Posts Tagged ‘senior dogs’

Wordless Wednesday #359 – Driving Miss Daisy

December 5, 2017 3 comments

Co-pilot in color

Co-pilot in black and white

The Cuppercake Update

April 27, 2016 17 comments
Walking with Cupcake (3/27/16)

The head tilt remains, but that does not stop me.

Sometimes I forget that when I blog about one of my dogs, I am not the only one reading it.

When I shared with you Daisy’s diagnosis of an insulinoma you were right there with me, following along on Facebook, so the blog updates were not as urgent or necessary. But when I shared Cupcake’s recent bout with idiopathic vestibular disease, I failed to provide frequent updates on her progress.

Why? I am not sure. I think perhaps because we were dealing with it in real-time and I wasn’t so sure where this was going to go. My apologies if you have been wondering how Cupcake has been doing.

So how is she?

Falling off the bed

She rolled off her bed again mom.

Health wise, she is doing pretty well. The first few days were pretty rough, she was so sick from the vertigo that I had to give her Bonine to help with the motion sickness, but thankfully, that passed fairly quickly and she began to adjust to the vertigo and the unsteadiness that came with it. She still has the head tilt, but she has learned to work around it.

Once she adjusted to her new world, her personality started to come back too. For me, that was the best news of all. I probably haven’t always shared this with you, but Cupcake is the life of the party in our house. She is silly and sassy and brave and smart, and she oozes personality in all that she does. I love Cupcake from head to paw, but her personality is what sparkles and what makes me laugh and smile every day. Trust me, a home without Cupcake’s personality is a very dull home.

She's just that damn cute (Cupcake, April 2016)

I’m still a little wobbly on my bed, but I no longer roll off while trying to steady myself.

With the return of her personality, has come a few challenges. Cupcake is no longer as agile as she once was, so she has had a few tumbles and falls. I am careful to keep an eye on her, but she is determined to live life as she once had (I think that is a good thing, right?).

She nearly gave me a heart attack when she decided to leap off the raised concrete patio two days after being diagnosed, but I should have known Cupcake would not be deterred by a little vertigo. I thought she would be seriously injured after that leap, but she just tumbled onto the ground and then got right back up and moseyed on her wobbly way. I should have realized it would be a sign of how she would be moving forward. Nothing stops Cupcake.

One day, she ran out the back door with Jasper and ran right into a planter pot that she did not see sitting in her path. I gasped in horror, but the fall only left her stunned for a moment before she was up and chasing Jasper across the yard, barking excitedly.

I am now careful to block the basement stairs and to move things out of her way when I can, but for the most part she seems to have found her own way around this new life of hers. She is unfazed by her unsteadiness and limited vision. (I’ve come to believe that Cupcake probably has some form of peripheral vestibular disease, because she seems to look at us out of her peripheral vision and can’t always see what is in front of her.)

Breathe deep and strong. Smell tells you who was there before you. Cupcake 2016

Deep sniffs bring good smells.

Cupcake still has the head tilt, but the motion sickness is mostly gone.

Probably the hardest part of Cupcake’s illness has been the need to leave her at home when we go to the dog park. If she were more stable and her vision was better, I would feel safe bringing her with us, but I cannot trust other dogs to leave her alone or to understand why she falls over sometimes.

She has also slowed down quite a bit. Walking for long periods of time are no longer possible. I suspect the constant movement makes her a little dizzy. Even walks halfway down the block are enough to tire her out, so I have been taking her with me to locations where she can just mosey along sniffing at her own pace. These are not walks, but more an exploration of sight and smell. She loves checking out the new smells and exploring a new location on her own terms. I think she likes having these special excursions where she can set the pace.

Sometimes, Cupcake gets disoriented and turned around, but she seems to figure it out on her own. Occasionally, she has gotten turned around and has walked under the kitchen table and gotten stuck or gotten stuck between my bed and the bedroom wall and needs my guidance to get back out, but those don’t happen very often. Even when they do, she does not seem bothered by the strangeness of it all. I cannot help but wonder what she is saying to herself when she finds she is surrounded by kitchen chairs and cannot figure out how she ended up there. Leave it to Cupcake to bring the humor to everything she does. It’s hard not to smile sometimes.

When sight and sound are no longer available, smell remains. Cupcake April 2016

It’s fun to explore new places.

So how is Cupcake? The same and different. It has taken some time for her (and us) to adjust, but what remains is what matters most – her smile, her personality and her zest for life. Perhaps there is a lesson in there for all of us. 🙂


Favorite Video Friday – Senior dogs playing in leaves

October 23, 2015 3 comments

Happy Friday everyone!

