When my husband was dying of cancer and I was so desperately looking for something to hold on to, as he was all skin and bones, this seven-year-old, five pounds of love named Bailey came into our lives.
It wasn’t long when it became apparent that she sensed when my husband was having a bad day, as she would leave my side and go to him, which always cheered him up. She officially became his emotional support dog until my husband died, then she became mine to emotionally help me get through each lonely day.
Now, my “Baby Bailey” is not only old, estimated about 15, but, she is almost totally blind, and can only hear if you put your mouth right up to her ear. She has a bad heart, has thyroid problems and dislocated back knees.
She doesn’t do her “happy dance” anymore and sleeps most of the time. Somehow, she has taught me what her needs are. As seeing she was never a barker, it wasn’t an easy task to always know when she needed to go out, etc. One night while I was sleeping, I heard her feverishly scratching away at the pillow she sleeps on. In the beginning, when she started doing the constant scratching, I thought that she was having anxiety attacks, and after a week of on-and-off scratching and practically destroying her pillow, I took her to her vet to be examined.
The vet told me that it is not uncommon for dogs to have anxiety attacks, like humans, when they can’t see or hear, and she prescribed both an anxiety pill and a sleeping pill to give her.
It seemed to help somewhat, but not as expected; the scratching of her pillow continued on and off several times a day and at night. To add to all the frustration, she started scratching her right side then her left side of her body. Both myself and the vet were clueless as to why.
Then one day during one of her episodes, I got down on the floor with her and asked, “Why?” At that moment, she started licking her upper lip. A light went off in my head, and I immediately went to her water bowl, which was stone dry.
After drinking a huge amount of water, her meds make her very thirsty, she settled down on her pillow and went to sleep. About an hour later, the scratching started again, and though I had paper-trained her a year before, she still prefers to go outside. So, on a hunch, I took her out for a walk at 5 a.m., and after she was done, she again fell asleep like a contented baby.
Over the months, she and I have bonded in a very special way. Now, whenever she scratches on her pillow, I know she needs something — water, food, out, loving. There is always a reason, and it is usually one of those four things. When her needs are met, back to sleep she goes.
She is off her anxiety and sleeping pills but still takes five pills a day for her other medical problems. I am now her “emotional support person,” and her ability to both physically and mentally let me know what she wants or needs with her pillow scratching, has made us both much happier.
Joan Bennett Kusnetzov, Wellington