Getting Old Ain’t for Sissies

With many thanks to Quin’s grandmother for the titular phrase!

Well, Lily and Cash are getting older. Lily has a little bit of hip dysplasia and a lot of arthritis (she’s one supplement and, recently, pain killers/anti-inflammatories). Cash is in remarkably good shape, except for the added weight from helping himself to dog food. We’re working on that!

One of the books I’m reading for myself is called “Younger Next Year” by an MD and a lawyer who thought the information needed to be out in the world. There are several editions, and I can’t say it’s the most perfect book out there, but it is based on medical information, and it steers clear of the fad diets and whatnot, which I appreciate! The main message of the book is this: exercise an hour, six days a week, to help your body stay young. A brisk walk is good enough. It goes into a lot more detail about why, but that’s the basic premise.

Here’s why I mentioning it: the things they talk about have to do with being mammals, not always being human. Lily’s been sliding downhill slowly and I thought, “You know what? She’s a mammal, too.” So Lily and I (and Cash because I want him to stay in good shape) are now embarking on a get-younger lifetime regime.

Lily’s arthritis and dysplasia mean that her hips are sore and weak. To help with the weakness, I bought some anti-slip spray by Bio-Groom. [link] From what I can tell from the reviews and my own experiments, it seems to work well for dogs who have just a bit of slipping and weakness; too much, and it doesn’t make a great difference. I make sure to spray it on her pads and toe pads as well, and then pet her for thirty seconds while it dries. I re-applied every few days, and after a while I stopped using it; she stopped slipping.

I took her walking. Lily likes walking, but she gets bored walking the same thing all the time. I hadn’t realized this until I was distressed that she lagged so much, and then one day I took her jogging down a trail… and I’ll be damned if she couldn’t suddenly keep up! Now we walk or jog daily, and she’s gotten far more agile, much stronger, and happier. She’s playing again, and romping with other dogs.

I wasn’t sure, at first, if she was going to be strong enough to walk and jog, so I also looked up strength training exercises. Some things you can do include standing your dog on stairs (if they’re facing upstairs it works their hips, if facing downstairs their shoulders), practicing sit/down/stand/sit (puppy push ups and doggie squats!), and massage helps as well. Dogs are like us: some like a firmer massage, others a softer one. Start with the big muscles alongside the spine, and the ones on the shoulders and thighs. If your dog is pulling away, ease up!

Stretching helps, too. With your dog standing, very gently take a front leg and stretch it forward, stopping when you feel resistance. If at any point they pull their leg away with determination, let them! Give treats and praise throughout, because let’s face it, stretching is odd. You an also bring the front leg back (carefully), and then do the same thing with the back legs. Don’t do anything sideways without talking to your vet.

Finally, I made sure that Lily had enough Lily-time. It’s easy to ignore her and Cash; they have excellent manners, good confidence, and don’t ask or need my time like the younger Doc or any dogs I’m boarding. I started letting Lily on the couch for snuggles, and I make sure that I give Cash snuggles, too, though he’d rather I pet him while he lays on the floor.

We’re all feeling better for the exercise, and Lily is back on the 30-year plan: to live until I’m old!

Thievery

About two years ago, we put Cash on Prednisone to solve some massive allergy attacks that made him so itchy he itched himself bloody. We were later able to take him off it, but the damage had been done.

I don’t mean liver or kidney damage, although that’s something to watch for. Nope, I mean behavioral damage. Prednisone makes dogs thirsty and hungry, and he’d discovered nirvana: counter surfing.

Now, he surfs like I surf: not standing on the object so much as flopping around it and eventually falling over. In his case, though, he didn’t have to stand on the counters to get the food, and falling over resulted in four feet on the ground… and whatever he’d gone up for. Perfect!

I mostly solved the problem over the next few months, and it helped that he was no longer starving all the time. I kept food off the counters or I put him in an x-pen while I was gone so he couldn’t get to the counters, and then I corrected him when he so much as looked at the counters while I was home — hissing and chasing him away.

