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Posts Tagged ‘Senior Dogs’

Three months after losing Bear, we’re still coming to terms with this new, ‘dog-free’ life. A few days after he left us, I started jotting down all the things that reminded me of him – and our darling Annie. So here’s my slightly random stream of consciousness as I reflect on life without Bear.

A gravy bone in my dressing gown pocket

The wee stain on the patio

A small poo on the lawn, baked hard in the sun that neither of us wants to remove

A tin of sardines in the cupboard 

Balls. Everywhere. Under sofas, in corners, behind the table leg, hiding in the long grass, in the car, in the bottom of the dog buggy, some even in toy baskets

Tennis balls, squeaky balls, balls with faces, balls found like treasure on walks, (always the best kind), balls that were wrapped in Christmas paper (bet you can’t guess what it is!), rugby balls, squishy ones, tiny ones, big ones

His harness hanging limply on the banister 

Dog beds in the back of the cars

Safety harness still clipped into the seatbelt 

Water bowl and blanket in the boot. Spare tennis ball. Poo bags. So many poo bags. 

The dog room. Can we still call it a dog room? 

Waterproof trousers, his and hers hanging on the hook. Big coats, rain coats, wellies, walking boots, spares. 

Water shoes for paddling in streams and throwing stones for woofing at

Dog walking bags – I never did find the ‘perfect’ one

More poo bags. In every single pocket

Dog coats. Rain coats, warm coats, snuggle you up after a haircut coats, dry you after a swim coats. Knitted, ‘oh doesn’t he look handsome coats’ 

Dog meds. Pills and potions, steroid chart (remember to tick off the day), emergency bum pills (don’t ask), supplements, good oils and joint pills, herbal tonics and first aid stuff

Grooming box for infrequent torture. Tick puller, soft brush, mean, unused comb, buzzy clippers for the boys to share 

Jars full of dog treats. Chewy ones, crunchy ones. 

Dog towels, (we’re down to our last 200)

Duvets and cwtch you up blankies 

Toys by the lorry load. Birthday toys, Christmas presents from Grandma toys, always in twos, one always abandoned by Annie as soon as she left, toys. 

Toys in the mending pile hidden in the wardrobe 

Bear’s toothbrush in the bathroom (are you just eating the toothpaste, Bear? Whatever works)

Lickki mat in the dishwasher. Snuffle mat by the coffee table. Pink paw game by the water bowl. Kong Wobbler in the corner (still has some treats left) 

Blankie on the sofa. Dog step with a non-slip mat (let’s leave it for now)

Baby shampoo in the bathroom for head washing. Paul Mitchel for a bright beard (fat chance) and a sweet smelling bod

White board on the landing to block the stairs, just in case

Beanbag in the lounge, commandeered for morning lounging. Slightly yoghurt stained from a Bear beard

Non slip mats trialling through the house

Beds everywhere. Bear beds. Annie beds. Beds for mornings. Beds for evenings. Beds for car rides. 

The untouched birthday cake in the fridge – 15 today! Hooray! 

Things that feel wrong:

Eating all the toast/bread/rice/veg

Nobody watching you eat 

Peeing alone (that door won’t barge itself open)

No shower monitor waiting patiently in his bed outside the door

Sitting anywhere you like on the sofa (in theory, not yet tested)

Walking (who walks without a dog? Only psychos, right?)

Working (how do you work without an office dog by your desk?)

Talking during the day (who’ll listen to me prattle on now?)

Yoga. I’m alone on the mat with an uninterrupted view of the screen

Getting up in the morning – no wagging tail to welcome the day 

Naps on the sofa. No little head on my feet, no warm furry body curled into the hollow under my chin

Leaving the house – there’s someone missing

Coming home – is this the right house?

Going out without needing to be home. Freedom is over-rated

Being home – why is this house so deathly bloody quiet? 

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Back in 2020, I published a blog post entitled, ‘Never stop playing’. I ended it with the quote, ‘We don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing.’ The last year has been tough on our little man. He was stoic and caring as we nursed our darling Annie in her final months, then he grieved her passing. Just when we thought he was getting back to himself, the Pemphigus struck, and we feared we might lose him, too.

While he’s still in remission, along the way, he’s lost some of his playfulness, looking at an offered teddy as if it were a foreign object and watching blankly as a squeaky ball rolls passed him. His overflowing baskets of toys sat gathering dust, and it was breaking my heart. But then something changed.

A lovely friend of mine runs a training class for older dogs called Golden Oldies. I missed the first two rounds as they clashed with my Friday morning college sessions, but as I’ve been recovering from surgery this past month, I signed us up.

