Violent Dogs Increasing Her Stress

Reader’s Question

I feel as if I am on the edge of part of my sanity. In the past 6 months these things have happened to me or around me:

May: My mother had cancer surgery and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

May: The day I returned from trip to visit mom in hospital, I had to have my 5 month old puppy put to sleep for health reasons.

Ongoing since last year: Tried and got my husband on the kidney transplant list after many, many hours of cutting through the red tape of the HMO bureaucracy.

July: Got a concussion and contusion from a door slamming into my head.

July: Took my other two one-year-old puppies into vet’s and witnessed one of them viciously trying to attack the doctor, which resulted in the puppy being put to sleep that day.

Ongoing: Terrified and super careful about all interactions with my dogs that might set off the same type of behavior I saw at the vet’s.

August: Saw two of my dogs try to kill my remaining one-year-old puppy.

August: Living with the two groups of dogs constantly separated.

September: Got very painful tendonitis in my elbow which kept me from sleeping for over a week.

September: With the weak arm, I wasn’t able to fend off another dog attack and my puppy got attacked again, but this time my leg was bitten and now I have some muscle or tissue tenderness, but I can’t go to the doctor because they’ll report my dog and I don’t think I could handle the loss of another dog, especially my favorite.

Ongoing: In the middle of trying to refinance our home, but having to argue with creditors to remove zero balances ruining credit score.

Aside from the normal, non-dog related stressors, I can usually handle things and I’m a very calm person, but now, and ever since this last dog attack, every time I hear the slightest disagreeable sound from any of my dogs, I get very upset and start crying, even when they’re just playing; I’ve now started yelling a lot too.

Am I just being overly sensitive from all of the dog problems, or am I ready to just go over the edge?

Psychologist’s Reply

You are clearly overwhelmed by stress…and your dogs aren’t helping. In the middle of your family and personal stresses, your dogs have not only added to your stress, but have actually traumatized you. The violence in your dogs has significantly increased your stress level that was already very high. As a result, you are now on edge, hyperalert, and living in expectation that something else serious will happen any time. Like a soldier in a combat zone, you are hyperalert for any sound, motion, or situation that may prompt a sudden violent behavior in your dogs, a violent situation you feel obligated to join once it starts. This level of stress and tension is emotionally exhausting.

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With this level of stress, you need to back up…away from the edge. I would recommend consulting your family physician or a mental health professional. You will benefit from antianxiety treatments, including medications, stress-reduction techniques, and counseling.

You may also want to consider decreasing the number of dogs in your life, especially the vicious ones. While I understand your love and loyalty to your pets, they are clearly too aggressive and are adding a lot to your stress. They have bitten you, the vet, and attacked other animals at this point. You are now so concerned with hiding their violence that you are avoiding your own medical care for injuries (dog bites). While you worry about the loss of a dog or dogs, in a way, you have already lost the warm, loving feelings you had for certain dogs as they now actually terrorize you in your own home. You may need to remove the dogs and focus on your realistic issues such as your health, your mother, your finances, etc.

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