Rob's Blog Archive

November 3, 2013

The Last Dance










I have two dogs who are about to turn fourteen.  Vixen continues to do spectacularly.  She’s running with the slow team and she still breaks into runs during yard time.  Otter is not doing near as well.  She gets around and seems to enjoy exploring, just like she always has, but it’s with a fair amount of difficulty.  The chances of my bringing her on my trip to Alaska are very small---she’d have to make a remarkable improvement from where she is now. 

Happily, except for back issues that interfere with Otter using her hind legs, everything else is fine.  Even her coat remains in great shape.  I don’t know when the right time will come, but with a little bit of continued luck, I won’t have to make instantaneous decisions like I did with Ghost. 

And so, I’m working through doing things that are keeping her happy.  It started with something relatively small.  For every other dog, including Otter for months, I just take pills and more or less shove them down my dogs’ throats.  They can learn to relax or continue to fight it, but even doing the latter, it’s only seconds each day that they’re “suffering.”  With Otter, I started putting the pills in hamburger.  She really likes her little meatballs. 

She had an infection a week ago.  One of the key side effects of prednisone, the drug she’s on, is dogs are more vulnerable to these.  I put her on antibiotics and brought her into the house for several days.  Unlike Ghost, Otter can see, so I never worried about confining her to a “safe” area of the house. 

Before bringing her back into the yard, I built a ramp to let her get onto her platform and into her doghouse.  A thirty degree angle was steep enough that she immediately rejected it.  I took a couple more hours, mostly this was to recharge the battery in my cordless tools, to fashion a step out of a section of a pallet I had.  I strawed her house and put her out with the rest of the pack. 

Forcing her up and down, using the step, it was clear that if she wanted to use it she could and it would make it easy to get onto and off of her platform.  Still, she never did.  After several days, I switched her and Sima.  His platform was lower to the ground than hers was and she could get onto it if she wanted to. 

During all this, I’d help her out of her house, set her on the ground and support her rear for a few steps to warm up, then let her wander around the yard.  We did this several times a day. 

With multiple walks, I hope we can build up more strength as she recovers.  It’s a cycle, but at least this one doesn’t have the severity that Ghost’s did.  Not only she walking, sometimes for fifteen minutes, while she’ll sometimes step with a rear paw flipped---a clear sign of severe nerve damage---she won’t let it stay that way. 

Ghost loved and Sima loves to go for walks outside the yard.  Otter likes exploring every corner of the yard as well as the old yard that Dawn and Tenaya used to use, but gets upset when I take her for walks outside the fence.  I’d say it was a boy girl thing, but Sonny was the same way as Otter.  I tried walking him after he stopped pulling and at about 100 yards outside the fence, he started telling me we were going the wrong direction.  Happily though, Otter really does like her yard time wandering around.  All I have to do is get her onto the ground, and then she’s good to go. 

The strangest thing about Otter’s yard time was that she kept on heading into the small yard I had set up for Dawn and Tenaya.  It was also the entrance to the house via the mudroom, something she’d also wander into and explore.  I guess I had Ghost’s drive to be back out in the yard too much on my mind to read Otter’s clear message---she wanted to be back in the house.  In all fairness to my ineptitude, it took only three days to rectify the situation.  The clearest sign that being back inside the house was what Otter wanted was that after letting her wander for her morning toilet both in the small side yard and the main yard, she happily walked into the mudroom and then into the house.  Inside, she wandered around for another five minutes before laying down on the cool concrete where I normally store a small stash of firewood---I’ll just use the mudroom for now.

So, I have a house dog.  I’m not sure where or how this will end, but I don’t expect it to last months.  Maybe, though.  If she does get very strong, I could head to Alaska with a house dog, but I still doubt it.  We’ll see.  In the mean time, with her being inside rather than in a doghouse, her gait is stronger and she’s happy.

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