Planning now for her Sweet 16

Mia in 2011, the summer we got her, and in 2019.

I spent a lot of time in the summer of 2018 with my dogs in the backyard, reading during the day and looking at the stars at night. I even blogged about it, so I would remember it a year from then.

It won’t always be like this, I thought. This might be the last summer. The last Christmas. Her last birthday.

Her birthday was in June. We had a quinceañera.

I need to stop thinking like that, because Mia is still here!

It’s now been more than a year since she’s put any weight on her back legs. For several months, she continued to scoot her way around the house. We’d come home and find her under Rob’s desk, or sprawled in the kitchen waiting for us. Her front legs were so strong. She really motored in her little wheelchair.

Gradually, she slowed down more. It got harder for her to hold herself up on her front legs in her Best Friend Mobility wheels. We’re still moving her around the house by lifting up her hind legs while she steers with her front. Sometimes Rob gets the hind end and I take the front and we fly her like an eagle to the car, where we drive her to the park, where Rob wheels her in the wagon to a spot where she barks at other dogs and watches Leo play.

I get tired of people asking how old she is, and people actually say horrible things to us like “It’s so sad when dogs get old.” Lately, people have been saying it’s nice of us to take such good care of her. As if we wouldn’t. I always say, “She’s been very good to us, so we’re returning the favor.”

Aside from not being able to walk, her worst medical issue was an open pressure sore in December that I really thought wouldn’t heal, but I put MediHoney on it, and gave her two rounds of antibiotics, and sat beside her and watched Hallmark Christmas movies, and then all three seasons of The Leftovers, and it healed.

And she’s still here.

It’s stress-inducing for me to take her to the vet, because I have an irrational fear they’re going to say, “Oh no, this dog is too old.” But they never do. As it happens, one of the doctors is partial to old dogs. She gets it. A lot of her own dogs have had “mobility issues.” So clearly, this is the only vet we should be making appointments with from now on.

For our last appointment, Rob wheeled Mia in, lifted her out of the wagon and set her down on the floor. When the vet came in, I pointed out, like, 57 different things that were wrong. The stinky ear, this bald patch here, this sticky belly here. A few minutes later, I remembered to point out a goopy eye.

Our vet’s response: “She looks great. You’re doing a fantastic job.”

Really, it hasn’t been that hard. You hear things about knowing it’s time when the bad days outnumber the good days. Mia doesn’t have bad days. She’s alert, she’s happy, she’s still extremely interested in food. She pees and poops. Unfortunately, she does both of these things in the house, but most of the time, the poop is easy to pick up, and I’d say 75 percent of the time, we successfully get her outside and hold her up while she pees.

Except today. I got peed on three times today. That’s the only hard part. Managing her “business.”

It’s a very small price.

 

My Dogs on My Feets!

I have lots of socks with dogs on them, even some with German shepherds in particular. Thanks to Socksery, I now have a pair with MY specific dogs on them!

I’m impressed with how good the images look. I provided Socksery with a photo, and they did the cropping and the placement. I also love that they have a selection of bright colors. And omg, they’ll even put a Santa hat on your pup!

I will say that they fit like novelty socks, rather than performance socks, but you can see that they have reinforced toes and heels. I’ll keep you updated whether my big toe pokes a hole through it. I’ve had that happen more than once with novelty socks, even on the first wear!

If you’d like socks featuring your pooches . . . or your cat, or a human face for some reason, here’s a 20% coupon code, from me to you: SOCK20

#ad

Year in Review Part 2: Leo

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Leo recovered from his November 2017 TPLO surgery like a champ. At his eight-week X-rays, we learned that his fibula had broken during his recovery, but had already been healing for a few weeks, so there was nothing to be done, except feel completely devastated about my failure as a nurse. But he didn’t care. He was fine. Except for the part where the drugs made him start a couple of scary fights with Mia, and redirected a bite on my upper thigh that bruised and took longer to heal than Leo’s fibula, and the fact that I could not trick him into taking his medicine, so several times a day I had to force his maw open and shove a pill down his throat and hold his mouth closed until he swallowed… Those parts were trying.

But big picture, the surgery was a success and there were few complications. He enjoyed six adorable sessions on the underwater treadmill.

Unfortunately, it’s very common for a dog who tears a cruciate ligament on one knee to wind up tearing the other. And it appears, that’s where we are.