Transformation

Bear has never been a fan of training classes. No doubt because of the awful experience we had at puppy classes back when I didn’t know what a properly qualified teacher looked like. But, in Golden Oldies, he lit up like a candle. It helped that his BFF Paddy was a fellow student, and that one of his favourite aunties is one of the instructors, even so, the change in him has been a delight to see.

The class is based purely on fun. They do scent work, tricks and play, and Bear loves it all. He’s even rediscovered his Kong Wobbler thanks to the course. Ignored for months at home, it was the best thing in the world in class! All of his enrichment toys are now out of the cupboard as he’s suddenly interested again.

The only thing he doesn’t understand is the relaxation session at the end of the class. As the other dogs settle down for a rest, sometimes a full on snooze, Bear stares at them, then us, the bemusement obvious. That changes when we get home as he’s then flat out for the rest of the day, but that he enjoys the class so much fills me with joy. Never stop playing Little Bear.

Find out more about Golden Oldies here and on their Facebook page here

More photos and a video on The Little Bear Dog Blog Facebook page.

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The good news is that Bear’s Pemphigus Foliaceus is in remission. The diagnosis was confirmed by the dermatologist we saw in Brighton in January. The treatment, a three day steroid storm of a dose so high, we thought the demimal point was in the wrong place. That said, it worked. Weaning him off the steroids and finding the right maintenance dose will take close to four months but we’re relieved to have our Little Bear back.

The blisters and scabs that, at their height, covered his entire body are gone. Our lovely groomer Jeni gave him a ‘vet’s orders’ buzz cut so that we can closely monitor his skin, and our vet Gill tackled the Malteser-sized scabs on his nose that had dried into hard lumps of ikyness.

He’s got his appetite back, and he’s even up for a play when the mood takes him. Walks are a bit more hit and miss and largely weather dependent. He’s been putting his foot down with a firm paw if there’s so much as a hint of rain. Boring walks from the house are also vetod. He prefers a swift buggy or car ride somewhere interesting and then he’ll pottle for ages.

His medication schedule (nine times a day) rules our life plus he has physio 3-4 times a day to try and limit the muscle weakness caused by the steroids. We’ve created a monster when it comes to food too. Having lost so much weight while he was ill, we’re now guilty of trying to tempt him with anything he’ll accept. The result of course is a smart little Bear who’ll hold out for what he wants. He’ll only take his meds on a small corner of Rich Tea biscuit, the pill hidden in crunchy peanut butter.

The specialist warned us that a relapse is likely as we reduce the steroids, but for now we’re just touching wood and taking it a day at a time. That we still have our Little Bear is enough. 💕

Bear at my writing group

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Many beds Bear

A silly post tonight. We start Bear’s drug treatment tomorrow and, let’s just say ‘I’m a bit nervous.’ So, purely for my own entertainment, here’s Bear in his many and varied beds!

He’ll sleep all night on our bed. Then in the morning, it’s the sofa or beanbag. Once we start work, he’ll pick an office to snooze in. Come the evening, he’s flat out on the sofa until he decides it’s time for bed.

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It’s 4am and I’m on the couch with Bear. He’s whining softly and trembling, because he’s desperate to chew his itchy feet, but to stop him making his paws bleed, I’ve had to put his Buster collar on. I feel like a monster.

We’ve no idea what‘s sparked this sudden itchiness but it’s making him miserable. The Apoquel prescribed by our vet stopped the itching almost overnight but the side effects were too horrendous to continue.

Bear became a zombie dog. Refusing to leave his bed. Turning his nose up at his food and appearing weak and unwilling to walk, even around the house.

I’ve not heard him bark in weeks and you’ll know how big a deal that is. When neither a trip to his favourite pet shop or a hot playdate with two pretty lady Schnauzers raised even a wag of his tail, we knew there was something radically wrong.

I spoke to the head vet at our practice last night. Apparently such a reaction to Apoquel is rare (2-4%), so maybe we’ve been unlucky. What we need now though is a way to bring him comfort – fast.

The list of things we’re trying is growing by the day. Hibbiscrub for his paws, non-itchy herbal stuff in his food, a new home cooked diet, Non Stinky Stuff (arriving today) plus an attack on dust mights that apparently, are the most common cause of allergies in dogs.

He’s finally asleep. Tucked up in his new bed beside me, cwtched under a blanket. My poor little Bear. Please cross your fingers and paws for us. We so want our cheeky, barky, little lad back.

Bear last night. The face says it all.

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On Thursday, we took Bear to see a physiotherapist. He’s still not himself. He’s been refusing walks, sleeping all day, turning his nose up at his food, and intermittently limping on his front fore. 

Now, on the limping, Bear has form for fakery. Ever since puppyhood, he’s been adept at convincing us, well, mainly me, that he can’t walk another step on his soon to fall off leg. Pick him up and carry him home and the limp magically disappears the minute his paws touch the carpet. When it started happening at home though, we worried that our little Bear who cried wolf might actually mean it this time. 