Once in a while it would still happen, but only once a month or 6 weeks, and I got lazy. While it was frustrating to come home and discover he’d eaten all my bagels, I didn’t care enough to do anything about it.

Last winter, he started gaining weight. He wasn’t stealing food off the table (although he and Lily have started pulling the dirty bird papers out of the bird cage and eating everything from parrot poop to dropped fruits and veggies. I still don’t know how they’re getting the papers out!), so to the vet we went. His thyroid was a little off; we put him on meds. He gained more weight. I started taking him walking. He gained more weight. Then one day I came home to see his face in the dog food bin. Not only had he learned how to open it, but when it was more than half full he could help himself quite tidily! No WONDER he was gaining weight!

Yesterday, I came home to see that he’d pulled the dog treat bin off the counter and helped himself, gotten into the food bin, AND pulled out the bird papers to eat everything there. Enough is enough. Time to fix this!

There are two ways to fix this, and as with everything, it is to either spend more time or more money.

The more-time-more-training way would be to start limiting his access to things when I’m gone, probably by x-penning him, and then giving him consequences (hissing and chasing him off) when I see him looking at the counters or the bird cage, and if I hear him nosing/moving the dog food bin. This will work: I’ve done it before, though I quit a little early. The thing is I don’t want an x-pen in my living room right now.

The more-money-less-training way is this: buy a zap mat and put it in front of things, or a disk and e-collar system that will zap him if he gets too close to the disk (then I can put the disk — or several disks — wherever I don’t want him), or find a way to keep him away from the three things he wants: tie the birdcage tray closed, velcro the dog bin, put aluminum foil on the counter (this last won’t work with him, but it often works with other dogs).

In both cases, keeping the counters (and bird cage) clean is of utmost importance.

Now, in addition to myself (my desire not to have an x-pen up), I need to take into account Cash. A disk with an automatic e-collar to keep the dog away from the disks uses a zap (“static charge” or a shock). I think getting zapped would scare him too much, and I don’t want him to stay that far from the birdcage. (In fact, it’s kind of handy that he cleans up around it.) Since the dog food bin is right next to the bowls, I don’t want him wary getting water or eating, either. So an e-collar and disk system is out, and I don’t want the x-pen. That leaves me with a zap mat. It’s visible, which is good and bad: he can see it, so he knows how to avoid it. But I’ll have to use it for so long that he no longer thinks about it, so that when I pick it up he doesn’t think, “Ah! Now it’s gone! Now’s my chance!” This means leaving it down for 6 months. But I’m willing!

So my current plan is money over training, in a way that won’t distress either of us too much: three zap mats, one in front of the bird cage, one in front of the dog food bin, and one on the counter. (Or maybe two zap mats, and I’ll just velcro the bin closed.) You can get strips instead of full mats, and that’s what I’ll do. He won’t hit it every time, but that’s fine. It’ll make him cautious, and I won’t have to store a giant mat!

Phew. Home training done!

Moving

If you’ve ever moved with a dog, you might relate to Hyperbole and a Half just a wee bit. (It makes me laugh every time.) As I write this — this post is pre-written — I’m preparing to move. In another week I’ll start packing boxes in and around dogs, then load them into a U-Haul and move into a proper house with a giant yard. I know that, eventually, the dogs will be ecstatic.

Eventually being the key word there.

I’m lucky (or rather, my dogs are REALLY used to my crazy life), in that my dogs have gone on vacations with me, are used to staying in strange places, and generally bounce back from new things pretty well. I also know that packing boxes is going to freak Lily out completely.

As a dog trainer, I know the following about any major life changes (including temporary ones, like vacations):

1. It helps greatly if the dogs are worn out; regular walks or runs are the best thing ever.
2. It helps greatly if I stay calm.
3. It helps greatly if we stick to their routine, both before and after the move, as much as possible.

I also know myself well enough to know that packing up my house, arranging the U-Haul, and moving is going to be VERY stressful on me. Add to that the fact that Quin’s chest reconstruction surgery is the day after I move, and, well… I’m not going to have time to take the dogs walking, and I may or may not be successful at staying calm.

