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I asked local animal reader Jo Maldonado to do a reading on one of my dogs, Button 

Mind games

I asked local animal reader Jo Maldonado to do a reading on one of my dogs, a 7-year-old pit bull named Button. I sent her a photo of Button and three questions I wanted her to ask him for me.

Before Maldonado answered Button's questions, she told me that she had to be honest with me about what she discovered when reading him. "He's not wired properly," she said. "He is constantly worried. His mind is not thinking clearly, as a dog's mind should think."

She asked me if Button had a traumatizing puppyhood and whether he had siblings. It just so happens that I adopted Button from a pretty horrific situation at 12 weeks old. He was born to a litter of puppies being raised by some teenagers in Baltimore. They gave the puppies away because they were not thriving. When the woman who rescued them first saw them, she described them as "three tiny skeleton puppies living in a basement." They were starving to death, fighting one another for food, and were extremely fearful of everything. One of Button's littermates was euthanized at 18 months old for aggression; the other is fearful of men. Button is fearful of, well, just about everything. He suffers from extreme anxiety, and we've had to address a whole host of behavior issues with him over the years.

I did not tell her any of this before she did the reading.

Erin Sullivan: Why does Button not enjoy going for walks?

Maldonado's answer: Button feels very vulnerable. It's so big out there in the world, and what Button is feeling is that it's so open, it's so big that he's concerned, 'What's going to get me?' When you put him in a new situation, especially outside, the anxiety gets worse and it escalates.

You and he have this connection, so even if for five minutes a day in the morning, before you get your day started, center yourself. Ground yourself. Sit somewhere with him before you have your coffee and do five minutes of relaxing breathing exercises. It will relax you and it will relax him. Pick a little spot in your house where you sit with him and do this, even if for just five minutes a day. Behaviorally he's going to acknowledge that as a calming spot for himself, so even when you are not home, he can go to that spot.

How does Button feel about our other dog, Tucker? (Backstory: About two years ago, Button began to bully Tucker to the point that Tucker is sometimes afraid of him. As a result, we no longer allow them to have free access to one another. I didn't tell Maldonado this before the reading.)

In his mind, he thinks Tucker is weak, and Tucker is like, "What the hell? Where did that come from?" It's a bit of a burden on him, and I get periods of being slightly fearful of Button from Tucker. Because [Button's] behavior is unpredictable, and not canine-like. And Tucker is very much a dog. ... I would be very leery of leaving them together when you are not there. I feel like Button can go off at times if something spooks him. It's like his capability for self-control is not there.

Is Button happy?

His answer: "You have given me support, love and unconditional hugs. I am most grateful." In my notes, I wrote, "P.S., he is as happy as he can be."


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