If You’ve Ever Loved A Dog

I always knew I loved my dog.

Kona.

My Kona Bear.

I always knew I loved him, but I never knew I loved him this much. My heart feels shattered every time I think about saying my last goodbye to him, the last goodbye I thought would be said as I held him taking his last breaths. But expectations often mislead us. Life has its own plans, and sometimes we give everything we can until there’s nothing left and we’ve gotten nowhere. Or somewhere, but not the somewhere we want to be. And that’s where I am now, and that’s why I’m asking for your help.

The Short Version

Kona has developed severe separation anxiety after jumping through a second story glass window during fireworks around the 4th of July (see full story with photos below). I have spent over 5 months working with different trainers to crate train him so he would be safe left alone.

Nothing has worked.

What I’ve Done

  1. Crate Training: 2 different trainers over 5 months
  2. Treats and bones of all kinds, Kong filled with peanut butter
  3. Thunder Shirt
  4. Bitter Spray on crate bars
  5. Moving him to different locations in the apartment
  6. Playing soothing classical doggy music
  7. E-Collar (with professional guidance — I am aware this is controversial)
  8. Obedience training (I have continued with this for 5 months diligently. He is always in a command. Not helping.)
  9. No affection (I have been doing this for over a month and a half. No significant change.)
  10. Cannabinoids (CBD)
  11. Prozac (no change whatsoever)

I have spent endless hours training him one-on-one, testing various tactics (see above), and sitting outside my apartment watching him on a Nest Camera. He has broken out of the crate, and during the times he has stayed in there he bites the bars, bends them, chips his teeth, and leaves blood on the ground from his gums. Clearly, he is also not safe in the crate. I have also boarded up the kitchen to hold him there safely.

He escaped.

Finally, I left him out in the living room to lay by the door where he goes each time he escapes. I checked in on the Nest Cam, and he was standing on the bed, crying, and pressing his 85 lb body against the window. When I put a chair on the bed and against the window he climbed up onto the chair that was on the bed to get to the window. In my last attempt he chewed the trim on my front door.

Then I stopped trying.

I am exhausted. I am emotionally burnt out. I am unbalanced. I miss my life.

I need help.

I have no more money to invest in Kona. Two trainers have recommended I get Kona board and trained, and I’m considering attempting to crowd fund the $4,000 quote I got from my latest trainer.

To be honest, I’m scared. I’m scared that I’ll go through all this and won’t get the money. Or I will get the money and this won’t work. I’m scared to try to find him a new home because who could take this on? I’m scared someone will try and not succeed and he’d get shuffled around or euthanized. And I’m scared that I’m going to go crazy being locked in my apartment with him one more week or month or God forbid longer.

I am so in love with my dog it goes without saying, but I will say it: I love him so deeply I can hardly speak about giving him up. But I am desperate. I am at the point where this is no longer healthy for me, and this stress isn’t healthy for Kona either.

And I should note that aside from this issue Kona is an amazing, sweet, gentle, often-called-dopey dog. He’s great with kids. He lays around at home snoozing comfortably. He loves going for runs and playing with dogs that are a good fit for him (he mostly loves puppies). He is also a very different dog than he was 5 months ago. He sleeps in his crate every night. He goes in his crate whenever I tell him to. He eats in his crate. He has made immense progress walking past dogs and cats without acting out. All of the obedience training the trainers helped me with have made major improvements in him as a dog. But none of them have allowed me to leave him alone safely or otherwise. And if I can’t leave him alone, I don’t know how I can have him in my life.

The Long Version

How It All Began

Kona and I live in Los Angeles, California. We were living in an apartment in a nice neighborhood where people liked to set off loud fireworks. They have scared Kona before so I planned to stay home with him on the 4th of July, which I did. But the festivities continued at random all throughout July and August. One day I came home from an 11am run to this:

Then the epic night happened. I needed to go out for a few hours so I moved everything in the room away from the windows so he couldn’t hurt himself. Well, Kona was so terrified that he somehow managed to jump through the second story glass window. He needed stitches, but was thankfully ok.

