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Matthew Sisk: Figuring out dogs odd behavior
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Lemmy has an irregular appointment today.

He arrives at the hospital before I do and will be boarded with us for the day while his family runs some errands.

This single decision by the family will make all the difference in the world.

Lemmy needs his yearly checkup, but his behavior at home has become odd. It is not problematic or concerning in a negative way, but odd nonetheless.

Any time a thunderstorm comes along at night, he hops into bed with his human little brother. He isn’t allowed in bed with the little guy, but usually sleeps at the foot of the bed on his own doggy cot.

So, Lemmy’s owners are concerned. Is this the tip of the iceberg for thunderphobia?

The concern is valid. Dogs, being complicated animals, experience fear much as humans do. Sometimes that experience results in debilitating responses that impair the quality of life. Dogs that have deep-seated fears of thunder can destroy the room in which they live or hurt themselves. Dogs have died after shattering windows and slicing arteries.

But here’s the twist: While boarding with us, a massive storm rolls through the neighborhood. Our power blinks. The windows rattle with the vibration of thunder. The hair on the back of my neck stands up with each crack.

Naturally, I worry Lemmy will freak out. But when I check on him in his run, he’s asleep. I wake him and we shake hands, but he doesn’t seem impressed with the weather. The plot thickens.

When his family arrives to pick him up in the afternoon, we discuss the storm. It turns out his little brother panicked at the dentist when the storm hit and had to be held for consolation.

Further questioning reveals Lemmy has never harmed the house or soiled the floor during a storm, even when alone and inside the screened-in porch by himself. And when he does trespass on the bed, it’s only when his little brother is in it.

I suspect Lemmy does not suffer from thunderphobia. I suspect he treats it in his little brother. His owners agree.

Lemmy now has bed privileges.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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