Sunday 18 November 2012

The Anti-Placebo by Proxy Effect

So last month at work Gail was discussing important matters with her animal-loving boss, and the subject of my, er, 'excitable' nature and 'issues' with train travel cropped up.

The boss - who does sound nice - recommended Bach's Rescue Remedy, which she had apparently found most effective in calming down her two horses when they were reluctant to enter their horse-box.

Rather to my surprise, Gail, normally a major league sceptic about so-called alternative medicine, actually went out and purchased said compound. She did then spend quite a time moaning about the astronomical cost of the teeny weeny spray bottle and was overheard saying "it had d*****d well better work".

Pups, have you ever had such an evil substance sprayed into your mouth? Can you believe I was subjected to this humiliating treatment on the station concourse before embarking on the 7:52 a.m. Aberdeen to Edinburgh train? With Gail totally stressed, going "open your mouth you little brat, hold your tongue still, I paid good money for this stuff, and I'll be most upset if you carry on barking on the train, ow-ee your teeth are sharp!"

Now I have no idea how Bach's Rescue Remedy is supposed to work on us dogs, given that it contains no scientifically proven mood altering substances. Wearing my Bertie Boffin hat I hypothesise that a 'placebo by proxy' effect may come into play. That is, if the human is all calm because he or she is confident that the medication will work, then the aura of serenity might I suppose be transmitted to the pup who is by nature sensitive to the mood of its owner.

Well it all went badly wrong with me.

I think we shall have to call what happened on the train last month the 'anti-placebo by proxy' effect. Let me explain how it works:

For starters, Gail was fractious and irritable because she already suspected she had just spent her hard-earned cash on a useless 'quack' remedy. I of course picked up on this anxiety, as well as objecting to the indignity of have some revolting smelling liquid sprayed into my mouth (in fact most of it went up my nose) in the embarrassingly public forum of a railway station, and anyway the whole situation rapidly entered a downwards spiral...

Personally I think Gail should take a bottle of single malt whisky for her own use on the train next time and all will be, or at least seem, fine.


  1. Bertie - ' Most effective in calming down two horses ? ' You mus be bigger than you look in the photos.

  2. SHE got one of those calmitives (is there such a word?) when teaching a difficult class for four weeks--man, SHE was guzzling that stuff...didn't work.

    We think you need to get Gail some ear plugs as well....and perhaps a card that states she's deaf.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  3. I think your idea is best Bertie, a bottle of high quality scotch should make Gail as happy as can be. Have just a little yourself, it won't take much and you will be snoozing in each others arms. Just remember to get off at the Aberdeen station.

    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  4. Single malt whisky sounds good to us Bertie. Gail should listen to you and ignore the quack stuff. Nevermind have a super Sunday.
    Best wishes Molly

  5. Now Bertie, I just gotta tell you this. Rescue Remedy didn't work for me either. Mommy bought it for when we had to go on our long car ride (like 1100 miles). She tried it on me a few times before our trip. I think personally it turned me into Superwoman instead of Debbie Downer. Yes, hard earned cash went flying out our window too!

    So in the end we agree with you, a bottle of some good quality alcohol for the hoomans would be much better and possibly a set of ear plugs too.

    Lily Belle

  6. Wow! I need that spray for my horses - how does your boss spray it in their mouth? BOL!


  7. Best thing Mom & Dad have found for us is for them to be calm, works every time,wiskey or not!!! So go and explain that to her and save the money!

    Your Furiends
    Susie & Bites

  8. Oh my dog Bewtie
    that is tewwibull
    I think you awe absolutely wight. I wemembew Daddi's bowew once telling him he found a wemedy fow scweeming babies
    you shut the doow and have a sip, hehehe
    I had heawd of wescoo wemedy, but only in dwop fowm , put into watew and dwunk, cewtainly not an evil spway that is a wecipe fow disastew
    hope you and Gail have bof wecovewed and awe sitting by the cozy fiwe wif a wee dwam
    smoochie kisses

  9. Bertie, we've heard good things about RR, but our human tried the human equivelant and it was like spraying alcohol on her tongue and did nothing. Butt maybe you need to get dosed BEFORE you get to the station...just sayin'.

    -Bart and Ruby

  10. Hey Bertie Bud (and Gail),
    We have rescue remedy here in tablet form. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The big thing is to treat BEFORE the angst...but yes, it's debatable if it is effective or not. (We use it on Tammy for fireworks, thunderstorms, etc...added to her anti-anxiolitic, and also bandage her body in a simulated tight-fit jacket, but all this usually out of absolute desperation because she gets herself into such a state.)
    Sorry to hear about your train phobia.
    Lotsaluv and lotsalicks from your friends in SA

  11. Howdy Bertie, well, at least your Gail won't waste her money on that again. Your idea of Gail having a bottle of whiskey to drink is good but it would work even better if she shares it with fellow train passengers and then no one will give a toss what's happening! Good luck with your train travel mate. Can you have a rawhide (chewey) bone during your trip. It's hard to bark and chew at the same time although with your terrier abilities, it's always possible, hehe. No worries, and love, Stella and Rory

  12. At that hour of the morning?!?!? Ughghgg. Unreal. :)

  13. Oh my word! The torture we are subjected too
    Benny & Lily

  14. Perhaps Gail should have sprayed the RR into her mouth, though whiskey sounds a better option!

    Humans just don't understand us dogs. In my younger days I used to bark my head off everytime I got into the dog mobile - oh the excitment of travel, until whenever I barked they stopped my car, got out and waited for several minutes (with me stuck in the back). After about an hour of this treatment I learnt if I barked I got ignored and my transport wasn't going anywhere - but it is probably harder for Gail to calmly ignore you or get the train driver to stop the train each time you bark.


    1. Gail here: Riley, you have hit the nail on the head. Bertie received exactly the same as you did with regard to barking in the car, and now he is a perfect gent as a car passenger. But ignoring his barking in a crowded train carriage is not really feasible. I have considered shutting him alone in the train toilet for a period...

  15. We are so with you! Mum's friend convinced her to try some for herself and the best she can say is it tasted a bit like brandy. She's had the pheromone spray that calms down cats when they had to be transported; they screamed for the entire 150 mile journey. And the plug in thingy for Uncle Flynn who was terrified of fireworks...may as well have attached a catherine wheel to his bed. Trust me, Mum says stick with the scotch!

  16. Oh read Bertie the whole experience sounds quite awful.

    May we suggest you dose Gail next time. A double dose should do the trick and then just hang on tightly to her while you sit calmly in the train.

    Have a good week.

    Molly, Taffy, Monty and Winnie

  17. I think you have an excellent idea there, buddy!

  18. OH BERTIE!!!
    Do I ever feel your pain with Rescue Remedy. When I came to live with my peeps, I was a bit rambunctious to say the least. Now that Mom thinks about it maybe she should have named me something with bouncy in it. I kept hearing things like Madi is not at all like angel kitty Milky-way...he was so calm yadayadayada! Within in a month of being here I mastered my way to the top of the 8' secretary by hopping on the chair, across the mantel ending with an easy 1' jump to the top of the precious Ethan Allen Secretary and proceeded to nibble on the finial. I also was found on the top of the Grandfather clock snacking on wood. The vet,who was in to alternative meds, recommended Rescue Remedy drops to be added to my food. I think it was placebo too. Mom finally find a cue for my adventurous nature. The chair I sued to get on the mantel was moved to the middle of the floor and they wrapped a quilt over the G-father clock secured with duct tape. And they bought me a 6' cat tree.
    Hugs Madi