Tag Archives: old dogs

Getting Through It

16 Mar

My almost 17-old-dachshund Justin died two days ago. It was heart-wrenchingly sad having to be the one to make the decision that it was his time to move onto the next chapter.

But today I feel more relief than sadness. In reality, Justin hadn’t been with me for a long time. He had dementia, blindness, deafness and seizures and as his body and mind failed him, the Justin I had once known was already becoming a memory even as he lay beside me in bed at night. Now that he is physically no longer with me, the heartache is tempered with joy that he is no longer struggling with these awful things. And, to be honest, joy that I am not struggling with them either.

And that decision I made two days ago — I have been on the precipice of making it for at least a year. I have been sad and heartbroken and tired and unsure for so long. Not being in that spot is an odd feeling, but a good one.

I still think I have four dogs and get out four cookies for treats. I wake up at 2:30 a.m. thinking I will have to carry Justin out to pee in the yard, usually holding an umbrella over us both as the Oregon winter has been very wet. I get out four harnesses for a walk. I feel confused that there are so few supplements and pills to add to the meals of Watson, Penny, and Murray, my three other dog-children who have done their best to keep my spirits up.

When I came home from the vet, with the still-wet paw print in a Ziploc bag and my sweatshirt wet with tears, the first thing I did was remove the boxes. I had shoved boxes into every nook and cranny in every room Justin had free reign in. Something in his brain convinced him that if his snout was wedged between the sofa and the table or the bookshelf and the fireplace, he was stuck. So he would stay there. For hours if I had to be away. Rather than living with the fear that he was stuck and afraid, I wedged boxes everywhere. And then replaced them when Murray, who is still a puppy, chewed them up.

I took them all out to the recycling pile and stacked them up neatly. I wasn’t trying to rid the house of the memory of my sweet boy, but of his horrible disease that had stood between him and happiness for perhaps too long.

Old dogs and I are no strangers. My very first dog child, Copper, was in a wheelchair for the last three years of his life and I had to pee for him through a tube implanted in his bladder. His brother Slate lived to be almost 16 and their sister Maddy Lou left too early at 12. So I’m used to the extra work. What I wasn’t expecting was how angry and frustrated I could be, not at my boy, but at dementia that stole him from me. I called it many horrible names in the middle of the night. Fortunately, Justin was deaf and couldn’t hear this while cradled him in my arms or he fell asleep with my arm over him because he couldn’t sleep without knowing I was there.

I will try to forgive myself for my frustration. I will try to forgive myself for not making the decision for Justin earlier. I was hoping he could experience a few warm, sunny spring days, lolling in the grass with the other dogs as I worked in the garden.

That is not to be. I know that on the first warm, sunny day, Justin the joyful, playful dog who loved to run around the yard barking like that butterfly he spotted was a deadly enemy he needed to protect us from, but never actually harming any animal (unless it was a stuffed toy with a squeaker inside) will be reborn. Maybe we’ll sit and chat in the patio swing. He’ll love that.

 

It’s My Circus

3 Jul

Sometimes I think that before deciding to adopt a dog, everyone should be required to join Cirque du Soleil for a year to learn the appropriate skill set. Just this morning, I could have used some contortionist skills in order to untangle from three dog leashes. And there’s never a time when I’m putting my dogs into the backseat of my car and hooking up their seat belts that I don’t feel like I’m working with clowns and a clown car.

But most of all, I wish I had tightrope skills. And not just because my dachshunds only allow me 2 inches of space in which to walk.

Ozzy - Fastest Crossing Of A Tightrope By A Dog Guinness World Records 2013 Photo Credit: Paul Michael Hughes/Guinness World Records Location: Norfolk, UK

Ozzy – Fastest Crossing Of A Tightrope By A Dog
Guinness World Records 2013
Photo Credit: Paul Michael Hughes/Guinness World Records
Location: Norfolk, UK

Life is about balance, and when you have three senior dogs, that becomes increasingly clear. Case in point: trying to balance traditional veterinary medicine and alternative approaches that don’t involve the phrase, “Here’s a prescription for some antibiotics.”

