Now, now—don’t fret. I’m not here to complain about our impromptu trip to Missouri. It was completely unplanned and happened almost immediately after adopting Grizz. Eric and I were sitting at a stop light spewing statements like, “I’m not sure the dog can handle our lifestyle right now” followed by a “Do we turn left (West) as planned or right (East)?” A deep sigh and a head shake later and we were saying, “I can’t believe we’re going back to Missouri after we swore we weren’t going to go this year”. Then, we each took turns repeating that last sentence for at least 300 miles, until we knew it was too late to turn around.
Honestly, the pup had some serious fear and anxiety issues to work through before we could even consider doing our “normal”. So we drove and drove and drove with a scared, depressed dog who just lost everything he knew; who slept almost the entire time out of sheer exhaustion from stress. Yes, it was just as sad as it sounds. Our hearts repeatedly broke every time we looked into those fearful, distrusting chocolate brown eyes. Eric and I learned very quickly that those very eyes that melt your heart can also destroy it—unfortunately for us, at the time it was definitely the latter. Our only hope is that we made the right choice for Grizz and that he would soon come to understand the world is a giant playground and not a nightmare inducing horror movie.
After arriving at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, things got a bit better. While still fearful of the outside world, Grizz warmed right up when indoors. He was accepting of our love and affection and begging for belly rubs as he enjoyed Grammy’s soft quilt on her cozy bed. Unfortunately, getting him outside was quite the chore—he was absolutely terrified of everything. At one point, even the slightest breeze or falling leaf would set him off. I would walk with him short distances (maybe 50 yards) at a time, multiple times a day and try to work on some basics while indoors. Often, our walks occurred between the hours of 4-5 AM and 10-11 PM when it was dark and quiet JUST to get him out the door and exercising. I mean, this is a canine that could easily walk 20 miles a day and we were barely getting 1000 steps in! Even towards the end of our stay, we were lucky to get a mile a day walk out of him. Grizz just never felt comfortable, despite it being a quaint, relatively quiet small town full of retirees.
While at the farm, we saw an entirely different side to Grizz. He really opened up and his true colors shined (in-between all the fearful episodes of course!). He ran, paddle boarded, swam, climbed hay bales, and then ran some more—he was in doggie heaven. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check out the last blog here for details/pictures of the farm and to learn more about Grizz! Anyways, we had practically 150 acres all to ourselves and Grizz enjoyed the peaceful solitude with the occasional donkey chatter (Grizz’s favorite!). Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay forever. We were all sad about that—we love the farm. But, old man winter was around the corner and we got snubbed by a short fall. Instead of a good month, we got 2 weeks before the rain hit and forced us to leave our secret haven. We were all saddened by this and traipsed back to town with our heads hung low.
Momma D (aka Grammy to Grizz) cheered us up with a Blackberry Pie and we boosted Grizz’s spirits with a fresh bone!
Practice Makes Perfect
During our time in Missouri, we attempted a few trail runs at some nearby sate parks to see how Grizz would react to our travel routine. Between the cold temperatures, rain/snow, Grizz’s anxiety, and our exhaustion, it did NOT go well.
Cuivre River State Park
Eric and I were excited to try the Cuivre (pronounced quiver) River SP near Troy, MO. We drove 3 hours and once we were on the road the lead to the campground, we started to feel it was worth every minute. The tree lined drive was spectacular despite the cloud packed, dreary cold day. We pulled into the nearly empty campground only to find out that Missouri now requires a 24 hour advanced reservation to camp. WHAT? The guy manning the booth was apparently unable to help so we drove away with disappointment in our hearts. At least we stopped to hike a nearby trail so that we could all get some exercise. Grizz was pretty excited about that! The trail was empty, likely due to the rain, so we all burned some excess energy and headed back to the farm. At least that was only an hour away!
Graham Cave State Park
Graham Cave SP offers a few short, but nice trails that total about 5 miles. Grizz loves an empty trail, but as soon as people, other dogs, or noises our of our control occur, he is ready to bolt. For a 42 pound dog, Grizz is as strong as a 300 lb. lumberjack with a low hanging gut bending the stripes of his long sleeved flannel. This dog.
Considering this park is separated from a major interstate by only 50 yards of half-leaved trees, the noise factor was a huge issue as we wove in and out of the various trails throughout the park. On the way back, a man-child was having a good ole time as he rolled his remote controlled truck up the hill—that went well. Ha.
Grizz, buddy, we can’t control the world!
