Rocks, Storms, and Being Alone

First in a series

Seemingly logical assumptions can lead the most cautious among us down the wrong path. Veterinary medicine provides generous opportunities so I gather every detail possible. Because it’s important for me to understand the people who bring their pets to me I ask their ages and occupations. Nearly everybody complies.

Diane and Don Sheets, each retired and in their early 80s, lived in a semi-rural (semi-wild) area near Santa Fe, NM. They had one dog, a spaniel mix named Harvey. The Nichol family’s previous dog was Miss America; our current Border collie is Mick Jagger. The reasons for those names are obvious, to me, anyway. The Sheets’ named their dog Harvey because, to them, he looked like a Harvey.

Harvey could be sanguine when his world was quiet but his errant behaviors wreaked havoc in Diane’s mind. During storm season this poor dog jumped at the walls, barked incessantly, and drooled like a fire hose. If allowed loose in the yard he snuck around like a ninja to find the perfect landscaping rocks to swallow. His veterinary surgeon knew his intestines well, having visited often. While Diane wrung her hands, Don seemed imperturbable. Maybe they had division of labor in their marriage with Diane as designated worrier. Still, I wanna be more like Don.

Harvey was referred to me for treatment of his pica (eating non-food items), his storm phobia, separation anxiety, and his frantic barking and thrashing during car rides. He was a mess. The brain is a complex and mysterious organ. I worry about my patients’ brains; you may be wondering about mine.

I was a general practice veterinarian for many years. I’ve opened lots of abdomens to retrieve loads of foreign junk including meat wrappers, bottle caps, dental floss, toys, and rocks. Then I shook up my career by pursuing, somehow successfully, residency training in veterinary behavior medicine. Referring veterinarians send me tough cases like Harvey. Because of my specialized training, it’s my job to plumb the depths of malfunctioning dog and cat brains.
Next week: Why would Harvey’s brain compel him to eat rocks?
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 Facebook Live 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.