My Best Friend Ages Faster Than I Do

ImageThis post is part of a Senior Pets Awareness blog hop hosted by BlogPaws.  To check out other bloggers’ posts about senior pets, click here.

Desi is an old dog. About 15 years old, give or take. She is turning grey. Her eyes have cataracts. Her ears betray her. Her hips get stiff and sore. Her teeth don’t allow for her to eat very hard food anymore.

We almost had to put her to sleep a few years ago. Ever since then, we’ve been painfully aware of her age, and what it means. She will not be with us for another 15 years. Probably not even another 5. And there are little moments every single day that remind me of that fact. When unwelcome thoughts creep into my head, and whisper we’re lucky she’s alive today.

So what is it like? It only takes glimpses of my day to see what I’m talking about…

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I want to pull some aluminum foil out of the cabinet so I can make cookies, but Desi is napping on the rug, blocking the door. I decide I’d rather wash the cookie sheet than ask her to move.

I walk into the bonus room and wait for her to follow. But she won’t. Not until I turn on the light. Because as much as she wants to be right next to us, she just can’t see in the dark.

I realize I haven’t seen her in a few hours so I call her name. I whistle and clap. But there is no response. So I grow more frantic. I sprint from room to room, trying to recruit Lana to help me look. And after a near heart attack, I find her asleep somewhere completely random. She lifts her head with a groan and blinks at me, weary eyed, as though asking what’s wrong with me. With a sigh, I lean over and give her a kiss on the head and then leave her to her nap, vowing to teach Lana how to ‘find her sister’.

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I am on the floor petting both dogs, and I feel a new lump in Desi’s side. They’re calcium deposits, according to the veterinarian. “Nothing to worry about.” But they still make us think of cancer.

She jumps out of the back of the car before we can stop her, and we have to watch her limping around for a couple of days. There is a voice in our minds that asks how we will know when life is more painful than death for her. But soon she feels fine again, and has forgotten she ever had trouble standing.

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Lana is zooming past, chasing a ball. As she flies past Desi, the only thing the old girl can do is close her eyes and hope the black and white blur misses her. She does, but we are more careful to throw the ball in the opposite direction, just to be safe.

We take the girls to the vet. I worry Lana will poop on the floor and shy away from the doctor, even though he is a perfectly nice man. We worry Desi will receive bad news. A deadline. For now, we leave with none of our fears realized. But we know that won’t last forever.

Desi requires daily medication for a tumor growing on her eye. She takes it like a trooper, always with a treat right after. For now, it is nothing too expensive. Hers may actually cost less than Lana’s. But it wasn’t always like that, and sooner or later it will change again.

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Desi used to be a fairly independent dog, but these days we find ourselves tripping over her. Apologizing even though she was the one in the way, because we are so afraid to hurt her. We shudder when Lana crashes into her and doesn’t have the same courtesy, but she’s just a dog. It doesn’t even occur to her that her sister is fragile.

Desi used to be entirely food motivated. She learned tricks I’m convinced some other dogs never could have grasped, partially because of the promise of treats. Yet there have been times when we’ve had to sit down next to her bowl and feed her by hand. She may not be hungry, but at her age, the nutrition and the energy from the food are more necessary than ever. We don’t mind the smell of dog food that lingers on our hands the rest of the day, because what mattered was getting food in her belly.

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Despite the extra time and the extra worry, she is worth having. She depends on us, and she knows it. She is more grateful than ever to have us around. She has grown wise. True, she may sometimes act like a grumpy old lady, but if anything, it’s comical to watch a dog pitch a fit.

Senior dogs are hard work. Owning an elderly dog is a unique experience. It is bittersweet to love a dog so much but to know any day may be their last. You want to comfort them, but they aren’t scared.

They face their old age as they faced everything else – with a wagging tail.

Dr. Lana’s Cure For The Weepies

Hey, all! It’s Lana! I know you’re very excited to hear from me, especially since I’m writing today to help each and every one of you.

You may not know this, but dogs give great advice. And it just so happens, I have lots to say about happiness. I’m a happy dog. (I’m the star of a blog, what’s there not to be happy about!) So I’d like to help you all feel happier, too.

Behold, Dr. Lana’s 10 easy cures for sadness (for people and their dogs):

Image1. Have a treat
If you’re not worried about your figure, snacks are great. I especially like cookies that taste like peanut butter. Oh, and apple! And cheese! Ice is good, too. And banana. Whatever momma has handy will do. (She says there are certain foods that boost humans’ moods, too – like chocolate.)