In late November 2018, more than a year since the surgery on his right leg, Leo’s regular vet did a thorough physical exam on his left leg and found nothing at all to be concerned about. A week later, after a brisk run-around at the dog park, Leo started toe-tapping with his left leg.

It comes and goes, and when we went back to the surgeon, they couldn’t tell for sure, but he probably has a partial tear on the left knee. Some people treat this with what’s called Conservative Management where you crate rest the dog, maybe get them a brace… but with a 100-pound dog, it’s only a matter of time. I couldn’t bear to watch him limp around the house, even occasionally, if I knew there was a surgery that could fix it.

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So, he’s scheduled for surgery January 11, where they will X-ray and scope, and assuming his cruciate is torn, he will have TPLO number 2.

I went into the surgery consultation thinking this is the preferable outcome, because it’s something we can treat. But it’s also a major surgery with an eight- to twelve-week (at least) recovery period. Add to that Mia’s continuing care needs, and it’s a lot.

Which makes me all the more grateful for all the adventures we had this year.

Here’s us on Christmas Day:


And here’s us on New Year’s Eve:

Year in Review Part 1: Mia

I thought I was keeping it pretty simple at the beginning of this year by setting the goal of having two ambulatory dogs.

I should have set the bar lower, because all I really needed was to have two dogs. Doesn’t matter how well they walk!

Turns out, neither of them are walking well right now.

But who cares, because they’re both here!! And I feel so lucky for that to be the case.

Every day with Mia is a gift. I’ve thought that since the moment we met her, seven and a half years ago, when she was seven(ish) years old. Which makes her 14(ish) years old now! She’s been on a slow decline for the past year or so, which I noted with my “training goal” for the year. She started having trouble keeping up with Leo on walks, making it hard for me to walk them together. One night, when Rob and I were walking them together, she sort of sagged into her back legs, as though she couldn’t walk on them. After a brief rest, she recovered, but that signaled the beginning of the end of her unassisted leash-walking career.

We appropriated the Help ‘Em Up harness that I bought for Leo’s TPLO recovery, and it was extremely beneficial for getting her up into the car, and to and from her acupuncture appointments. She gradually went from looking a little wobbly with her back legs to not using them at all.

Her front legs still worked, though, so she’d use those to scoot herself across the house. As recently as a few weeks ago, I’d come home from work to find her not on the couch where I left her, but under Rob’s desk all the way across the house.

We’d also find her stuck under chairs sometimes too, which was a little traumatizing. Up until a few months ago, she was still able to use her front legs to haul herself up onto the couch.

All this time, she has remained very much Mia. Completely devoted to Rob so that if he got up and left the room, she would either crawl her way across the house to be near him, or squeak, whistle, and squawk until one of us helped her.

Her regular vet visits and blood and urine tests have shown that everything still works. Except for her walking parts. We believe the muscle weakness is a normal result of aging. Something in the spine and lower back, and not, as everyone who sees a limping German shepherd assumes, hip dysplasia.

I dragged my feet about getting her a wheelchair, because I wrongly assumed it would cost hundreds of dollars, and it wouldn’t solve our biggest challenge, which is getting her in and out of the house to do her business.

First, we got her a wagon, which was great fun, and adorable, although she did bark incessantly while Rob toted her along. This has always been a standard Mia trait: an announcement that “I’m here!”

Once I finally looked into the matter, I learned that Best Friend Mobility sells used wheelchairs for half price. We got this one for $125! Why did I wait so long?

We’d been helping her get around for a while by lifting her up by her back legs like she’s a wheelbarrow, so she adjusted to the wheels very quickly. She powers ahead, her little back legs twitching, as though moving that fast is triggering muscle memory.

 

I think you can see a lot of her personality in that last video. So while it’s hard to see her slowing down, it fills me with a lot of joy to have her with us for another Christmas.

Next week, in Part 2, I’ll update you about Leo!

Dog Days of Summer with Our Senior Dog

Mia on the day we got her: June 4, 2011.

I found a handwritten (I know, right?) journal entry from Jan. 17, 2012, about six months after we got Mia:

There’s something very special about Mia. She knows her role in my heart. She stays by my side and doesn’t cause any trouble. She’s my constant companion so I’m never alone.

But what happens when she’s gone?

