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Help! I think I’ve created a monster!

A couple of weeks ago, I had a rare piece of luck. While searching online for a dog buggy for his lordship, up popped one for sale on Marketplace. Not only was it the off-road type we need for trips to the woods, but it was being sold by a lady in the next village whose own dog had only used it twice. The listing was just six minutes old – it was meant to be! Fast forward twelve hours, and Bear was the proud owner of his own set of barely used wheels.

As Other Half commented wryly on the way home though, ‘It’s only a bargain if the little bugger will use it.’ Quite.

The logic behind the buggy is quite simple. Although he’s still very fit, at fourteen, Bear can’t do the long walks he once did. We love walking though, but they’re slightly ruined by having a carry a 9kg lump of dog who will insist on sitting in your arms like a ventriloquist’s dummy. The backpack experiment was a failure, so Plan B is the buggy. Plan C is a personal trainer to help me work on my biceps!

Our fears that he wouldn’t tolerate being pushed around the neighbourhood were, thankfully, unfounded. He absolutely loves it. So much so, I’m starting to worry whether I should be insisting he walk a bit more. Once in, he shows absolutely no inclination of wanting to get out again. He lords it up, woofing self-importantly at passing dogs and cats from the safety of his chariot, his ears flapping in the breeze as I march up the hill on our evening walk, looking for all the world like a dog who’s finally got his humans where he wants them. Then again, I suppose he has!

Annie

Our darling Annie passed away last Friday after telling us she was finally ready for a new adventure. I still can’t quite believe it. Her absence is deafening.

The strange thing is that we had expected that awful day for so long, that when at last it came, it felt surreal. In January, we called the vet because we thought the changes in her behaviour, random demand barking, nighttime disturbances and wandering, were caused by the pain of her arthritis. The diagnosis of dementia was both a shock, but, strange though it sounds, a relief too, just because it seemed to be the lesser of the two evils when compared to physical pain.

We had expected a rapid decline, but thanks to the addition of a new drug, it didn’t really happen that way. She soon started sleeping through the night again and most of the time seemed to be her usual waggy, happy self. She even started asking for the odd walk, never far, but evidence of an interest in the world that we were always happy to oblige.

Our vet made another house call just three weeks ago, and we heaved a great sigh of relief that she didn’t sit us down for ‘the talk’. We all agreed that so long as she was still pottering around, enjoying her food and cuddles and, most importantly, was as pain free as possible, then nothing needed to change.

The look

People say that they tell you when it’s time. Until last week I might have considered that wishful thinking. The product of the unbearable weight of having to play God. But Annie was always a great communicator.

On Thursday afternoon, as I typed away on my makeshift desk in the living room, she fixed me with a look that I couldn’t explain any other way. She didn’t leave her bed again. Refusing all attempts to coax or lift her onto her feet, as if adding a big fat exclamation mark to what she’d just said to me. For that clarity, I will always be thankful.

She passed away peacefully in my arms at 1.30 on Friday afternoon. We brought Bear downstairs to say his goodbyes, but he kept his distance, seeming to sense what had happened but not wanting to see for himself.

Life after love

After the vet left, Other Half and I busied ourselves washing bedding and picking up the dozens of rugs and mats that gave her safe passage across the laminate floor. Next we rearranged the furniture that had many months ago been consigned to corners to give her clear routes, then I moved my work things back up to my office. The duvet and pillow left the sofa and went back upstairs. It seemed at once a betrayal and a necessity. I still expect to see her in her bed by the sofa, tail wagging, eyes expectant, and to have left it there empty would have made it so much worse.

I hope that in time I can write more eloquently about our girl how our runaway foster fail changed our lives. For now, I’m just too heart-sore. All I can say is that we were truly blessed to have known and loved her. Life will never be the same, but that’s how life should be after great love, isn’t it? Forever changed by the force of it. Rest well, my darling girl. Until the next time. ❤️❤️❤️

I can ‘bear-ly’ believe it, but last week, Little Bear celebrated his fourteenth birthday. We had an agility party with a couple of his best pals, Paddy and Barney, and the smile on his face was a joy to see.

Any thoughts of slowing down were obviously far from his mind as he flew over the jumps, raced up the dog walk and, giving us all a heart attack in the process, deciding to scale the full height A-frame! He was probably rolling his eyes at the level of over-protectiveness after that one, but even if he’s unaware of his advancing age, we’d rather err on the side of caution.