It’s been a crazy week around here at Casa del Mel. Lots of dog-related events, lots of walks at dusk and a plethora of picture-taking too.

I still haven’t gotten our leaves done (and they are starting to pile up). I am really hoping the unusually warm weather continues so I can get them done this weekend. Now if only I could get the sun to stick around a little longer! I sure miss it sticking around until 8 or 9 pm. How about you?

This week’s favorite Friday video is short, but very, very sweet. It features senior dogs and special needs dogs playing in leaves. How can you not smile at that? If you want to follow them and their family at Life in the Dog House, you can do so on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Have an awesome day everyone!

Old dog face

August 2, 2015 19 comments

What is it that changes in a dog’s face that suddenly makes her look old? Is it the lightening around her muzzle? Or, the increasing milkiness of her eyes? Or, is it the way she smiles, flashing that toothy grin at us?

What is it that we first notice? Is it a moment or an accumulation of moments? It seems like one day we are looking at our dog and seeing a young and energetic face, and the next day we see an old one in its place. It always seems like a surprise to me when I finally see it.

A couple of months ago, I took a candid shot of Cupcake standing out on the patio. What I saw on my camera’s viewing screen made me stop and stare.  “Wait. What happened?” I thought, “That doesn’t look like Cupcake. That looks like an old dog.” And it was. It was my Cupcake, in all her glory and beauty, as an old dog.

It was as if all the little pieces of the puzzle (her diminished eyesight, her inability to hear me calling her in the dog park, and her slowing, arthritic pace) coalesced in that moment to magnify and make me realize what I had not seen (or wanted to see) before. Cupcake was a senior citizen. She was an old dog. What a revelation.

In my mind, I had been seeing Cupcake like this.
My sweet girlNot like this. Cupcake waits

Of course, I’ve known that she was getting older (as have all of us), I just didn’t SEE it. My brain had continued to live in the past while life (and Cupcake) continued to move forward. I guess my brain just needed a jolt to see her as she really is now. 

Seeing her as an older dog hasn’t changed how much I lover her, if anything I love her even more, but it has made  me more conscious of the subtle changes in her behavior and when she is not feeling well. It has also made me more conscious of her ability to get around. Getting up and down on the hardwood floors is a little more difficult now. Keeping the fur in between her toes cut short helps with that (as do rugs). Tripping over the bottom step when coming in does happen on occasion, but lighting the step with my iPhone helps. And I may have to lift her into the car for the rest of her remaining days, but I don’t care. The joy she gets when we reach our destination is worth it all. 

Seeing Cupcake’s old dog face was a good thing. It woke me up and made me treasure our special moments all the more. 

And you know what? She is still just as beautiful, sweet and strong as she was when she first came to join our family. I love her face no matter how old she gets to be. 

Wordless Wednesday #243 – Cupcake Zen

June 9, 2015 7 comments

Cupcake and Jasper in June

Cupcake Poses

Dogs: A case of Conflict Avoidance

October 27, 2014 6 comments

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingThe older I get, the better I get at knowing, and understanding, myself.  Foibles and flaws? Got tons of them. And, I am aware of almost every one. You might think I am oblivious to them, but I’m not. I am painfully aware, and have analyzed every single one – over and over again.

For instance, I not only know I have a problem with the Big C.A., Conflict Avoidance,  but I can actually admit I have a black belt in it.

Oh, I don’t avoid every conflict, I’m actually quite good at dealing with them sometimes, but if it involves something I am afraid of I can avoid it like nobody’s business.

I can pretend not to see it.

“I can’t SEEEE YOUUUUU! I’m covering my eyes now!”

I can pretend not to hear it.

“Nah! Nah! Nah! I’ve got my fingers in my ears! I can’t hear you!”

I can even pretend that it will go away if I just ignore it long enough.

“POOF! All gone!”

Fear and me? We don’t do well together. In fact, I think I boarded him up behind some hidden room in my house. Much easier to avoid him that way.

Of course, the downside of avoiding all the things you are afraid of is that it eventually has a way of coming back to you. Karma. It’s a bitch. Or maybe it’s just a boomerang? Anyway, life has a way of making sure you cannot ignore that which you fear indefinitely.

Ignore a bill long enough and the bill collector will come a’banging on your door. Avoid the fact that you cannot keep growing your business if you don’t hire someone and eventually you get burned out. Pretend you don’t see that warning light in your car dashboard and eventually it WILL break down and leave you stranded on some deserted road.

You can’t live in denial forever. Fear will hunt you down and make you look it in the face.