2. Go for a run
Not right after eating a treat, of course. Personally, I like to chase after things. Most recently I chased a big snake, but mom screamed bloody murder so I had to stop. I’ve also enjoyed chasing lizards, deer, and laser pointer dots. Though, if nothing interesting is around, I’ve been known to run in big circles, too. Anything to get the endorphins going! (That’s what mom says, at least.)

3. Take a nap
After eating treats, I think this one is mom’s favorite. I don’t blame her, since she doesn’t even go anywhere when she runs! What a weird moving floor these people have in their house…  Anyway, mom sets a blanket on her sheets so I can nap with her. It’s kind of comforting to have my person there when I’m sleeping. Definitely a mood booster when I wake up.

Image4. Play a game!
As I mentioned before, chasing lasers is super fun. Fetch works, too. And of course just about every dog loves tug o’ war. The fun we’re having will rub off on you, and we’ll enjoy the time, too!

5. Pet your pooch
I love to be pet. Petted? Pat? Whatever…
Belly rubs, ear scratches, and just plain old human contact are nice. Momma helped explain why, because I thought I was weird, but I guess not. She says petting dogs (and other mammals, too!) releases a hormone called “oxytocin” (and a couple of others). This hormone is released when human mothers interact with their children, and when dog owners interact with us! Even eye contact can release this feel good chemical! But guess what is even better: we dogs feel the release of this hormone, too! So you feel better, we feel better, and our bond grows stronger. (Mom loves learning about stuff like this, so she insisted I include a link to an article about it for anyone else who is interested!)

6. Go for a ride!
Car rides are the best. Especially when there is someone on a bike to bark at! Just a change in scenery can do wonders for you. Not to mention, driving (and for some of us, being a passenger), takes a lot of focus. And you can’t stress about your problems if you’re focused on something else! (Bonus: if you drive us around without taking us to the vet once in a while, we won’t associate car rides with that scary place!)

Image7. Watch television (just not too much!)
Kind of like the car ride, sometimes you just need to get out of your own head. Personally, I prefer something with animals. Like a nature documentary! Sometimes I even forget the animals aren’t really there and I’ll try to make friends with them. Mom says I’m halfway to becoming a “fangirl”. (Sing-a-longs are great, because singing also boosts humans’ moods – that’s why mom loves Disney movies when she’s sad.)

8. Hang out outside
We (dogs) love the outside. There are fascinating sights, sounds, and smells, as well as the wonderful feel of sunshine on our bellies. The sunshine is good for you, too! My human is a bad example, since she’s “pale as death”, but she explained that exposure to sunlight can actually increase a person’s serotonin levels. This can help them feel happier. Just remember, if we’re going to be outside for long, dogs and humans alike may need sun screen!

Image9. Listen to some music
Calming music seems to have positive effects on both people and dogs. Momma used to play soothing music for all of the dogs when she worked at a dog daycare, and everyone seemed quieter with the music playing. Some studies have even shown anxiety may be reduced by classical songs with a slow tempo in dogs in shelters. (Just remember heavy metal, baroque, and other harsh music won’t make you or your dog feel better!)

10. Try aromatherapy
Some scents are said to have mood boosting effects. Many believe this is true for people and dogs! Mom and I have never tried aromatherapy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked!

ImageSo, there you have it – straight from the dog’s mouth! If you and your pup want to feel better, just take Dr. Lana’s prescription for a better mood.

Happy Friday from momma, Desi, and of course ME!Image

You Can’t Convince Me I’m Not A ‘Real’ Mom

ImageA recent study showed the relationship between dogs and pet parents mimics that of human children and their parents. I fail to see how this is news. I could have sworn it was common knowledge.

We dog moms, and probably other pet moms too, call ourselves ‘furmoms’. Should I explain? I can give you 25 reasons!

1. We love unconditionally

This one’s easy. My dogs have eaten things very precious to me, and I’ve had this amazing feeling of… almost apathy. I approach that as ‘stuff’. And stuff is never more important than my babies. Don’t get me wrong, they still need to be disciplined, but I love them no matter what.

2. I’ve cleaned as many bodily fluids/wastes as any other mom

Plus more hair than most moms. (God I hope you don’t have little sasquatch children…)

3. Everyone and their uncle hears about my dogs

They see pictures of my dogs, they see Facebook updates about my dogs, I have this blog about my dogs. I may need to tone it down.

4. I take my girl on play dates, and I become friends with her friends’ parents

Seriously. It’s actually pretty awesome.

5. I have holiday pictures of my girl

Christmas. Easter. Halloween. And I look forward to getting more every year!

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6. They participate in holidays other ways, too

Desi and our Lab Tinkerbell trick or treated. Lana, Desi, and Sierra wore Halloween costumes. Desi and Lana can open Christmas and birthday presents.