Things took on a farsical note back home when posing for a picture with his cake obviously stretched his patience a bit too far. He made a grab for it and point blank refused to let go. In the end, I had to lift the cake out of its ribbon or else I think we might still be there!

It was a fun, memorable day, if tinged with the sadess of remembering those furry friends who weren’t able to join us this year. Archie, Molly, Mickey and Bella. Even our Annie was too stiff to make the journey, although she didn’t say no to cake at home. Precious memories. ❤️

The Little Bear Dog Blog, that thing I started writing just so that I could witter on about dogs without getting crossed off party invitation lists is ELEVEN years old today.

We didn’t even have our darling Annie when I started blogging, although the campaign for a companion for Bear was already in full swing.

Annie will be fifteen in August, Bear fourteen in June. That we still have them is such a blessing. It’s hard to imagine life without them, so I try not to. We focus instead on the good stuff, the cuddles, the playtimes and a thousand and one happy memories.

Happy Birthday little blog.

Magic moments

To say that the past year has been, ‘a bit of a challenge’ for us all is something of an understatement. If you’re anything like me, you have your good days when you’re just happy to be safe and well, and your ‘I can’t watch one more news report’ days; days when there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and days when it’s basically all tunnel.

Amongst the gloom however, there is still joy to be found. Little moments of magic that lift my spirits and fill my heart. Mine usually show up fur-covered, so I thought I’d share one with you.

Little Bear, as you know, will be fourteen this summer. But despite his advancing years, he still loves to play. Finding adult dogs willing to play with him is a challenge though and my heart has splintered on countless occasions watching his valiant attempts given the cold shoulder.

It was something of an unexpected delight then that a few months ago, our friend’s rescue Luna gave him the paws up. I don’t know who was more amazed – me or Bear!

They’ve been playing regularly ever since and seeing the contented look on his face – well, it’s nothing short of magical.

You can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/KZn84BwlvKk

Bear and his pal Luna

My canine alarm went off at 4.27 am which, believe it or not, is a lie-in as Annie usually wakes between 2 and 3 am.

It was my turn on the couch with her last night, but after a day of deep cleaning the house, I decided to try and grab a few hours in bed first.

I slept like a butcher’s dog, waiting for the woof. When it came, I hurried down the stairs only to be greeted by the unmistakable stench of dog wee.

Diagnosis

Thanks to our lovely vet, we now at least have a diagnosis. Our darling girl has dementia.

The minute she said the word it all made sense. The pacing, the laps of the house, the nighttime disturbances and the random demand barking.

To the list this week, we’ve had to add what seems to be a new fear of the back door, a flat-out refusal to eat her dried food and a runaway bladder (hence the deep clean which included Annie herself).

Management

The baby gate has been hauled back out of the garage and with a heavy heart, we’ve had to confine her to her dog room overnight for the sake of both the flooring and what’s left of our sanity. Not that she minds at all, she loves her room, but guilt is my default.

We have a new harness on order that’s soft enough for her to wear all day. It has a handle so that we can lead her out into the garden, because carrying a stubborn 28kg Lab to the toilet is really no fun for anyone, least of all her bless her.

As ever, canine social media has been a godsend, this time connecting me to a lovely lady in the US who’s also caring for a senior dog with dementia and has been so generous with her time and experiences. We know it will progress, but knowing what to expect at least puts us on the front foot. Our vets are fabulous, but being able to chat to someone about the day to day realities and practicalities is invaluable.

Still our girl

She’s sleeping peacefully now by my side as I sit, bleary-eyed and huddled under the duvet that has migrated to live permanently at the end of the couch, ready for whichever one of us is on Annie watch.

After being up for almost an hour, I gave up on the idea of dozing and made my first coffee of the morning. As I stood at the stove, she stopped her pacing and wagged at me as if she’d not seen me all night.

It was her usual morning wag, an enthusiastic, Dobby-eared greeting that has always kicked off our little morning ritual of cuddles. She’s still our Annie and for that I’m ridiculously grateful.

Annie loves her Dog Room bed (she has another three to choose from around the house)

A quick post today on my phone as Annie is very unsettled and barks every time I sit at my desk, even though it’s just ten feet from where she’s chosen to lie.