I am starting to realize that living this way, avoiding that which I fear, has impacts that go beyond me.

In an attempt to avoid that which I fear (losing someone or something I love), I have placed two of my dogs in the uncomfortable position of trying to keep up, even though their bodies were clearly telling me they cannot. I have been acting as if they are still young and vibrant dogs in order to avoid admitting the truth, they are getting older, and as they get older they getting closer to saying goodbye. (God, how I would like to avoid that.)



Daisy is starting to slow down. No. Not just slow down. Her body is starting to show her age in all sorts of ways (she will be eleven in November).

Her eyes have become cloudy with cataracts and her sight is causing her some trouble when it comes to going outside at night. Her sense of smell seems weaker too. The super sleuth, the master of sniffing out the smallest piece of food in a pile of leaves, now struggles to find the one I just placed on her paw.

Instead of running off to explore the woods, she now stays within sight of me, afraid to wander too far away from me and worried about trying to keep up.

She has a little sway to her hips now. The kind you see in older dogs whose back legs have become weak with arthritis and over use. Her legs are definitely not as strong as they used to be. Jumping up on the couch is no longer as easy as it used to be either. There is a slight pause now, as if her front legs may not be able to pull her body all the way up and onto the couch.

Naps and cuddling are much more preferable to her now too. She still loves to go for rides and go to the dog park, but her stamina is not what it was a few years ago. Taking three-mile walks tires her out.  Two miles or less are more to her liking.

Hiking through the woods with Cupcake.


And it’s not just Daisy, Cupcake is slowing down too. Dog park jaunts are not as thrilling for her. She has been happy to stay home from time to time. On those days, she doesn’t even bark in protest when we leave her behind.

When she does go to the dog park, she often lags behind, stopping to sniff or to saunter along at her own pace.

Hills are something she dislikes now too. The steep inclines at Minnehaha Falls Dog Park are too much for her ankles. They have been known to give out from time to time, causing her to stumble and sometimes fall. Rimadyl is her friend.

Like Daisy, Cupcake is also more affectionate and cuddly than before. She prefers long naps and hanging out at home versus gallivanting around town. Old age suits her. She doesn’t seem to mind it much.

I wish I felt the same way.

I remember when Sharon from Grouchy Puppy would talk about the beauty she saw in her aging dog, Cleo. I would marvel at how well she handled it all. How could she stay rooted in the moment all the while knowing she was getting one day closer to losing her?

Conflict avoidance can seem so much easier than truth sometimes. That is, until you realize that your inability to see and hear is not just impacting you, it is impacting your friends too. Old age and death are hard to deny. They come whether we choose to see them or not. So I am doing my best to NOT avoid seeing what is really happening and to acknowledge it. I am trying to REALLY see what is before me so I can enjoy our time together, at whatever pace that may be.

The girls

Leaving an older dog behind at home

September 8, 2013 42 comments

Daisy close upDaisy’s age has been weighing on my mind lately. It’s hard to believe she is ten years old. Where did the time go?

Looking back on her early years over these past few weeks has made me realize how far we have come – both of us. We are as close as any dog and owner can be. She is my co-pilot, my friend, my cuddle-buddy and my companion. She has made so much progress in the six years she has been with me, more than I ever could have hoped.

And while she is still active and agile and happy, I have started to notice a little stiffness in her hips that was not there before. It is a reminder that our time is limited and that she soon may not be able to enjoy our long walks through the woods as she does now.

Maybe that’s why reading Carrie’s blog post (Separation Anxiety) on Tales and Tails this past weekend touched a chord with me. In it she talks about leaving her Greyhound, Bunny, behind so she can take their new and younger girl, Flattery, out to get some more experience with being in public. Her words “I know that she’ll be okay when I leave home without her, and she has been, but I feel like I can’t even look her in the eye when I take Flattery and leave her behind.” so resonated with me.

I remember feeling the same way when I left Aspen behind while I took a much younger Daisy to the dog park. Aspen had always come with us when we walked. She had always been so happy to go, it was her favorite part of her day. But as she got sicker and weaker and was unable to walk long distances any more, I had to make the difficult (and heartbreaking) decision to leave her at home. I still remember the guilt I felt in doing so. Oh Aspen still got her own much shorter walk at home, but it wasn’t the dog park. It wasn’t what she loved.

Now as Daisy gets older, I worry about having to make a similar decision for her some day soon. I think it would kill me a little inside to do so. She loves the dog park so much. It is where she first learned how to be a dog; where she learned that people could be trusted. It’s where she learned about friends and the joy of running through fields, and playing chase, and sniffing out new smells.