7. My home and car reflect my status as a mom

I even have a bumper sticker. But I meant the toys scattered everywhere, the fur in every crack and crevice, and the unsightly blotches in my carpet. Kids (and furkids) are a stain that never comes out. But in a good way.

8. I hate disciplining them, but I have to

Because that’s what a good parent does. *Not so subtle hint*

9. I dealt with the teenager phase

It just happened much sooner. About seven times as young, actually. And it ended faster. Yay!

10. I learned how to handle all sorts of maladies

Teething, warts, mange, incontinence, UTIs. Basically like teething, chicken pox, rashes, bed wetting, and UTIs. Or, at least that’s the best comparison I can come up with.

11. I drive them to school and daycare

Yep. And obedience classes involved me helping with homework just like real school should involve parents helping with homework. And I like to imagine graduating beginning obedience class is like graduating high school, intermediate is like getting a bachelors degree, and advanced is like getting a doctorate. So my dog is practically as educated as I am. And just about equally likely to get hired, thanks to my English/Psychology degree.

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12. They’ve cost me and arm and a leg

And it’s not just food! So very much food. It’s vet bills, pills, toys, collars, replacements for everything they’ve ruined… just like kids!

13. I’m more familiar with their doctor than mine

I kid you not, when the blood diagnostic center asked my doctor’s name, I almost blurted out my vet. That would have been awkward.

14. Maintenance is a must

Cutting nails, brushing hair, bathing, cleaning ears. The one thing I thank god I don’t have to deal with is using that sucky-squeezy thing (I think it’s called a bulb syringe) to suck snot out of baby noses. *shudders* I do respect you, human moms.

15. They get spoiled by the grandparents

Well, mine does at least. It’s like I have a kid; Lana’s grandparents babysit and buy her gifts and treats every time they see her.

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16. They wake us up in the middle of the night

And first thing in the morning. And during much needed naps. And even when we’re half asleep on the treadmill because we don’t know when to stop.

17. Some of them are terrified of strangers

Like mine. Ohmygosh!! Mom!! There’s someone at the door! They’re here to kill us all!! Make them go away! Bark bark bark!

18. Some are terrified of everything else, too

I got what I deserved. I used to be afraid of radiation, carbon monoxide, murderers, snakes, flesh eating bugs, government surveillance… all when I was in middle school. (100% serious, I was a weird kid.) And guess what! Now I have a dog who is afraid of hats, gloves, plastic bags, Halloween decorations, heating elements, the phrase ‘ooga booga’, vacuum cleaners…

19. Potty training

This was awful for Lana! It didn’t help I was on the third floor and had to run down several flights of stairs whenever she needed to pee. And when she didn’t but I thought she did. And when she said she did and then forgot once we got there.

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20. My fur kid also has A.D.D.

Only instead of losing focus during homework, she gets distracted when trying to find a spot to go potty (see number 19).

21. “That’s Mine!”

Anybody else think of the little kid, Randy, from A Christmas Story? Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING belongs to Lana. The food on my plate, all the toys – even the ones she’s not playing with (poor fosters), my spot on the couch… Insert Doctor Sheldon Cooper’s: ‘You can’t sit there, that’s MY spot!’

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22. We argue about the best way to raise them

Seriously, can we stop with this? Some people are SO judgmental. Let’s try to save it for a common enemy instead of pissing off our allies. We all learn, experiment, and figure out what’s best for us and our dogs, just like parents and children. (Note: abuse is still bad, but go easy on assuming everyone who gives a spanking is an abuser, okay? Thanks.)

23. They pout

When Desi gets mad at us, she turns her back to us and ignores us when we call her. Well, she used to. Now she’s deaf, so it’s not really her fault anymore…

24. They will totally lie to our faces

Human kiddos: “Did you brush your teeth yet?” “Yep!” “Then why does your breath stink?!” or “Did you steal a cookie from the jar?” “No ma’am!” “Then what are these crumbs?” (That’s right, we said ma’am and sir in my house! But we didn’t have a cookie jar… boo!)

Doggie kiddos: “Did you eat this shoe?” *tail wags innocently* “Stop lying!!!”

Image25. They have us wrapped around their fingers, er, paws

Lana has this habit of using her Border Collie stare when she wants ice. I can resist that, but when she starts with her Husky talk, I can’t say no. We’re working on teaching her to say ‘Mama’. I’m not even kidding.

ImageI’ve seen mothers of human children take offense, though that’s not the intent of this post. We aren’t saying what you do isn’t hard(er); we’re just saying we’ve had a taste of it, too!