Metro-East Living

Just like people, dogs can be anxious or mentally ill

Lenny and the kids.
Lenny and the kids. Provided photo

Leonard Meehan Schrader is mentally ill. He’s a senior citizen now, but he’s been crazy all his life. At age 3, he was prescribed Valium for anxiety. The pharmacist refused to fill his prescription.

“This dosage is enough to kill a person,” he said.

“Leonard isn’t a person,” I said, somberly. “Leonard is a dog.”

Dogs metabolize medication differently than humans, so the dosage was correct.

Not that it worked.

Instead of calming Lenny down, the Valium revved him up. It also made him more paranoid than usual — to the point of crawling under the sofa to hide from a fly.

“Leonard is one in a million,” his veterinarian, Noelle Miles, told me, patting Lenny’s shaggy orange head. “There aren’t many dogs with Lenny’s mental makeup.”

Before resorting to medication, I had taken the 20-pound Cocker Spaniel mix to a series of dog trainers, the last of which suggested I euthanize him, since there was no fixing his multitude of issues.

Separation anxiety? Check.

Housebreaking difficulties? Check.

Random destructiveness? Check until you run out of checks.

In many ways, Leonard was The Woody Allen of dogs. Except Woody Allen doesn’t bite.

“You wouldn’t put down a human because they were mentally ill,” Lenny’s veterinarian said. “So why would you put down a dog?”

I agreed with her 100 percent.

So here I sit, nearly a decade later, with Lenny shaking in my lap. It’s barely sprinkling outside – no thunder or lightning – but that’s enough to give him a panic attack.

The good news? He no longer eats couches and doors. The bad news? He still has a weak bladder.

To this end, Lenny wears turquoise-colored diapers, which go beautifully with his wavy auburn hair. Like most redheads, he has aged really well. He still looks like a puppy although he has aged me and my husband, Mark, a million years.

It would take a book to tell all we have been through with this dog. So let’s fast forward to some of the good stuff.

Did I mention Lenny likes to cuddle in my arms? Yup, he snuggles like a baby. He also howls like one if I dare go for a walk without him. When I’m not home, my husband has to comfort him. He is not nearly as sympathetic as I am.

“You do realize he has you wrapped around his paw?” Mark says.

That’s OK. All my pets do.

In the summer, Leonard dons a bright yellow life jacket and rides the waves on the lake behind our house. Like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, Lenny has always had courage. He just had to climb on a wave runner to find it.

On land, he’s a scaredy-cat. In the water, he is fearless. Ears flapping in the breeze, he puts his paws on the steering column and waits patiently for me to hit the gas. In his youth, he also puppy paddled in the lake with our son, Sam, and his pals. These days, Lenny swims less because of mild arthritis. The slightest twinge in his hip can freak him out.

Though many of his “issues” have mellowed with age, The Woody Allen of dogs is still pretty much nuts.

“Can you believe Leonard is 12 and a half?” I asked my husband, recently.

“I can believe it,” he said. “So how much longer do you think he’ll live?”

“Hopefully forever,” I said.

On this point, we agreed to disagree.