Before I even start packing, I need a plan. My plan is formed from the knowledge about what helps in general, and me and my dogs in particular. Here we go.

1. I’m going to buy extra bones. I know that when Lily gets stressed, her first method of coping is to chew things like crazy. I can support her in this coping mechanism by buying her things to chew that will help her burn off her anxiety. In her case, that’s bones.

2. If I am feeling extra stressed, I’m going to give the dogs some Rescue Remedy. When I get stressed, we all go downhill. I might as well prepare for that, just in case.

3. I know that I may or may not have time to take the dogs walking or running. I know that it’s better for all of us if I do — it lowers my stress levels as well as theirs — but if I’m low on time, I’ll pack my  bike last. I can at least take the dogs for a quick bike ride to burn off energy, even if we don’t have time for long walks.

4. If possible, I’ll take my dogs with me to visit the new house before we move. If I am able to do this, I’ll let them run around and play just as if we were visiting a client or a friend, while I do what needs to be done. That way when we move, they’ll be familiar with the house, and it’ll have good feelings associated with it. If I don’t have time to do this, then when we first arrive I’ll put them on leashes and walk them around the house before we unpack, staking out our territory together and setting some quick rules (don’t go out the gate, for instance) before I release them to explore. I don’t know why I think one method will work better than the other in these situations, but my subconscious tells me it will. I’ve learned to listen to my subconscious; I usually realize why after the fact.

5. Once we’ve moved, I’ll set up their stuff ASAP so Lily has her safe-space crate, they know where their bowls are, and feeding schedules can be put to rights immediately. This will also mimic when we’ve vacationed elsewhere.

6. We’ll start walks or bike rides that night, and continue them. While I usually only walk the dogs 4-5 days a week, we’ll try for twice a day rides while in the moving process to burn off extra energy.

7. Lily will stay stressed the longest; I know this. I’ll keep her supplied with bones, make sure the rules and boundaries remain the same (not give her leeway like us humans are inclined to do: that only creates inconsistency and yet more change), and tell her to keep behaving. This will settle her down as fast as possible. (That’s true for all dogs.) I might also keep her on Rescue Remedy for a few days as she settles in.

That’s my plan. It’s good to have a plan before you set out on something big, so that you know what you need to do before anything happens, and so you don’t find yourself halfway through a problem with no easy way to solve it. For instance: if I thought, “I will take my dogs walking,” and didn’t also think, “I’ll be busy and stressed, I may not want to walk, what’s an alternative?” then I wouldn’t think to pack my bike last. Then I might get halfway through packing, be too tired to walk with no bike, and things will rapidly go downhill from there.

The steps above are generally pretty good steps for most dogs. Obviously, they’re centered specifically on my dogs, and your dog might have a different solution. (Visiting a known and loved petsitter while you move, for instance!) But before you do something big… plan for it!

By the time you read this, I’ll have moved and settled in. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section, and I’ll let you know how it went!

Jenna

Happy Holidays from Feathers and Fur!

2006

2006 (27)2006 (24)

Sam is 9 years old, Lily is just 2, and the birds — Bobby da bird and his sister, Kurt — are 4 years old and newly adopted.

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2007

12.16.07 CashandJB1

Cash: 4 months – Jenna: 26 years – Bobby (in the cage!): 5 years

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2008

doggy9

Lily is 4, Cash is 1!

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2009

P1020263

Stockings: less than a week old!
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2010

P1020822

Cash is 3, Lily is 6, Bobby is 8. (Lily is clearly being tortured!)

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2011

P1000485

 Lily: 7 Jenna, regardless of how she acts, is 30 years old.

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2012

dogs2012

Lily is 8 and Cash is 5, and now old hands at these photos!

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And to continue the tradition this year…

xmas 2013v2

Lily is 9, Tango is 8 months, and Cash is 6. We’ve come full circle, with a new bird and a 9-year-old dog. As it was in the beginning!

