I have puppy problems. Last December, after much convincing from our daughter, we added a new member to the Hannum family: Stanley, a rescue puppy from East St. Louis. We knew he was skittish around people, but in true Hannum fashion, we thought our previous experience with dogs and our love would make all that go away. We were wrong.

Stan is frightened of everything and everyone. You drop a paper towel, Stan runs out of the room. If Stan sees someone across the street during a walk, he immediately returns to the safety of his own home. Stan likes other dogs, but he can’t stand people, noises and sudden movements. He is so nervous and fearful, well, it actually breaks your heart. Or it did until he started eating the furniture.

I love dogs, but I am not very good at dog discipline. My husband is, so I leave the training to him. All I need to do is reinforce it when he is at work (which I don’t, because I am easily charmed by Stanley’s dark brown eyes). Rule No. 1 with puppies is that you can’t have them out of your sight because they get into mischief. So if you can’t watch them, they need to be someplace where they are safe … that way, your belongings will be too. This often means Stanley needs to spend an hour or two in his kennel or down in the basement. For whatever reason, I think this hurts Stanley’s doggy feelings and I tend to give him more freedom than he deserves. He first destroyed an old couch in the basement, which wasn’t that big of a deal. Next, he worked through two side chairs, which, to be honest, were on the older side. Now I had a legitimate reason for new furniture! But then, like most kids (I mean dogs), he took it a step too far. He chewed up one of my favorite chairs. And that is how Stanley ended up visiting the doggy therapist. Yes, you read correctly: I took my dog to a mental health professional.

The good news is the therapist makes house calls. Stanley couldn’t have handled an office visit. The therapist spent a bit of time observing Stan and determined that we had a special dog. He was not going to be an easy fix, especially when it came to his shyness and all-out fright with people. The therapist gave us some exercises to get him to relax. It really comes down to handing our friends and neighbors Ziploc bags full of cheese and salami to bribe Stan into liking them (and lots of exercise to wear him out so he doesn’t notice anyone).

As far as the destruction of the furniture, the therapist informed me that you don’t leave a dog unattended for the first year and a half of its life because they chew on stuff. Stan will outgrow it, but in the meantime, the only solution is to do what my husband had been telling me: don’t leave Stanley unsupervised. In case you are wondering, a dog therapist charges about the same as a people therapist. Thank goodness I believe in doing my share to keep the economy humming.

Contact Patty at phannum@townandstyle.com.