I hate leaving my dog in a pension!

Christmas, every year the same nightmare

Finally I have my dog back from the pension. We stayed at my in-laws for a few days, and my mother in-law hates dogs.

Our friends can never look after him over Christmas, as they are either away or working, and I do not want to leave him home alone, even for a few hours, because of the fireworks. So every Christmas, it’s the same conundrum

Couches, not cages

Our local dog pension (Roma, in Nootdorp, the Netherlands) has a great formula: lots of sofas and no cages. But of course, it is fully booked until …. 2013 (considering the fact that I wrote this in 2010…) So I bowed to the (relentless) pressure of my mother-in-law and grudgingly agreed to leave my dog in a more traditional pension.

The walk of death

The pension building reminded me of a dog shelter (I have worked in a few over the years): a narrow corridor lined by dog pens, full of dogs that are stressed out of their mind. The barking was deafening.

It was enough to break my heart, as my dog spent two years in dog shelters before we adopted him. I kept thinking these stressful times would all come back to him when exposed to such a similar set-up.

He refused to follow my husband inside, so I had to abuse his trust in me to get him to go in. It took all his trust in me to dare walk down that narrow corridor (he was totally freaked out).

I sprinkled some treats in his basket in his pen, and sneaked out. It felt like a rotten thing to do, but I knew that big goodbyes just make things worse.

I don’t mind telling you, but I cried when I left that building.

Result?

When I came to collect him:

  • He was so stressed and overwhelmed he didn’t even recognize me.
  • He had barked himself raw; and
  • He stunk of urine and excrement.

When we got home, I gave him a walk and a bath, and then he just collapsed, exhausted and satisfied, in his basket.

What went through his head?

I guess all the worries of trauma were in my head, and this is more or less how it really went for him:

  1. Car trip (Normal.)
  2. Pension parking lot (Interesting smells.)
  3. Pension reception area (Maybe I could try to steal some of these treats here on display.)
  4. Walk towards the pens (I can hear and smell really stressed dogs. I feel a bit wary.)
  5. Walk in the building 1st attempt, with my husband (Are you nuts? Am not going in there! There are lots of really stressed out dogs barking at me. It’s overwhelming, and it stinks.)
  6. Walk in the building 2nd attempt, with me (OK, if it’s you. I know things are safe when you’re about.)
  7. Walk in the pen (Oh, a game with treats. Am kind of freaked out, but hey, a treat is a treat.)
  8. He realizes I left (Hey, where are you?! Those barking dogs! Soooo stressful. It’s too much, am barking too.)
  9. (Over the new few days) Food arrives (Ha haaa, food!)
  10. (Over the new few days) Next walk  (Ha haaa, walk!)
  11. I come back to collect him (Walking down that corridor really close to those barking dogs is really scary. Let me out of this madhouse.)
  12. He realises it’s me (Oh it’s you? I’m too stressed to process this right now.)
  13. Long car trip (Haaaaa, finally something normal.)
  14. Back home  (Normal.)

After such a overwhelming few days, I was half expecting his separation anxiety to creep back up, but he’s just been his relaxed self. It left me wondering: just how much of a nasty experience does it take to throw a dog off balance?

Any comments?

I would love to hear from you about any question or comment you might have, especially:

  • What is your experience of dog pensions in your region? Any day, or never again?
  • If you work in a dog pension
  • If you have experienced cage-free and traditional pensions. What is your preference?
  • Do you ever notice a change in behaviour in your dog after returning from a pension stay?

Further reading

Getting your dog through Dutch New Year’s Eve – Canis bonus dog tips for fireworks night
Thinking of getting a dog? Reality check – Canis bonus article on responsibilities of dog ownership
Dog separation anxiety: a treatment protocol – Canis bonus treatment protocol for separation anxiety
Adopting a shelter dog: a personal account –  The story of Roger, the Canis bonus dog.

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