed to snack at someone else’s cafe. Sadly, it wasn’t that simple.

When I flatly stated that this interloper had to go, the sour looks on Anna’s and Tom’s faces made it clear that this was not some annoying stray; they regarded him as one of their own. I would have felt the same in their shoes but I had to try. Newt’s ability to see his nemesis could be diminished so I advised his people to install frosted window film on the lower portions of their glass door. I also urged them to move this fuzzy freeloader’s feeding station to a neighbor’s yard, maybe someone whose political signs offended them. I was only kidding; cats just don’t care. (I wanna be more cat-like.)

Surveillance video now showed Newt more relaxed and not urine soiling – as much. Tom and Anna admitted that that their feline soup kitchen was still open. The word was out. More homeless cats were dropping by.

Newt improved in other ways. I explained that, despite his undying love and trust for his people, being reached for and leaned over triggered panic for this little nervous wreck. Warning them away with a growl or a snap was a defensive reaction. Newt never planned to cuss anybody out but a sudden stab of fear unfailingly unleashed unkind and uncouth utterances. If flight was not possible, only fight remained.

I encouraged Tom and Anna to set this boy up for success with a better alternative. By squatting at a distance and luring him with food they made it easy for the little guy to happily approach to snag the biscuit and enjoy their gentle petting. If those stray cats could just catch on to healthy canine leadership all would be well in Newt’s world. But, alas, that would make politicians of these fuzzy felines. And they wanted no part of that.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.