Good Girl Annie

She wagged at me earlier, a soft eyed, open mouthed happy wag in response to me telling her what a good girl she was.

It dawned on me though that she was responding, not to the sound of my voice, she’s very deaf now, but to my habitual hand clapping. ‘Good Girl!’ has somehow always been accompanied by a little round of applause.

I’m so stupidly glad. By happy accident, a silly quirk has ensured that, despite her deafness, she still knows she’s a good girl. 💜

Canine carers

I’m writing this after two very strong cups of coffee. It was my turn on the canine night shift and after a couple of weeks of relatively few interruptions, Annie outdid herself last night.

At fourteen and a half, it’s to be expected. Arthritis, confusion and a weaker bladder, all conspire to play their part and when she wakes, she woofs for us. Bear joined in too last night, twice waking me for a bathroom break. All in, I was up six times.

I’d be lying if I said that there were nights when stumbling down the stairs by the light of my phone, I didn’t long for an uninterrupted night’s sleep, but in the absence of a functioning time machine, a quiet night would mean only one thing. When I think of it like that, the interruptions are a gift.

Senior dogs

Caring for senior dogs isn’t easy. While Bear is wearing his thirteen and a half years pretty lightly (touch wood), Annie is feeling her age. In response, our lives have pivoted around her care. We’ve spent countless nights sleeping on the couch next to her when nothing else would coax her to sleep. I abandoned my upstairs office and moved my desk to the kitchen to be close to her (and always available for backdoor duty). After a bout of fainting episodes the vet diagnosed as neurological, one of us is with her at all times, which makes even walking Bear together an impossibility.

Her medication schedule sits on a clipboard in the kitchen and alarms on Other Half’s phone remind us to dish out her pills three times a day to keep her comfortable. When everyone else was panic-buying toilet paper, we were stocking up on lentil shell crisps and peanut butter – her pill delivery method of choice!

Every day is a blessing

We know our time together is limited, that our love will one day need to step up to the plate, but that just means that every day is both a blessing and a bonus. In the meantime, so long as she’s wagging her tail, reminding us of her mealtimes, demanding the odd walk when the fancy takes her and enjoying her life, we’ll move heaven and Earth to care for her.

Annie ‘Nightwalker’ 😉

Ten years ago today, we excitedly picked up our ‘foster dog’ Annie, an overweight, flea-ridden breeding bitch from a puppy farmer who had no more use of her. Thanks to a broken collar, we lost her before even getting her home.

We refer to 5 August as her ‘Gotcha Lostya’ day and 7 August as her ‘Gotcha-back’ day, but there isn’t a day that I don’t feel incredibly blessed to have her in our lives.

She’ll be fourteen in a couple of weeks and old age can be unkind. Her arthritis requires careful management and even pre-lockdown, our world had contracted around her needs. She doesn’t ask for much bless her, save for three timely meals, walks on demand and most important of all, our company.

In honour of our precious girl, here’s Annie being her wonderful, glorious, gorgeous self.

Red fox Labrador dog looking at camera
Annie
Annie the labrador
Annie
Annie the Labrador covered in mud
Annie the Labrapotomous
Annie the Labrador with her certificate and rosette
Annie with her award
Little Bear and Annie on the sofa
Nap time: Little Bear and Annie

Bear has some strange fears. The other week I terrified him by blowing a dandelion clock next to him. Who knew? He shot me a horrified look, then stalked off as if I’d just done something hideous.

Has he gone yet?


Today though saw the arrival of his nemesis – the window-cleaner. Knowing that he hates the sight and sound of the brush at the window I popped him on his lead and took him into the garden with some treats. Problem solved – or so I thought.


Bear however, had other ideas. It seems everything about the window-cleaning process, including the poor man himself (who has changed many times over the years) is terrifying. He bolted and hid, quivering behind the shed.


He was beyond coaxing and when he started crying too, I picked him up. He clung to me, paws hooked into my shoulder, his head wedged under my chin, shaking like a leaf.


The window-cleaner gave us a funny look, then frowned and asked if Bear was afraid of him. I said, ‘yes, sorry about that. Please don’t take it personally, he’s just afraid of window-cleaners.’ But I rather think he did. Oh dear.

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