Is My Dog Afraid or In Pain or Both?

February 18, 2021

An archived post from 2016 discussing the rescue of our girl Emma.

(Archived post from June 2016)

I forgot the Number One Rule of Emma: When Emma doesn’t feel well, she gets scared.

More than two years ago, when we brought our girl home from the shelter, Emma was a mess — physically, emotionally, and stink-ally (Oh did she stink!!!!). It took us months and months to even begin to sort out her physical ailments, which included food and environmental allergies, a rare roundworm in her sinuses, anal gland problems, ear and eye infections, in addition to a terror of pretty much everything.

Interestingly, as we sorted out each problem, not only did Emma look, feel, and smell better, but she became more confident. And whenever something went wrong (i.e. ANAL GLAND INFECTION!!!!), not only did she not feel well, but her fears grew stronger.

Friends probably think I’m nuts, because I am hyper-vigilant about Emma’s well-being. But when she doesn’t feel well, Emma’s separation anxiety gets worse, her tail tucks, she freezes or runs and hides, and at times, she even becomes resource guardy. In essence, when Emma doesn’t feel well, life gets harder for all of us.

So, given this incredible insight into All Things Emma, you’d think I’d remember the number one rule:

When Emma doesn’t feel well, she gets scared.

You’d think that two months ago, when Emma first became scared of the hardwood floors, I might have thought, Gee, that’s odd. Emma hasn’t had an issue with these floors before. I wonder if she’s feeling ok.

Or two weeks ago, when she wouldn’t even come down the CARPETED staircase I’d have thought, Huh. That’s crazy. Emma loves the carpeted stairs. I wonder if THAT OLD HIP INJURY THAT HAS PLAGUED HER SINCE WE ADOPTED HER HAS FLARED UP AGAIN?!?

I am excited to share with you that yesterday I finally had the latter epiphany.

Ems and I have just returned from the vet where we learned (Well, I learned… Clearly Emma has known all along.) that not only does her left hip hurt her, but her right hip is also bothering her, as well as her back and her neck.


Thankfully, cold-laser therapy works wonders on my girl when her joints ache. So, I am confident that her pain will lessen rapidly.

Sadly, fear is incredibly easy to instill in a dog and ridiculously difficult to overcome, so it might take some time before Emma is truly comfortable walking on the stairs and the floors again. If every step has caused her pain, then each one of those steps told Emma that walking in our home was something to be afraid of. This has been going on for two months, so that’s a lot of Pavlovian-conditioned fear to reverse.

For now, I will just rejoice in knowing that Emma will be feeling better soon. Her life started out so crappily — being a caged breeder, and all — that I hate for her to have any more bad days.

I think it’s time for me to print up the Number One Rule of Emma and hang it in front of my toilet* so that Hubz and I never forget:

When Emma doesn’t feel well, she gets scared.

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