Schaefer and Willow

Our two German Shepherds keep us pretty busy. Willow, the white dog in the foreground, is a straightforward and very loveable animal, who is extremely affectionate. She settled into our family very quickly, almost four and a half years ago and has overcome some of the fear she must have known in her previous home. She is still a bit skittish around men that she does not know, but she’s never aggressive.

Schaefer turned 10 last week. He is vastly more aloof than Willow, but has moments when he is capable of great affection. He is as stubborn as the day is long, but secretly I quite like that strength of character. The last couple of months, he has been struggling as he does sometimes with his mental health. We have a wonderful vet and around three years ago, after excluding physical conditions, we started Schaefer on fluoxetine (prozac) which worked well. The last six weeks or so, he has begun to develop the same stress behaviours and agitation as before. Once again, a clean bill of health for a ten year old Shepherd meant we had to consider psychiatric treatments and have started him on clonidine.

Clonidine is interesting. It’s a medication I occasionally use in human practice, to settle blood pressure at times and delirium at others. It turns out it is extremely effective in dogs too. I trust our vet and he also took advice from a colleague with greater experience in dog psychiatry, so we are trialling it, but I was apprehensive about how much effect it would have on Schaefer’s anxiety, versus potential side effects such as circulatory ones. I am delighted to report that so far we are only seeing positive effects. Almost no stress behaviours, but the same alert and interactive German Shepherd one would expect and no signs of lethargy, over-sedation or cardiovascular issues. We will remain vigilant, but so far so good.

This image was taken last weekend, after Carolin and I walked down to the beach with the dogs and had a coffee sitting on the wall of the yacht club. The weather was mild. The dogs watched the comings and goings along the beach until it was time to walk back.

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