How could I take that away from her? I hope I won’t have to make that decision, but still, after reading Carrie’s post, it weighs on my mind.

Have any of you had to face making a similar decision? how did you handle it? Did you feel the guilt too?

Dumping an Older Dog at an Animal Shelter

December 27, 2011 43 comments

I recently saw this image shared on Facebook and shared it on my page as well. It struck a chord with me. I have seen many an older dog dumped at our shelter when I was a volunteer, mostly because the owner no longer wanted it or they just couldn’t face putting their beloved dog to sleep. My last dog, Aspen, was just such a dog. The excuse they gave was that she jumped the fence, but I know better. She had arthritis and moved way too slow to be able to jump a fence. She had health issues that took her life only a year later (I’m just glad she was in my arms when it was time and not at the shelter).

I know that there are sometimes reasons why a person can’t be with their dog when it’s time to say goodbye at the veterinarians office (see Dr. V’s post from a year ago here), but am I wrong to think that a person is a coward if they dump their dog at a shelter when they get too old? Or, is this just a result of our throwaway culture? After all, people buy/adopt a pet without thinking pretty often and then get rid of it when they realize the work involved. What do you think? Why do people dump their older dogs at shelters?

Dogs: What To Expect As They Get Older

January 17, 2010 Leave a comment


The hardest part of owning a dog, besides potty and obedience training, is watching them get old. We want them to stay young forever; to be there with us as we get old. I certainly have experienced this with my first Sheltie, Alicia, and my last dog, Aspen. I grew up with Alicia and she with me. I saw her in her youth: running, walking, playing, and demonstrating an enthusiasm for life that I truly envied. Every day was a new day. Everything was fresh and new.

But suddenly, before I knew it, Alicia was moving slower, having difficulty navigating the stairs in our house, taking shorter walks, sleeping more than playing. It was then that I had to acknowledge that yes, my dog was getting older. This can be such a hard thing to accept (it certainly was for me) because when I finally started to admit that she was getting older I also had to admit that one day we would have to say goodbye to one another. For me, this is when the denial started to set in. There is nothing harder than saying goodbye, whether it be to a family member, friends or your furry companion. It’s one of life’s hardest lessons – nothing lasts forever.

So what should you expect as your dog gets older?

A change to her regular bathroom routine – As dogs age, they have a harder time holding it as long as they used to when they were younger. Chances are she will need to go to the bathroom more frequently. My Aspen experienced incontinence as she got older. I was willing to work around it, through mediation, but it’s something you need to be aware as your dog gets older.

Sensitivity to cold or heat – Older dogs have a much harder time with extreme cold or heat. Their bodies just can’t regulate as easily as when they were younger. As an owner, you will want to monitor your dog more closely when they are outside in these conditions and you will want to shorten your walks if you notice she is having a hard time.

Arthritis – In some dog breeds, this can be worse than others, but often you will notice it when your dog tries to get up or lie down or when he or she is going up stairs. He will have a more difficult time doing many other physical activities as well, including getting into taller vehicles. He may also have a harder time walking, and will walk slower than he did when he was younger. Keeping his nails clipped will help ease some walking issues, but consulting your vet about Glucosamine supplements or other options is a very good idea.

Increase in water intake – As your dog gets older, she has the potential to develop problems with her kidneys, liver or other organs. Many of these diseases can cause her to drink more water, so you will want to make sure you provide her with plenty of water as she gets older.

Loss of sight and sound -Just like our grandparents, older dogs often experience a loss of hearing and/or sight or both. Most often you will start to notice these changes when your dog starts sleeping more deeply than she did before. You may also notice that she doesn’t hear you when you enter the room or she may jump up suddenly and bark because she was startled when she didn’t hear you enter. Which leads me to the next change in behavior…

Barking more than usual – As your dog gets older and his hearing starts to go you may also notice an increase barking. Because your dog does not hear as well as he used to, he is more likely to be easily startled, especially if you come up behind him and he doesn’t hear you approaching. It can be scary to have someone suddenly appear behind you when you didn’t expect it! Your dog is going to be more easily startled out of a sound sleep as well. So, if you notice an increase in your dog’s barking, consider his age and whether or not his hearing is the issue.

There are plenty of other behavior changes that you should be aware of as your dog starts to age. Talk to your veterinarian about what to expect and what health issues commonly accompany older dogs.

Here are some great websites and articles for more info:
Caring for Senior Pets
How long pets live and why it matters anyway
Senior Dogs: Common Behavior Changes

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