She has few demands, just “don’t ever leave me.”

Her muzzle is darker than Isis’s, with a half-moon of silver frosting on her upper lip. It’s what made me think she wasn’t right for us. I almost turned her down. 

How could I love this old dog?

How could anyone give her away?

Over the last couple of years, Mia’s decided to be Rob’s constant companion. And yeah, I’m jealous. She follows him around the house and hops up on the couch beside him.

We used to have a morning ritual after he left for work where she’d get up onto Rob’s pillow and cuddle with me, but she doesn’t climb up on the bed anymore. And if I sit down next to her on the couch, or on the floor, I have to be very careful not to fawn over her too much, because she’ll get up and move.

Leo doesn’t even get up on the bed with me anymore. I understand now what parents go through when their children get too big to sit on their laps. I think they call that Baby Fever.

I like to read outside, and love it when Leo comes and lies down right next to my chair. Even that doesn’t last as long as it used to, and frequently, he’ll run back into the house, and I’m out there by myself.

So we have a new ritual. Mia can’t keep up on walks anymore, so every day when we get home from work, we put her Help ’em Up harness on her, and assist her up the hill in the backyard. I lay out a blanket and lie down with my book. Somehow, this is more inviting to Leo than when I’m sitting in the chair. Or else he thinks I’m more vulnerable and in need of protecting. Either way, it’s the only time I can get both dogs to lie down beside me.

I just wanted to post this here so I’ll remember it next summer . . .

Dogs can do no wrong

This month’s Positive Pet Training theme is Mantras.

Here’s mine: My dogs can do no wrong.

Last night, Leo countersurfed a steak off a grill at the GrandPawrents’ house. We all laughed about it, because who leaves an entire steak on the counter in Leo’s presence? The only reason to be upset would be if he had burned himself on the grill, but it had cooled.


Then he climbed up into Grandma’s recliner like it wasn’t no thing.

I’ve had dogs who destroyed doors, ate parking brakes, eviscerated car seats (these dogs still live in my house), pulled the stuffing out of couches, bitten people, fought with each other, embarrassed me in public, chased after a deer or another dog with enough power to pull me off my feet and drag me through the mud or gravel, forced a bedroom remodel by tearing up the carpet…

 

 


I don’t recall ever being mad at them.

They didn’t ask to live in this world with weird rules about chewing some stuffed objects but not others, requiring them to be tethered by leashes so that they don’t run into traffic, where people mounted to wheeled contraptions whiz directly toward them. We domesticated them and forced them into a lifestyle they don’t understand.

It’s never their fault. Keeping them safe from the latter and teaching them about the former is my job, and if they get confused or make a mistake, that’s on me. (or Grandma.)

Join Wag ‘n Woof PetsTenacious Little Terrier, and Travels with Barley each month for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, where we share positive training posts, starting on the first Monday of the month and lasting all week.

Nothing’s Gonna Break Our Stride

My training goal for 2018 is to have two ambulatory dogs. I already had Mia on anti-inflammatories and acupuncture when Leo needed TPLO surgery in November. I already had the greatest dog step in the world for the car*, and prophetically had trained Leo to use it.

Mia got her own walks for a few days when Leo wasn’t allowed, but he was putting weight on his injured leg immediately after surgery, so he was ready for short walks. And for several weeks, Leo’s prescribed slow, short walks worked out great for Mia.

Now that’s he’s back to his old self, it’s challenging to walk both dogs together by myself. Leo wants to walk faster, and probably should for his ongoing physical therapy. I accommodate this somewhat by attaching Mia to my belt via an 8-foot leash, while Leo forges ahead on his Freedom harness with the leash attached in front and back. There’s still some tangling, and the sense that Mia is getting dragged along faster than she wants to go.

Last night, while on a ball field well away from traffic, I unhooked Mia’s leash, thinking she could trail as far behind us as she needed, but nope, she stayed within about 8 feet anyway.

Today I took her on her own walk, and let her pick the pace.


*I cannot believe I didn’t blog about the Pet Loader. This video was shot a week before Leo hurt himself.

 

 

This post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop. This month’s theme is training goals, but all positive training posts are welcome. The Hop is open until Sunday. Join Wag ‘n Woof PetsTenacious Little Terrier, and Travels with Barley each month to share positive training posts, starting on the first Monday of the month and lasting all week.