Our vets had conflicting views, hence I booked the physio appointment to get him assessed. Enter the lovely and highly recommended Donna Wills. After a thorough check, we had our answer. Bear’s joints are in pretty good shape. He has a full range of movement in the paw he’s limping on and no obvious sources of pain. He needs to strengthen his core (don’t we all) but overall, his muscle tone isn’t bad considering his age. 

While the limp is something we need to monitor, there’s no physical reason to let him off walks. That we’ve been letting him sleep and dodge his usual exercise for fear of exasperating the sore leg has only been making the real problem worse – he’s depressed. 

I know a thing or two about depression and it breaks my heart to think of Bear being brought so low. With the okay to get back to his normal exercise routine, we’re now focussing on variety and doing all the things he loves. 

Friday he came with me to writing class. He was an absolute angel, and just napped on my lap after working his way through his Likki & snuffle mats. We walked by the river afterwards and, while he was far from enthusiastic at first, he warmed up to the idea in the end. On the way home, we stopped off at his favourite pet shop. His tail beat a tattoo when he saw his friend Chris – the deliverer of sneaky biscuits. That was lovely to see. 

After checking out the merchandise aisle by aisle (he’s nothing but thorough), and getting his biscuits, we left with a new bed and two tubs of frozen dessert – his new favourite treat. 

We walked in the woods with friends yesterday and today we’re off to a trick training class. I’m not sure how much of the two-hour class we’ll do, he still tires easily. That said, he loves learning and, if there’s one thing I know from experience, sometimes the best way through the dark tunnel is to be distracted enough to forget it for a while. 

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Mini Schnauzer rests his head on the back of a sleeping red fox Labrador.

Yesterday, we took Bear for a blood test. Our sprightly senior, described as ‘fit as a flea’ by the vet at the end of June, seems to have aged before our eyes in the last few months.

He’s drinking a lot, sleeping a lot and, while he’s still playful when the mood catches him, he is, all of a sudden, no longer the Peter Pan dog people mistake for a puppy. I aged about a decade when I lost my mum, and I wonder what impact losing Annie has had on our Little Bear. He loved her from the moment he set eyes on her, even though she was lunging and barking at him like a thing possessed. He won her over in no time, and they were friends for eleven wonderful years, so I can well imagine how he must feel now without her.

I mentioned grief as a possible catalyst for the washing list of ailments we were presenting with, fully expecting the theory to be poo-pooed, but to his credit, the vet said that depression could certainly have played a part. My poor Little Bear.

The good news is that his bloods are no cause for alarm. He’s back for a liver scan next week, as one of his results was slightly elevated, but the vet was clear that he wasn’t expecting to find anything untoward. Once that’s done, we can work on his itchiness and investigate his mysterious leg wound that heals and then reappears.

As to healing his grieving heart? Sadly, I know from experience that that’s not possible. All we can do is try to make sure that his days are filled with as much fun, love and distraction as we can cram into them.

P.S Apologies to subscribers for the random way the gallery of the photographs in my last post appeared in emails. I’ve no idea what WordPress tweaks caused that but I’ll investigate.

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I’ve written before about the challenges of holidaying with a reactive dog. Not all of our attempts at a break have ended well – I’m still scarred by the experience in Hay-on-Wye. Part of the reason I invested in our own dog-friendly holiday let business was so that our fur babies could stay somewhere familiar to them. Sadly, even before the pandemic, Annie’s deteriorating health and discomfort travelling meant we couldn’t spend any time there. Precious days with our girl were far more important that a holiday. After losing Annie in July, we had a bittersweet return to Wales this month for our first holiday since 2017 and our first trip to Wales together for almost two years.

At fourteen, Bear is still reactive to other dogs on lead, but he is also advancing in years, so our trip centred around making sure he was comfortable. Enter the ‘Bear Mobile’, an off-road dog buggy that is, without doubt, our best purchase of the year. He refuses to sleep in it, preferring to take it all in and tell us in no uncertain terms when he wants to hop out and explore. It gave us the freedom to explore places too, and we did some wonderful walks around the area. Link below if anyone’s interested.

He was a complete star all holiday, even tolerating a couple of pub lunches, a night in a Travel Lodge, and trips to visit family. There were days when we stayed home just to allow him to rest up, but on the whole, he loved his trip. One of my loveliest memories is how we woofed and wagged his tail when we arrived at the house. He might not have been there for almost two years, but they say Schnauzers never forget, and he certainly seemed pleased to be back on home soil again. 💗

More info on walks: The Dramatic Heart of Wales

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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!

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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. ❤️❤️❤️

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