May your dreams be sweet and the feet you cuddle with stink-free!

lily sleeping with us

– Jenna, Sam, Lily, Bobby, Cash, and Tango at Feathers and Fur

Dogs and distraction (aka: my house-trained dog keeps peeing in my mom’s house!)

Hi, all!

Well, I packed up Cash, Lily, and Tango and we drove 8 hours to Southern California to visit with my family. We’re having a great time!

Every time we come to SoCal, though, I have this issue with Cash: he pees in my mom’s house. There are only two houses  he pees in — this one, and my friend K’s house. K’s dog had marked all over, and my mom’s dog was unspayed for several years and took some time to housebreak. In both cases, there are GREAT dog scents to replace with his own!

The hardest thing about your dog doing something that you know they know not to do is believing they did it. Did that make sense? Probably not. Let me give an example.

Mom: …I think Cash peed up here.
Me: What? No. He’s housebroken. Are you sure it wasn’t Sheba?
Mom: Sheba lives here and hasn’t peed in the house in a year.
Me: But she used to. Maybe the stress has brought it out?
Mom: That’s more pee than she has.
Me: But Cash is house trained.

Do you see what’s going on here? First, I’m having a hard time believing that Cash did something he knows he’s not supposed to. But even more importantly, what’s going on here is that whether or not it’s Cash, I’m not taking steps to find out or deal with the problem. So. I swallowed my dog-trainer pride several visits ago (it took several visits, I’m embarrassed to admit), and I realized I had a problem.

Now I had a bigger problem: since I hadn’t swallowed my pride earlier, this had become a habit. To fix it, I needed to first assess the situation.

1. He always pees upstairs, on the carpet.
2. He pees both when we’re home and when we’re gone, at night and during the day. There is no specific spot nor a specific time.

Now I can figure out what to do. Ready? Here we go:

First, I started sleeping downstairs. This gives him NO REASON WHATSOEVER to go upstairs. (I can’t sleep downstairs at Christmas, so we’ll have to change things then, but it’s a start.) Next, I chased him downstairs any time I caught him upstairs. I made a big production out of it, hissing my heart out and making him think he was going to die. As soon as his feet hit the downstairs, I stopped. That is his safe zone. I want him to stop going upstairs, because that’s the only common thread: it’s always upstairs. Therefore, he needs to stay downstairs.

The first few days I spend a lot of time either following Cash around (best, so I can catch him and scold him) or keeping him near me (worst, because he’s not learning; I’m just managing). Which I do depends on how much energy I have. Everyone needs breaks, and I know my own limits! Sometimes I even put him outside to play, so I don’t have to think about it.

At night, he stays in the bedroom with me so he can’t sneak off and pee somewhere. This means I don’t get much sleep, and I need some extra decaf coffee in the morning. (The sugar matters. *grins*)

I know after a few days of this, we’re probably in the clear. Regardless, I go check upstairs daily because I need to know if it’s working! If he sneaks off, I go follow him as quietly as possible.

When I’m tired and cranky and I want to throttle him, I take a deep breath and I remember: there will be setbacks. We are dealing with this. It’s not a personal shame that my dog has accidents. Now, take a look at the title of this blog post: Dogs and distractions. An unneutered, male dog in a new place, with new scents, and new dogs and new people, left to his own devices, might just get swept up in a really cool scent and want to tell the OTHER dogs, “Hey, I was here too!” In that moment, he might be too excited to remember what he’s supposed to do human-wise, and instead follow what his instincts say he’s supposed to do. Which is, leave his calling card — urine.

This is my job: remember that my dog is distracted. My dog, like all other dogs, is imperfect. If I can acknowledge that this is just him, being a dog and managing a human world as best he can — with occasional slip-ups — then I remember that I just need to guide him through it when he forgets. I also need to remember that he’s most likely to forget when he’s distracted. Doesn’t that sound compassionate and happy? It involves a lot of deep breaths and grinding of teeth!

