She has been unavailable for the last month because she started to exhibit signs of separation anxiety. Fortunately, Comy's anxiety could be characterized as relatively mild, confined to barking when Foster Mom goes out to do errands and the like.
When Foster Mom recognized what was starting to occur, she decided to concentrate on helping Comy deal with her situation. Thus, it made sense to change Comy's status to temporarily unavailable during this time.
With RAGOM's support, Foster Mom consulted with a behavioral expert who recommended taking steps in two general areas to help Comy.
Firstly, we wanted to desensitize Comy (and, as it turned out, the 3 residents also!) to those cues that increase her anxiety level when Foster Mom is getting ready to leave the house. Foster Mom quickly realized how predictable she herself is: doing the same things - in the same order - every time!
We tackled "getting the car keys" first. Would you believe it took us almost 2 weeks to go from a state of high alert/avid attention in 4 dogs to mild interest on their part now when I pick up the car keys. Much repetition has led to this result!
We have now moved on to the next step: putting hat, gloves, and jacket on. One step at a time!
Secondly, we have worked on counter-conditioning. Interestingly, studies have shown that if a dog with separation anxiety is occupied for the first 20 minutes after his/her person leaves the house, the odds are very high that the pup will relax and go to sleep after that initial period.
Being occupied in our house means supplying Comy with a Kong and two shinbones filled with frozen peanut butter in her crate when I leave the house.
Lastly, we consulted with Comy's vet, and she is on a medication to help reduce her anxiety. And the good news is - our efforts are paying off!
A month ago, Comy was barking whenever I left the house and continued until my return home. Now, she's busy with her treats when I leave the house, and the frequency of barking when Foster Mom returns is under 25%. Terrific progress!
Other news is that Comy has been fully vetted and is 100% A-OK. She is fully healed from her spay surgery also. Foster Mom was just amazed that Comy had no interest in her incision after the surgery. We never had to bother with the dreaded cone of shame or a doughnut. Yippee!
A funny little story highlights once again the fundamental changes that have occurred to Comy's world in the last month and a half. All of the guys jockey for who will be first out the door in the morning. After our first snowfall about a month ago, however, Comy hung back and was initially reluctant to go out.
Why would that be? A check of Seoul's climate reflected that although there are several cold months each year there, snowfall is rare because the climate is so dry. It may well be that Comy had never seen snow before!
She, however, has rapidly adapted with great enthusiasm to our Minnesota winters and loves playing catch-me-if-you-can with resident Cubbie.
Comy continues to be an absolute sweetheart. She is a go-along gal who is happiest snuggling with the residents, playing outside with Cubbie, going on walks (she's shown great improvement on the leash), and just hanging out.
In her Forever Home, Comy would do best with a person/people who are home a good part of the day and a household where there is another dog. Obedience training will help greatly in the bonding process.
Her Forever family will need to continue working on the steps to desensitize and counter-condition her. With our combined efforts, Comy will continue to feel increasingly secure and grow in confidence that her family will always return to love and cherish her.