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Archive for the ‘elderly dogs’ Category

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)

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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’ 😉

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Red fox Labrador, laying down, 'smiling' at camera

Annie’s happiest when she’s close to her people

I didn’t have dogs when I first read Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials. I loved the books for many reasons, not least the fact that in his world, every human has a ‘daemon’, a manifestation of their soul that takes animal form.

While daemons aren’t really animals, it’s impossible to read the books without relating it to the animals in your own life. In Pullman’s world, daemons speak, regardless of their species, and share the same level of intelligence as their humans. They are one and the same being, tethered by an invisible bond and parted only by death.

Other half has long referred to Little Bear as my ‘daemon dog’, a reference to the fact that his moods have always mirrored mine (or mine his) and because he is rarely far from my side.

Of late though, we’ve noticed that Annie has become more ‘daemon’ in her ways. While Little Bear is happy to lounge on his beloved couch while I work upstairs, entertaining himself with his own brand of neighbourhood woof, Annie wants to be wherever I am – all of the time.

Red fox Labrador laying on rug in kitchen

Annie’s kitchen spot

She follows me constantly. If I leave the room, she’s right behind me, hauling her aching bones out of her bed to hobble along, before lowering herself, joints like creaky doors, to lay within a couple of feet of wherever I am.

Telling her to stay is met with a derisory look and the equivalent of two Labrador fingers and so it is me who is being trained in the art of decisive tea-making. Popping back to the kitchen to add a splash more milk and cave in on the idea of that biscuit isn’t an option when you have an arthritic Labrador in tow.

Red fox Labrador peeking around door

Even bathroom breaks are now accompanied

As she has never ‘done’ stairs, (not that we’d allow her to now at her age even if she did) this presents a problem when it comes to working – and sleeping. I’ve taken to splitting my working day between ergonomically comfortable desk upstairs and neck pain inducing lumpy couch downstairs where she can snooze at my feet.

Nighttime is more of a challenge. Three requests for a garden break is typical on the average night. Usually at midnight, three am and then again sometime around five, although if you’re getting up at six, it’ll be ten minutes before your alarm.

She outdid herself on Wednesday though with a record six woofs. Other Half, who valliantly responds to most of her demands at night, was away, so it was a miracle I made it to my London meetings on Thursday as I felt slightly punch drunk from all my nighttime stumblings down the stairs.

As there have been a couple of accidents in the house in recent months, ignoring her requests is not an option, but she only actually needs to go out about half of the time. The others I think are a combination of her arthritis and the need to be with her people. No matter how tired we are, we can’t deny her that comfort in her twilight years.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of daemons lately, prompted by the new BBC adaptation of Northern Lights over Christmas. It occurred to me today that another part of the attraction is the fact that human and daemon are together for life. Oh that it were the same for us and our daemon dogs.

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