So, next time your dog does the unexpected… remember that it’s not a reflection on you. Take a deep breath. Stop grinding your teeth. Accept that it happened, and take steps to solve it! It, or something like it, will happen again when your dog is distracted. Life is better when I’m not a perfectionist. *grins*

Jenna

Dogs, vets, herbal help

I’d like to start off by saying: Cash is okay!

So yesterday about 4pm Cash had a bout of very liquid diarrhea. It was water. This isn’t unusual for him, sadly. I gave him two Imodium and waited an hour, took him back out, and sure enough, he had another bout. I gave him one more per package instructions. (Cash is big enough that he gets human doses of drugs.)

Then I locked him in the kitchen, and went to the play Quin and I had scheduled.

When we came home at 11:30pm, he’d had what I thought was three more bouts of diarrhea. This IS unusual: typically the Imodium is enough. Later, I realized that he’d at two more bouts of diarrhea and one of vomiting, which is also unusual.

Anyway. Quin took him out then, at 11:30 pm, and he had diarrhea again. I cleaned up. At 5:30am I got up, saw he’d had diarrhea again, took him out, he had diarrhea again, and then he vomited. Twice. At that point I called the emergency vet and off we went. (Note: if your dog isn’t prone to insane bouts of diarrhea, and especially if they are prone to eating things they shouldn’t, you should go to the vet MUCH EARLIER than I did. I waited for vomiting because I know just how sensitive Cash’s stomach is.)  (Extra note: If your dog pukes, take them to the vet. That’s a red flag for poison or having eaten something they can’t digest.)

The upshot was this: Cash has a really sensitive stomach. They filled him up on fluids via subcutaneous IV (so he doesn’t have to drink today and tax his stomach) and gave him an anti-nausea injection, which stopped the nausea but won’t stop the vomiting if he really does need to puke (he hasn’t yet).

Living with a dog with a sensitive stomach can be… interesting. Things that set off Cash’s diarrhea:

  • Being too hot
  • Being stressed out
  • Eating something new
  • Working too much

It’s an ongoing battle. If you have a dog like this, there are some things you can do to help:

1. Add pumpkin. Canned pumpkin (with no additives) added a bit to their food every day acts as a regulator. (“Regulator” means that it will soften their stools when needed, or harden them when needed.) In a dog Cash’s size (100 pounds), you need half a large can per day.

2. Add slippery elm. Until a couple of days ago, I’d been putting slippery elm powder into Cash’s food nightly, and hadn’t had any diarrhea incidents in months. (This is a VERY long time for him.) I stopped two days before his major bout of diarrhea started. I use about 1/2-1 teaspoon of powder, and I don’t bother adding water or anything like that. I just sprinkle it on his kibble, shake it in, and serve. He likes it: it’s a little sweet to eat. Slippery elm is also a regulator, and doesn’t take up as much space in my cupboard as pumpkin. It’s also cheaper! I order it online, in bulk.

If these don’t work, and your dog has a bout of diarrhea, you can:

1. Give them LOTS of slippery elm. This will help settle their stomach. Add water. I gave Cash 1.5 tablespoons, and have been known to give him 2 or even 3 tablespoons.

2. Try Pepto-Bismol. It’s easier on their system than Imodium. (You’ll have to figure out how much to give via weight. I’d get it in tasty liquid form.)

3. If Pepto doesn’t work, the next time it happens try Imodium!

4. White rice is a staple. You can combine white rice with any of the above and it acts as a binding agent for what’s in their stomach and guts.

As for me… after spending half the night dealing with a sick dog, I’m going back to bed!

Jenna

PS: No new pictures of probably-Tango, who’s about five weeks old now. S/he looks about like this:

5 week old Grey Parrot by Papooga

Gettin’ cuter!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from all of us at Feathers and Fur!

 

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XO, Lily, Cash, Jenna, and Quin!

 

(You just know Lily is thinking, “You idiot. Stop looking so happy. Do you even know you’re wearing a beard?” Or maybe, “This type of thing never happened before YOU showed up…” *laughs!*)

Jenna