Two of my three dogs see a homeopath. Justin, my 16-year-old, shakes like a fracking-caused earthquake in Oklahoma any time we drive near the regular vet, despite the fact that he can no longer hear or see (he must smell the antibiotics). On our last visit to the homeopath on the other hand, he fell asleep on the memory foam doggy mattress she has on her floor. With the peaceful new age music playing on the speakers, I myself was tempted to nap.

The path to alternative veterinary approaches to doggy health care started with my first dachshund, Copper, who due to his insistence that he was a stunt pilot and not a short-legged dog, became paralyzed at age 12. With a combination of acupuncture, a doggy wheelchair, and physical therapy that involved me tickling his feet so that he would reflexively kick and keep his leg muscles strong, he had 3 great more years of semi-mobility.

dog-acupuncture_1

I search for a lot of non-traditional remedies for dog-related ailments on the Internet these days and I’ve had some amazing success. Justin was plagued with chronic UTIs for years until I discovered a product online called Pet UTI Prevention from http://www.askariel.com/. He has now gone three years without a problem! He’s also taking Epi Plus from https://www.purelypets.com and with it, his seizures have been reduced from every few days to about once a month. Both of these supplements are herbal remedies, not drugs.

All three of my dogs get Ceylon cinnamon with dinner, which helps reduce inflammation and infection in their teeth and gums. In addition to a 16-year-old, I have two 13-year-olds (I just found out that Penny had been lying about her age for years and when she came to me as a rescue, she was probably 5, not 2). Needless to say, I relish the idea of dental cleanings like I do my own mammograms. Especially for Penny because her teeth form plaque on the way home from her cleaning. She has so few teeth left, she could star on Duck Dynasty. The cinnamon even helped get rid of Justin’s abscess. (Be sure to use Ceylon cinnamon as dogs can’t digest the other kinds).

Watson has a slew of lipomas and one sebaceous cyst that occasionally bursts. It is not pretty, but I’ve finally gotten over the ick factor and no longer rush him to the vet for antibiotics. I use calendula oil and regularly apply warm compresses with castor oil. It seems to help. I do the same with Penny’s lumps and bumps.

I still love and appreciate my regular vet and struggle sometimes deciding which approaches to take in keeping my pups healthy. But just having options makes me feel less like a clown and more like a ringmaster.

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My Sunshine Has Sundown Syndrome

13 Jun

Justin, my 15-year-old dachshund, has Sundown Syndrome. It’s a form of dementia that occurs after dark. Once the sun sets, he frequently gets lost and runs into things… much like a drunk frat boy on a Friday night.

ImageFortunately, I found an herbal remedy for him. No, it’s not marijuana, although we did try that first. Do you know how hard it is to hold a joint in tiny little paws? And the one command you can’t teach even the most obedient of dogs (which he is NOT) is “Inhale!” It doesn’t matter how many cookies you use as bribes.

The concoction we’re using is called Senilife, a combination of Senile and Life. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been in that branding meeting, what with all the high levels of creativity sparking in the room?

The good news is that it really works well. He has a lot fewer episodes of seeming to be out of it. He and I are about on the same level now when it comes to being confused and wondering where we left either our keys or our stuffed hedgehog. You can buy the stuff on-line. It’s a capsule that you squeeze on top of your dog’s evening meal. There is also a cat version (do not tell my doxies, I brought that up!)

In fact, the little pill works so well I caught myself looking at the bottle the other day, wondering, “Are these just for dogs?” But then I noticed the side effects — squirrel hatred, motorcycle leg, excessive drooling… Side note, is there ever a time when drooling is not excessive? But I’m not going to take them. It’s not that I’m scared of the side effects; it’s just that I put a plan in place years ago to make sure no one would ever be able to tell when I cross the line from “normal crazy” to “she needs help crazy.” You show up at Thanksgiving dinner wearing a ski mask and an inner tube a few times when you’re still young and you set the bar pretty low.

Besides, my only kids are dogs and they would never put me in a home.

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