Finger Lakes State Park
After many failed attempts, we settled for Finger Lakes near Columbia, MO. We made our 24 hour advanced reservation (super bogus idea Missouri!) and off we went. Eric needed to install our new heater, Grizz was in dire need of some exercise (not because of my lack of trying!), and I was in need of some time outside! Grizz had a vet appointment nearby and we figured we could hit the dog park a few more times before leaving Missouri for good.
It was a long two days, but we all survived.
After moving half the van out into the wild and detaching the co-pilot’s throne, Eric went to work installing our new Webasto heater. This is when living without the comforts of a home/garage can be a big pain in the rear end. Luckily, these moments are few and far between, but, as you can see, it can happen!
Grizzy and I are so thankful to have such an awesome, smart, hard-working poppa in our lives. Because of him, we will all stay warm after a long day of adventuring!
Me, well, I had 2 jobs: Keeping Grizz busy and feeling as safe/happy as possible AND meal duty. Nothing is worse that being cold and hungry so the least I could do was feed the crew.
All I can say is that the awning was our BEST. DECISION. EVER.
So yeah, I cooked, walked the dog (a LOT), and spent my free time outside all alone while Eric worked and Grizz hid in his dark corner of the van. Oh, Grizz did give me something extra special to do with my time. You can read about that next. At least we got our first 8 mile walk during our time here. That felt like somewhat of an accomplishment!
Hello world. It’s me again! I thought I would give you the deets (details) on our time at Finger Lakes from my point of view.
In short, dad made a lot of noise, mom seemed stressed and I pretty much didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything because I was scared.
I’m not sure why I’m always scared but once I get freaked out by one thing, it seems I panic and become overwhelmed by everything all at once.
I can tell that mom was really trying. She took me on so many walks, which I really wanted to like, but again, I was scared. The trees were moving, the leaves were falling, and every once in a while a large deer would run through the woods once it spotted us and that really made me nervous. So mom and dad both left me alone to chill out.
That first afternoon I got a little more comfortable with my surroundings and forgot all about being scared when I spotted a squirrel and took off into the woods. I mean, how was I supposed to turn down second breakfast? Anyways, I was so enthralled with that big brown bushy tail, I didn’t even hear mom yelling my name. After growing tired of waiting for Mr. Squirrel to come down from that tall tree and “play”, I waltzed back to camp where I found an unhappy mother. She didn’t yell, but I could smell her disappointment and that made me sort of sad. So, I laid there and listened to her quietly gripe as she picked hundreds of sticker burrs from my fur.
I also got a haircut today. Mom said it was because I ran into the thicket and came out with dreads that she couldn’t comb out. Now my tail looks kinda funny. I hope it grows back. I love my wispy hair because all the ladies like to pet me and ooh and awe over my thick, soft salt & pepper fur.
Overall, I’m not liking this “adventurous lifestyle” that Mom and Dad keep talking about. We keep going new places when all I want to do is stay inside and hide from the world with my familiar smells. Most days I miss my old yard and my step-brother Ollie.
Well, it was nice to chat with you all. I’m going to hand the story back to Mom.
Fighting the Fear
This is Grizz after a month with us.
It wasn’t looking good. We’d tried medications (CBD oils specifically for dogs and the vets horrible recommendation of Trazodone—which was a once and done deal for us—vets tend to be pill pushers much like most doctors!). Not knowing what else to do we also purchased scented, pheromone releasing collars, frequented the dog park for socialization opportunities, and went to quiet (but new…everything is new) locations like State Parks, regular parks, and empty campgrounds). We even reached out to Grizz’s foster family and the rescue agency for advice!
Unfortunately, Grizz seems to need a consistent home, a yard, and an alpha dog he can mimic to be truly happy at this point. He really seemed to be thriving at his foster family’s home before we came along. It’s heartbreaking.
Eric and I have decided to try a serotonin booster with a medication called 5HTP recommended by the rescue’s owner and give him 6-8 more weeks to try and adjust to our lifestyle before making THE decision. We love Grizz so much, but we also want him to thrive and find happiness. We never would have imagined in a million years that a dog wouldn’t love our lifestyle. What’s not to love? Well, little Grizzy Bear has a pretty long list.
Either way, love or hate, this is our life and there is only so much we can do to make Grizz happy. All I can say is that we’ve tried our best and whatever is going to happen is going to happen. Send positive vibes our way in hopes that Grizz can get a grip on his anxiety so that he can overcome the fears that rule over his brain. We really want to be his forever home but he has to WANT it too.
Next stop…Kansas. We’re headed back out West in hopes of finding a semi warm spot to adventure this winter.
Stay tuned for more blog posts to come!
Until next time friends….