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It’s a month today since Isis last made herself bleed. The target, as usual was her little back right leg.
She used to attack herself daily. Frequently ten times or more. Often I lost count. These attacks were usually preceded by frantic spinning rages.
The worst days seemed like a round of rages, blood letting and attending to her wounds. Touching her legs or feet to clean the bites set her off again of course. And so it went on.
Her frustration threshold was very, very low: she was unable to tolerate having her collar and lead put on, waiting a few seconds for a door to be opened, anything touching her legs or tail, however fleetingly, dropping a bit of food or a treat, being touched with a towel, being thwarted in any way. Every situation seemed a potential flashpoint. I tried not to communicate my anxiety to her but I am sure I rarely succeeded.
On good days she raged, snarling and growling, lunging at her feet and tail but not drawing blood. She tore out her hair instead, leaving clumps of it scattered around the kitchen, hall or grass.
She even woke from sleep in a rage. I often went downstairs in the middle of the night to try to comfort and calm her. Touching her seemed to make her even more angry. But during the worst rages the choice was between making her even angrier and letting her tear lumps out of herself.
I read all I could find about this strange behaviour. The waking from sleep rages, I read in several articles, were characteristic of forms of epilepsy or brain tumours. If this was so in Isis’s case, there was little hope I thought. Always the optimist! Other writers believed the rages to have purely behavioural origins. Here was hope.
But, as long-term blog readers will know, over time, with support from Kerry and Garry at Aeza, from wise UK based friends and from R.S.P.C.A. Newbrook Farm, Birmingham, I have begun to understand where Isis is coming from, to see a little of her view of things.
She still wards off her imagined enemies when she eats, and rages when the bowl is empty, but the rages are self limiting. Now, no blood for a month. How wonderful.
And now she rarely nips out her hair. The hair on her right flank and leg, which has always been very much shorter than the rest of her coat, appears to be growing. At the end of last year she had bitten out most of the longest tail hairs and I trimmed off the few remaining ones to match. Now her tail has regained its full dangly elegance.
Most important of all, of course, she is a much, much happier little dog.
Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dogwatchuk.com