Big Pupi spills it:
Hey guys. It's the cool canine (sans 'hawk) reporting. It's about time I tell you a bit about my brother, the beastly man himself, Stanislaw.
We've posted previously about Stanislaw's unknown abusive history that has left scars on his body. We've posted about Stan's quirks and general wackiness that were believed to be emotional scars left from his past experiences. However, the more we all research, the more we realize the depths of Stanislaw's disorder, and it's far more serious than we had ever realized.
Stanislaw had been improving - slowly but surely - through the (almost) 2 years since his adoption. It took a full year before he was physically well, and mentally many of his most severe symptoms had lessened or disappeared. For example, it wasn't too long ago that Stan would collapse during walks and writhe on the ground, screaming at pawing at his face. He also used to suffer from separation anxiety so severe that my folks would return home to find vomit, diarrhea and urine all over the apartment. Less than a year ago the collapsing went away and never came back, and his separation issues have been reduced to a touch of howling and whining when first left at home. HUGE improvements and in a very short amount of time.
Recently, however, Stanislaw has stopped making such great strides forward. My folks had always felt that as long as Stanley was progressing, they would hold off on medicating him as most anti-psychotic medications bring with them a laundry list of side effects. Stan is a thin and physically sensitive boy, and the thought of medication being the cause of a new set of issues is a very scary thing.
But Stanley has stopped progressing. In some ways, Stanley has been getting worse.
My brother has what is called "Canine Compulsive Disorder." It is very similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in humans, in that the animal is compelled to go through a series of repetitive behaviors and stress-induced habits. Stanislaw, unfortunately, is quite a severe example of the condition and his triggers are numerous and live everywhere.
Stan's compulsions are both visually and aurally stimulated. The sound of the train, reflections in a puddle, headlights from a car, a siren... It seems that just about everything sends Stan into a serious of ticks and twitches. His symptoms (a very brief list) include:
- staring and freezing
- twitching - biting at his side as if he was just bitten by a fly
- sitting suddenly and harshly, followed by fly biting and lip licking
- lapping at his nose
- licking the floor, the sofa, the food bowls, people's pant legs, etc. etc.
- placing his head underneath objects and freezing, eyes glazing over
- chewing his paws immediately after eating (not allergy-related)
- whining and freezing in front of any reflective surface (puddles, picture frames, mirrors, the oven door...)
- running a set pattern at the dog park and whining at various "stations"
- lunging and biting at marks or nails in walls and on the floor
...i could go on...
Sure, I lick and nibble at my toys and do this repetitive behavior every single night. But, I don't have a compulsive disorder. Why? Because this behavior does not prevent me from functioning normally. If I'm in the middle of a good nibble session and my folks say the magic word - "Weebles!" - I will drop what I'm doing and skip merrily to the front door. The behavior, while it is a habit, is not a problem.
Stan's behaviors, on the other hand, greatly and negatively effect his life. He simply cannot function when in the throws of the disorder. He cannot urinate. He cannot sniff. He can't even walk or move and once in the depths of his disorder my people have to scoop him up and carry him home. He won't play and at the worst of it, he is completely unresponsive to his surroundings. It's kind of scary stuff.
When Stanislaw first came home with us he would go into a behavior in which he would sit, lick his lips, and gently move his left hind foot so that it scratched the back of his left front foot. When he was like this, my parents could wave their hands in front of his face and he would not respond. He wouldn't even blink. Although this habit has not gone completely, he is at the point where he no longer "disappears" into it and he can be distracted.
But it seems that every time a habit is overcome it is replaced by new one. As we move from one to another the new behaviors can become bizarre (remember the poobles on the sofa?), they can improve, and even get worse. It's completely unpredictable and it makes it so difficult to judge whether we are making headway, standing still or just moving backwards.
It's been a rough road. Scary at times and incredibly hopeful at others. Perhaps the most difficult thing for my humans was the process of coming to grips with the fact that Stanislaw needs something more than love if he is to get off this plateau and continue on the road to recovery. They are facing the reality that Stanislaw's problems go beyond an abusive history and bad habits - they are the result of a chemical imbalance and he is suffering from an illness that no number of kisses, scritches or snuggles will fix.
My sweet little brother needs medicine.
It will bring side effects. Hopefully it will bring recovery too. What Stanislaw has is not curable, but with medication, obedience, reconditioning and lots of love we pray that he can quiet his demons enough to truly enjoy every day. During his good moments, my brother is an extraordinarily happy, wiggly, playful and bursting-with-joy kind of dog, and our goal is to keep him in that mindset and give him more good days than bad. As of now, the bad outweighs the good and Stan suffers. It's not easy to watch.
He will see the doctor on Saturday and we will discuss treatment options. I also owe you posts about his melatonin therapy and other behavior studies, but for now I think I have left enough letters and words for you to sniff through. In the mean time, I want to thank everyone that has offered their help and well-wishes because Stan thrives on the good vibes. So do I. So do my people. It's been two tough years but we're prepared to make the rest of the uphill journey. I mean, seriously...
...look at that beast. It's impossible to give up on him.
We'll keep posting and we'll keep you posted.
Monday, June 1, 2009