*Alternate headline: When your geriatric dog has fewer health problems than your younger dog.**
**Then again, Leo is 9, so technically he is a senior dog too.
Last week, I marveled to myself that because of Mia’s mobility limitations, my “difficult dog” Leo has become the easier dog to take out into the world.
This happened with Isis, too, after years of struggling to fix her leash reactivity. Leo was not an easy puppy. He jumped up and bit our arms during walks. Tore several jacket sleeves.
I remember walking Isis one Saturday morning back in 2010, thinking how much easier she was to manage at that point than Leo.***
***Our life with Isis is the subject of this book.
Then Leo became super leash-reactive. While Mia was basically bombproof, constant vigilance was required to keep Leo from barking and lunging at everything that moved.
After coming to the conclusion that I could not cure him, I committed myself to a lifetime of management. And string cheese.
But it was the darnedest thing. All that careful management led to behavioral change!
We’re still Midnight Dog Walkers, metaphorically, anyway. I will never walk Leo peacefully midday through a crowded park full of children, scooters, bikes and joggers. (Who would want to go to such a place?) I can’t even imagine walking him down our own street midday on a Saturday like I did that time with Isis.
Most evenings will find us on a 20-30 passeggiata at dusk. We loop around a ball field where we have lots of opportunities to not bark at his triggers. It’s often the highlight of my day. Sometimes we sing whatever tune is running through my head. Sometimes Leo helps me work through the arguments in my head.
All of this is splendid progress and is what I was thinking when I composed the heading of this post: Leo has become easier to manage physically than Mia.
Then I was reminded that even though Mia is a million years old, and needs to be carried outside to do her business, she has fewer medical issues than spry Leo.
In addition to his two knee surgeries, Leo has an eye condition called pannus that requires daily eye drops for the rest of his life.
As I started dictating this post into my phone on our walk last week, I was under the impression that our biggest dog challenges always have been behavioral, rather than medical. Even when Leo had two knee surgeries, he was a model patient. The hardest part was during his first recovery when he started lashing out at Mia (I blame Trazodone), which I consider behavioral. Also, he refuses to swallow pills no matter what I hide them in, but again, that’s behavioral.
Then Leo went and had a seizure over the weekend.
You guys, it was so scary. We were watching TV and heard this sound like paws skidding on the floor, like maybe he was chasing a fly. Rob went to help him, thinking he had a leg cramp, but it was all four legs, twitching like he was trying to scratch himself with all of them. His eyes were bloodshot and rolling back into his head, and his mouth was open but not appearing to take in any breath. There was, of course, drool.
Later I read that you’re supposed to leave the dog alone until they come out of it (maybe because they’re in an unpredictable state and might bite?), but of course I held his head in my lap and patted his back, because what if he was choking on something?
After about a minute, he started to come out of it and we carried all 100 pounds of him to the car and headed to the emergency vet. I did not even take the time to change out of my Wonder Woman pajamas. (It was 3 pm on a Sunday.)
Within another minute or two, he was back to himself.
His bloodwork looked great, so now we just have to wait and see if it happens again. The vet gave us some liquid valium I can administer into his keister if he has another that lasts longer than a minute.
And… here’s Leo discovering I mentioned his keister on the internet.
I’m not super concerned about what this means going forward. Seems like seizures are a thing that happens sometimes, and maybe it’s a signal of worse things to come and maybe he’ll never have another one. Either way, there’s nothing I can do about it except never take my eyes off him for the rest of our lives.
During our visit to the emergency vet, I asked if there was anything we should do or not do to best take care of Leo’s knees and hips as he continues to get older.
She gave the best medical advice I have ever heard: “Well, you want him to have fun.”