But the vet said he’d continue to do this because he now had an escape route, and he was right. Kona even tried to jump out the window while I was home and there was a thunderstorm. His anxiety had escalated to a point I’d never seen. So now that I knew he would continue to hurt himself, and the fireworks didn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, I had to find a way to keep him safe.

I HAVE SPENT THE PAST FIVE MONTHS AT HOME WITH MY DOG.

I have worked with three different behaviorists, spent endless hours watching videos and reading forums online, I have resorted to medication and e-collars, I have sacrificed my freedom and at this point, my sanity. This is how much I love this dog. I’ve done everything in my power to help him, and I’m at my last resort. I need your help.

The Path We’ve Lead

  1. The first trainer was a former one who gave me pointers on crate training like covering the crate, making it a place he’d like, and then giving him frozen kongs stuffed with peanut butter to numb his gums and not want to chew the crate. None of that worked. They didn’t seem interested in working with me further so we moved on.
  2. The second trainer I hired after only a week or so in. I was desperate for help (I had no idea what desperation really meant back then!), and they advised a board and train. They said it was $800/week and that they couldn’t say how long it would take but probably at least three weeks. Well, I couldn’t afford three weeks, and I definitely couldn’t afford an open-ended situation. So they told me that if I did their 6 week training package and was diligent with him I would have him crate trained and left alone by the end of 6 weeks.
  3. That did not happen.
  4. I did three session with them over 4 or 5 weeks. These were obedience training session. I got Kona a prong collar. He learned how to walk next to me (woo!). I taught him how to be patient. I gave him food only in the crate. He slept in the crate every night. He spent lots of time in the crate. And he was fine in there.
  5. Until I left or attempted to leave.
  6. Kona would freak out. His ears perked up, he cried, he stood up alarmed, he smacked the crate with his paws, bit the bars, on and on.
  7. The trainers told me to do whatever I needed to do to knock him out of it. They suggested banging the crate door, scolding him firmly, splashing water on him, clanging a loud jar of coins.
  8. None of that worked. Every time I left he freaked out.
  9. I put him on Prozac (wasn’t an easy choice for me, but again, desperation). He was on it for 2 months with nothing changing.
  10. Kona gets super anxious walking past other dogs. He often jumps in the air and barks depending on the dog’s energy. These trainers had me yanking Kona hard each time but they soon realized that had no effect on him.
  11. Now the trainer had no other advise for me but to do the board and train.
  12. I scoured the internet looking for help and found Jeff Gelman. I’d never heard of e-collar technology, and I watched all of his videos and tuned in to ask him questions via Periscope. I hired his colleagues for my third set of trainers.
  13. The e-collar is helping Kona make great progress with dogs, and area no other trainer or technique I have tried has done. But it did nothing for the crate. When he is being left alone in the crate he bugs out. I did two sessions with them and was given guidance on working with him in the crate, but it didn’t work. They are recommending he do 3 or 4 weeks with them.
  14. I decided to block off the doorway and keep his crate open to see if that helps. He broke through the barrier.
  15. I decided it might help him to be able to see the door. I read some people had success in that way and that he’d feel more in control. He broke through the barrier and went to the door each time.
  16. I finally just let him out. Then he went for the windows and then chewed the trim on my door. I’m renting. There goes my security deposit.
  17. Now I’m here asking for your help.

Kona’s History

Kona is a rescue. We don’t know his origins, but a friend of mine was sitting outside at a restaurant when she saw Kona run across the street and get hit by a car. He survived, unscathed as usual, and went to live with a new owner. Six months later that owner decided to give him up when Kona nipped at a stranger on a movie set. This is when I came in.

When I first got Kona he scratched my front door up a little bit and was told he whimpered a few times while I was gone, but that quickly stopped. After about 2 months I began dating someone, and when we stayed at my boyfriend’s place Kona showed signs of severe separation anxiety. He chewed up the trim of his apartment. I tried to crate train him back then but he always managed to bust out. Then he began to chew himself up. One time we came home to find blood everywhere and Kona’s big bushy tail completely gone, now raw and bloody. I had him wear a cone when we were gone and he eventually got used to it and was fine being left alone. For over a year and a half I had no issues with him and separation anxiety. Until the firework incident.