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Thunderstorm Phobia


We have a problem with a member of the family. It is called Thunderstorm Phobia. Whenever a little storm develops, which always happens at two AM, our house is turned into chaos.

This affliction is new. It started only a month or so back. A rather big storm began in the middle of the night. The fear and whining began at the same time. My wife and I tried to comfort and explain that there was no danger then send him back to bed. Minutes later he was back shaking all over.

My wife and I took turns getting up to cuddle and soothe then took him back to bed, but again he was back in our room before we were back in bed. I even tried to lay with him in his bed until he could sleep but the minute I got up, so did he. One time I thought he was resting only to find him a few minutes later curled up beside my bed on the floor with his head resting against my outstretched hand.

A week later there was another storm and the cycle began anew. So that my wife could get some rest, I got up and went into the living room with him. I gave him something to eat and drink. I talked with him about how storms happen and explained how we were safe in our house. Yet I could not move two feet without him right beside me. With every light on he was still shaking with fear. Finally I lay on the couch to rest while he watched TV. Soon I had a partner snuggling down behind me and pushing me off the couch. It seems that constant touch was the only thing he wanted.

On another occasion the routine began again. After another round of explaining, with little success, we insisted that he sleep in his own bed and not with us. The next morning I found him curled up on our bathroom floor. He did not even get up as I took my morning shower.

Last night we had forgot the weather forecast of another small storm approaching. When we heard the thunder we knew he would be terrified. My wife got out of bed and went to the carport door to let him inside. At first she could not find him but noticed him in my car. He had jumped through an open window and was waiting for me to come and smoke my pipe. Yes, our dog Zac has a real problem and we are faced with a dilemma, not to mention a loss of sleep.

Seeking a solution we turned to the Web, AND found information from doggie behaviorists. It seems there are three methods used to combat this phobia; Desensitization, Counter Conditioning and Drugs.

Desensitization is the process by which an anxiety producing stimulus is presented subtly below the fear producing threshold, gradually increasing the intensity. In other words, play recorded thunder for the dog. We tried Beethoven 5th. It didn't work. Zac prefers Spice Girls.

Counter Conditioning is the process of conditioning an individual to respond to the feared stimulus with a reaction incompatible with the undesirable response. In other words, when it thunders, feed the dog. We tried Alpo and doggie treats. It didn't work. Zac wanted sirloin grilled medium rare.

Then we looked into anxiety reducing drugs, the same kind used by humans but not covered by medical insurance. I tightly wrapped a Valium inside a small ball of cheese. Zac ate the cheese away, licked the pill clean then spit it out on the floor. It didn't work. Zac informed us that he could not bare to tell his friends he used drugs and the he could not even contemplate detox at the Betty Ford Clinic.

Finally I remembered an event from my youth. I had a puppy that would get excited then peepee every time I came home. I asked my grand dad what I could do. First he said, Get shed of'em. Seeing my disappointment he suggested have ya ma put a little shine in his water bowl. That worked even though my puppy became an alcoholic.

Experimenting with Zac we found that anything over 20 proof when straight to his head causing him to be rude to the cats and that the juice of the grape did not suite his canine palate. However we found that fermented carbonation was desirable to him. He has a preference toward Bass Ale and Guiness Stout.

Now Zac looks forward to thunderstorms. They signal a social event where he will share a brew with dad watching the storm roll in just prior to retiring for a nap; laying on his back, paws in the air and his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth.