Helping A Very Old Dog Live Longer and Well (Part 1)

Yeager at fifteen years old, after having his way with a disposed jar of marshmallow Fluff.

In eight profound months, beginning in October of 2010, my perceptions of time, communication, dignity, and the power of intention were forever altered by the paradoxical process of helping my ninety-pound, 16 year old Weimaraner companion named Yeager live well as a very old dog, for as long as nature allowed.  As it was, he spent 25 percent of his life outliving his life expectancy. On June third of this year, in his favorite blue chair, confiscated as his own the first day he entered the house, Yeager died in my arms without pain, suddenly but naturally. Grief, shock, loneliness came.

Guilt and regret for what I might have or not have done, however, did not.

The old boy in his blue chair.

It was the final moment of mutual attentiveness begun the day I’d adopted him from Friends for Pets a decade earlier.  He was six then.  Unlike Yeager,  dozens of dogs will live out the rest of their lives in the no-kill Friends for Pets shelter, passed over for adoption simply because they’re disabled or perfectly healthy but older in years. To provide for their care, we’ve created a fundraising effort in his memory, called The Yeager Fund (http://www.friendsforpets.org/monetarydonations.php#yeager).

Still, many adopted dogs who are equally beloved die less ideally and leave behind conflicted humans.  Certainly the luck of Yeager’s genetics take big credit for his healthy longevity.  As much as anyone can direct the mechanics of fate, however, his peculiar longevity, given his size and breed, was also the result of new skills honed to first anticipate, and then accept the challenges of his last months. It meant investing physical, emotional and financial resources, learning to acutely prioritize, seek the wisest counsel and, most elusively, develop an intuitive instinct about Yeager’s evolving state of mind and body.

Before he was a very old dog, Yeager had a good, long stretch as just an old dog.

Since then, I’ve encountered strangers, neighbors and other familiar faces who long cheered Yeager on in that eight month period, themselves now confused and anxious at the first signs of age debilities in their dogs. Many are reacting to the diagnoses and suggestions of vets, but to passively accept the edict of one professional without a wider search for answers and consultation of the wisest “opinion” – that of the dog, is sometimes enough to kill an old dog prematurely.

If people can commit to certain preparations and modifications, they can ensure the best chance of their healthy old dog aging without pain into a very old one .

Thousands of books and articles help us help puppies mature into their prime but anything about caretaking very old dogs is inevitably devoid of both the practical realities and the emotional rewards of that process. In those which do touch on the subject, a lot of gentle euphemisms are employed in place of an honest consideration of euthanasia, non-medical tactics to cope with non-life threatening issues, the potential for shifting our perceptions of human life – let alone mention of the best wee-wee pads.

January 2011

In reviewing Yeager’s last eight months, however, I now recognize turning points and crossroads where decisive action proved crucial to us both and which may perhaps help others experiencing what can be as enlightening and joyous a period as it is brief and poignant.

I’ve discovered many, but here are a few, embedded in an abbreviated version of that time, from October 2010 to June 2011.

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1. Determine if there’s Pain

First and foremost, determine if your old dog is in pain – whether it’s permanent, worsening, temporary or relievable. Everything else you do will stem from resolving this issue. It’s not always easy. Some dogs that feel pain won’t reveal it obviously by how they act, striving to get on with life as usual, but the slightest difference in behavior can clue you in. Are they still excitedly running into the kitchen to eat but slower in getting there? Do they react sharply if you touch them in some places? It might be the first signal of a debility that will become entrenched – or it may be nothing. And keep checking, constantly.

Along these lines, I learned not to assume a dog’s changing physicality always means pain.

Pausing, Yeager in “slope-back” mode.

Last October, Yeager paused to sniff some hedges during a morning walk. He was also shuffling, a bit slower than usual. He didn’t as much as fall as he sat back on his hind legs. It was the third day in a row of cold and rainy weather, so I assumed he’d slipped. When we got home, I finished packing for a rare trip of six days. Rather than pull himself and climb onto my bed, however, he paused in an odd sloped position, lowering his back and bending his knees but not sitting.

Yeager always stared intently into Peet’s Coffee, waiting for me.

I immediately assumed he was suddenly, finally showing signs of the dreaded hip dysplasia, common to older, larger dogs. For months, some worry-wart woman kept insisted it just had to be that when she saw him similarly sloping outside of Peet’s Coffee, where he routinely waited while I dashed in for coffee. In fact, Yeager wasn’t suffering hip or knee pain but rather the lack of feeling in his toes and legs. During his first examination by a veterinarian who treated him to nearly the end, a potential issue was detected that proved to be so subtle that when I brought Yeager in upon my return from my October trip, even the vet had nearly forgotten about his lower-back, pinched-nerve which was now worsening and leaving his feet numb.

In this situation, making a daily assessment helped me take other measures immediately to help him carry on as he wished.  Medical conditions might plateau for a long time in an old dog. They are sure to deteriorate in a very old dog.

Towards the end of his life, a more alarming health issue arose suddenly.

Despite his eagerness to still walk and eat, I assumed he was in pain.  I called in a vet to perform a home euthanasia. Dr. Steven Smith (http://www.homepetdoctor.com), arrived with his medicine bag to examine Yeager. Without regard to any potential profit, Smith declared, “He’s in slight discomfort but no pain.”  He didn’t recommend euthanasia. For Yeager, that was the right decision.

2. Home Adjustments

If it was still easy to forget that Yeager was an old dog when I left for a six-day trip last October, when I got back, it was obvious that I’d returned to a very old dog.  It required immediate and gradual home adjustments.

Putting a mattress on the floor prevented any potential falls for him and relief for me, though I always worked right nearby.

Before I had left, I feared that he’d really take a bad fall if he tried to keep getting up on my bed to nap when I was gone. He was being looked in on every three hours, but the old boy was still a hellion when nobody was looking.  Twenty minutes before I left for the airport, I impulsively dissembled my bed and temporarily put the mattress on the floor.

It proved not to be temporary.

The wood floors became a challenge.

Yeager still persisted in climbing onto the sofa and his blue chaise lounge . More often, however, when roused by someone outside, he now looked tentatively at the slippery wood floor first and sometimes decided to do his hoarse barking from the safety of the chair.  He still bounded into the kitchen, anticipating dinner though now if he waited in a stationary mode more than a few minutes, his feet were starting to slide and made him constantly reposition his stand. In fact, the condition of his numbed toe nerves was worsening and he was losing the ability to grip the floor. Lining his pathways at home with rugs made all the difference.

Small Target rugs gave Yeager’s toes grip and were washable for “spillage.”

Sturdy twine rugs looked great but proved futile. In the end, rugs with rubber backing did the trick. That Target had sold out of long and plush versions and only had shorter, washable rugs proved fortuitous (http://www.target.com/c/home-home-décor-rugs/-/N-5xttg#?lnk=nav_t_spc_5_inc_4_10). As time went on, it took Yeager longer to get outside to relieve himself and it was vastly more efficient to wash a few short rugs he’d dribbled or streamed on. It also meant moving furniture to clear a beeline for the door. Soon enough, there was a ramp down the two front steps and back ones.

A puppy’s wee-wee pad is a very old dog’s rescue pad.

The water bill’s sudden spike wasn’t due to rug-washing alone. By Halloween, there was dribbling while he slept. And that called for my own unique system of three layers of different materials, two washable and one disposable, to match his size and sleeping habits and keep both him and the bed dry. Trying all sizes and brands, the simple “Training Pads” I found in a Safeway, part of its Priority Total PetCare line, proved the most reliable and radically inexpensive by comparison to products in pet stores. (http://www.safeway.com/IFL/Grocery/Our-Brands). For total insurance, another trip to Target found me investing in water-repellant bed coverings. Diapers were a temporary but failed effort. He liked shaking or tearing them off.

The red “Rugged” brand of Ultra Paws – the ones that ultimately lasted longest for Yeager.

3. Old Dog Support

The greater resistance to change, however, came with old dog support products that Yeager found himself attached, contained by and snapped into. It was time to force him into a pair of booties I’d bought back after Yeager was misdiagnosed at 13 years old with the nerve disorder Degenerative Myleopathy.

Like a bad kid protesting footsie pajamas, Yeager never stopped stiffening his feet when I tried to get them on him, surely not caring that the large round black cloppers made him look like a canine Mickey Mouse, just that they felt odd.

Once on him, however, the booties soon gave out, this brand being not only too thin but lacking a firm hold around the ankles, turning, tearing and falling off. The sturdiest and most secure ended up being the red Rugged Boots among the many choices offered by Ultra Paws (http://www.ultrapaws.com/Ultra-Paws-Rugged-Dog-Boots/productinfo/303R/).

A handle harness helped Yeager up or lifted into the car like luggage – in his case, 60′s Samsonite.

The search for the ultimate dog bootie led me into the extraordinary universe of disabled and senior animal products of endlessly promising diversity (harness lifts, memory-foam beds, ankle supports, back braces, to name but a few).

All geared up.

At great cost, I learned the hard way that many products seem ideal online, but vary greatly in terms of quality and cost, catering more to small dogs that can be hand-carried around rather than the big all-elbows Marmaduke-types like Yeager.

In his last weeks, certainly nothing better than the Help ‘Em Up Harness by Blue Dog Designs (with handles like luggage) helped him rise and be lifted into the car. (http://helpemup.com/store/#&panel1-2)

You can see some of the items that worked for him towards the end of this tribute:

http://carlanthonyonline.com/tribute-to-yeager-the-weimaraner/

4. Wheels

Nothing proved as vital to lifting his sloping back, reducing his leg and foot numbness and letting him continue his walks as did “the cart,” a dog equivalent of the walker and wheelchair for people and what, eventually, the old boy took as if it were King Fido’s royal carriage.

Yeager, displeased after his initial enforcement in the cart that ultimately helped lengthen and improve his life.

For a solid month I plunged into an ocean of websites, help boards and Jerry-rigged contraption blueprints claiming to help dogs that were full or partially paralyzed, missing a limb or just ancient.

I ultimately narrowed it down to which one promised to best support Yeager’s unusually long back. It ended up being the most expensive. It also ended up saving his life.

After meticulous measurements of every possible body part’s length, I put the order in for his custom-made cart from Eddie’s Wheels, http://www.eddieswheels.com.

Once it arrived, I slipped his back legs into the strongly-constructed cart, and secured the chest strap. Yeager stared blankly at me, seemingly offended. He wouldn’t budge. Eventually, he realized he wasn’t going anywhere unless he tried to walk in the cart. Once he did, he took off. It was a poignant moment.

As long as Yeager wanted to trot, sniff and inspect, I just helped, pulling his cart behind.

By mid-February 2011, Yeager had to use the cart if he wanted his full walk.

I did buy the cart sooner than he really needed it, and for many months, I simply pulled it along in case Yeager suddenly sloped or tired. Not for months would I realize just how perfectly it fit, not until he could no longer make his full round without it, the last time he did so being February 11.

Front wheels prevented Yeager’s wrists from weakening while still making him use all four legs to do his rounds.

A month later, detecting a weakness in his left wrist and shoulder, I added on front wheels from Eddie’s Wheels. It was ironic that, while aging was causing some muscle loss, having to continue using all four legs was also building muscle gain.

It was not that last illness nor his pinched-nerve, however, which caused Yeager’s lethargy that October morning. Likely due to the suddenly cold weather, the old boy had contracted pneumonia and nearly died during the six days of our separation. But he didn’t. Yeager’s regular vet put him on medication and he recovered. Six months later, after an April checkup, however, I faced a fact about the vet himself which I’d been reluctant to believe. And it had nothing to do with Yeager’s health – directly.

5. Vet the Vet

The three vets who proved crucial to Yeager living well in the last month of his life: (left to right), Khara Johnson, Steven Smith and McGee Leonard

By November, I’d begun recording any slight change in Yeager’s condition and questions about his medicines’ side affects, and taking these to the vet. Hell, yes, it was obsessive, but three times in the past I’d immediately detected mast cell tumors on Yeager this way, and each time it saved his life. Reacting to the vet’s sudden passivity towards my questions, I apologetically added I wasn’t questioning his professionalism, nor seeking to make Yeager live beyond nature’s turn but only to prevent what could be prevented, especially potential pain.

On this April visit, I’d come with two friends, familiar with Yeager’s condition, but the vet told his assistant to prevent them from joining us. Days earlier, I felt a small but solid lump in Yeager’s abdomen and asked the vet what it was. “Could be anything,” he murmured, avoiding my gaze. “Is there a test to tell what it is?” He mumbled nothing in particular. I asked if it was cancer. All I got was, “Could be anything.”

In that moment, I realized he’d abandoned any camaraderie we’d shared on Yeager’s behalf, and any respect I’d accorded him as an authority figure abandoned me. I also saw my culpability in ignoring my own instincts about this vet, especially after Yeager had been kept waiting on a floor for three hours for a scheduled x-ray that was continuously ignored. He’d been great treating Yeager in his prime, though always highly uncommunicative, but once it seemed the old boy’s months were numbered, Dr. Could-Be-Anything failed.

That’s why it’s vital to vet the vet, by which I mean scrutinize whether even the most reliable of veterinarians is both professionally and emotionally equipped to care for your old dog to the end.

Before I’d been able to carefully chose a new vet for Yeager, however, an emergency arose on the morning of May 9.

On May 11, after I scheduled his euthanasia at home for eight in the evening, at about seven, Yeager bolted in his cart from a “last” graze in the garden out to the sidewalk, for a full-blown walk. Dr. Smith soon arrived but said he wasn’t in pain and gave him a sedative to relax. Yeager then roused through the medication upon scenting the arrival of pizza for the no-longer mourning mourners. He lived another three weeks, dying naturally.

Yeager’s abdomen was suddenly swollen with what proved to be bodily fluid produced in reaction to a pancreas dysfunction. I had to make an immediate decision and so I rushed him to a vet recommended by a neighbor. The vet was sweet but obviously distracted with personal matters. After pumping his stomach to relieve his discomfort, she simply vanished from the office, leaving no report or instructions for his care – just the bill. Ticked off by my insistence she be contacted at home, she blithely relayed a message to feed him normally. I did what she said. It proved nearly fatal.

Enjoying a stroke of luck when rushed him the next day to Animal Surgical and Emergency Center, he was treated by Dr. McGee Leonard (http://www.asecvets.com).

Dr. Leonard articulated care instructions and her combination of medical specificity and personal compassion relieved me. Her tests could not conclusively prove whether Yeager had pancreatic cancer or severe pancreatis.

While it wasn’t possible to have him regularly treated by an emergency vet, a glowing report about the especial care for senior dogs possessed by the Veterinary Care Center’s Dr. Khara Johnson led us to her. (http://www.veterinarycarecenter.com/)

Veterinary Care Center, where Yeager received care at the end of his life: along with superb care for my very old dog, the peaceful waiting and exam rooms reduced stress in the saddest time

By two more strokes of good fortune, Dr. Johnson had opened her practice a week before, just three blocks away. Her patient care and comfort of Yeager surpassed any regular vet he’d seen. Despite the pressure of opening a new practice, she always took my calls, said she didn’t know – if she didn’t know, and spent generous time speaking to me about what I realized was only a matter of weeks. After the turmoil of finding the right vet, she was a godsend in his final days.

6. Adjust the Diet

Yeager never tired of eating anything – except the excessive amount of boiled chicken ordered in his last two weeks.

Throughout his very old years, Yeager’s appetite remained intense and he gained weight easily. With a senior dog’s weight being a serious factor in their longevity, it was a constant battle to keep him trim since letting him trot for long stretches could easily exhaust him.

After a new round of research on optimum weight for his size and age, but conscious of the importance of consistency to what a dog ate and how much Yeager loved his regular meals, I needed to carefully adjust the diet.

In 2008, after Yeager’s misdiagnosis with D.M. and finding the national expert on it, Dr. Roger L. Clemmons of the University of Florida at Gainesville veterinary school (but long before it became obvious Yeager did not have D.M.) I began feeding the old boy the special diet which the veterinarian recommended, mixed with some dry kibble.

It consisted of ground meat (pork, turkey, chicken) carrots, molasses, olive oil, green peppers, spinach, brown rice, broccoli, bone meal, dry mustard, crushed garlic clove, dry grounded ginger – each ingredient is included to address specific symptoms. The full recipe is found here: http://neuro.vetmed.ufl.edu/neuro/DM_Web/DMofGS.htm

Since it was so healthy and certainly didn’t hurt, I continued to feed it to Yeager.

When he showed symptoms that suggested the adrenal disorder Cushing’s Disease, I researched that and learned how ethoxyquin, a common preservative in commercial dog food was hard on the canine immune system and could worsen conditions like Cushing’s.

While evidence is anecdotal, I believe Yeager’s healthy diet was crucial to his strength, clarity and longevity.

Repeated testing never showed he didn’t have it, but in the interim I’d searched and found Flint River Ranch’s “SeniorPlus” natural dry food for seniors (http://www.frrco.com), consisting of meat proteins, fruits, herbs, grains, vitamins and minerals. Although freshly-made, it also proved less expensive than commercial dog food.

Unlike numerous (and expensive) medicinal tonics and powders he tried, the Clemmons-Flint River diet noticeably strengthened Yeager’s condition even in his last months though the amount was regulated to maintain optimum weight.

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These guidelines – and many more there is no room to include here – helped Yeager not only live as long as he did but engaged and active, without pain. They all now seems sensible and obvious, but at the time it was a matter of trial and error, search and discovery. Not until the last month did I really take stock, however, of how exhausting and depleted it often left me – and how that could affect my care of him.

In that sense, helping myself may have been the best way to help him.

To read part two of this series, “Helping Yourself Help A Very Old Dog,” go to:

http://carlanthonyonline.com/2011/11/14/helping-yourself-help-a-very-old-dog-live-longer-and-well-last-in-a-series/



Categories: Dogs, Senior Dog Care

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24 replies »

  1. First and formost, my deepest condolences on the death of your best friend. It is difficult to write this as my eyes keep filling up with tears.

    Although no longer physically with you, Yeager is all around you. When you least expect it he will let you know that he is still around.

    When you visit his grave, be very quiet and listen – because not even all the power of death will keep him from wagging a grateful tail.

    Warmest best wishes -

    David

  2. I’m so glad that you are writing this. As we previously discussed, I’ve been through some of the same issues with my cats. Your love for your dog is so beautiful and it is hard not to get misty-eyed when I read what you have written. I believe your time will be invaluable to many people though. I look forward to the day when I can rejoice with you over your new dog, which eventually, you will be ready for. Whoever that dog is, s/he will be lucky to have you.

    Lisa

    • Thanks Lisa. The paradox is that writing this and thinking it could maybe be of value to other people stumbling through this bewildering process is what has really helped me keep moving on in a practical way without losing the vivid recall of the experiences – not really a disconnect, but kind of like when a rocket breaks in two in space and the “head” the capsule is what returns – does that make sense? I can’t imagine adopting another dog knowing the way I view the relationship as one of full commitment and also knowing I can’t expend what’s necessary for that anymore – all that said, I am now working in foster care of senior dogs from Friends For Pets and it’s a win-win situation in that I get to enjoy the company and the dogs get a chance to enjoy their life outside the shelter. These are the “unadoptable” dogs for which the Friends For Pets’ Yeager Fund is fundraising to keep them healthy in the no-kill shelter where they will live out the rest of their lives.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this series.

    I thought about your body of work this last weekend while I was at the Reagan Library, and how helpful it’s been to me – and to so many others – in better understanding of the First Ladies.

  4. Thank you for this well-organized and considered guide. As a cat mom who has lost two elderly ones in the past 6 months, I can attest that many of these guidelines also apply in the case of aging felines. Yeager looks like a sweetheart, and I am sure you will always hold him in your heart. You did a great job, dad! And you have provided wonderful advice which I will now share!

    • Well thanks but the same can be said about your amazing website blog – so rich and full of information which is not only interesting but important to the world – the careful coverage you given Secretary of State Clinton. You’ve really been so helpful to me in so many ways in a short period of time. I appreciate it. And like I say in the next posting on Yeager, I find it is really helpful to remember and hear about in person or written form that so many other people have animals in their lives to whom they were intensely attached – and have had to go through the sometimes odd process of their absence, whether it is sudden and unexpected or inevitable due to time. So its sort of a comfort I have to tell you to think someone else out there is pouring their energy into a blog on a subject for which they have a passion – and have probably done so much composing of content with the quiet yet strong presence of an animal companion right nearby.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I found your link through Helpemups link. I have an aging dog who your article really gave me some insight into.

  6. As I have a little pomeranian “Cody” who is about 8 years old and experiencing some of the same issues that Yeagar did. As I was looking at equipment to help him with some of his needs, I came across your story of Yeagar and I have to tell you, I have been trying my best to stop the tears from just rolling down my cheeks. I have been told by my husband, friends, coworkers to just “put him down” and put him out of his misery. I don’t think what people really understand is that it’s not about doing the easy thing, but doing the right thing for these animals. This little boy is my heart as I see that Yeagar was yours. What an inspiring story of strength and love. You hear so many stories about animal abuse that sometimes you loose faith in human beings and how they treat their animals and animals in general. So thank you for your beautiful story and helping me make the right decisions for my little Cody. God Bless You!

    • Dear Cheryl – Sorry for the slight delay in responding, but I was giving some thought to my response. I guess the first thing I would say is that, something which really helped me: whenever those times came when I felt overwhelming waves of sadness about Yeager’s disability, I thought about the fact that at that very moment there were hundreds of thousands of other people with hundreds of thousands of other dogs going through exactly the same thing Yeager and I were – and that even though I couldn’t see or speak to them directly then and there, that I had to remember we are connected because of this shared experience and though we feel utterly alone sometimes as the sole caretaker – in fact, we are not. The other reality (and we all know this the moment we get a dog)….they will not be around as long as us, and so I used this (especially when Yeager entered the last phase of being what I called not merely an “old dog” but “very old dog” (the last eight months of his life) as the single most important fact to keep me conscious that our time together was limited and fleeting,” that it was to ultimately be a small chapter in my own longer life and that if I wanted to never regret this period, I must rationally explain my decision to care for him – and let family and friends agree with me or not, support me or not, but it was what I knew in my gut was the right thing for me and the right thing for him. It can be shocking and hurtful when we realize that loved ones we expected would support us during this time – do not or can not, and that others, often strangers, can and will support us. And just like we want our choices respected, we sort of have to respect the reasoning of those who “don’t get it.” Lastly, to assure myself that I was doing right by Yeager, I did confront the most frightening possibility – of having to euthanize him, by calling in a very ethical vet who first determined whether he had merely slight discomfort which I could relieve, or was really in pain, knowing what I must do if it was the latter. I was blessed – and so was Yeager, that the vet determined it was only slight discomfort that came and went. While caretaking like this is exhaUsting of time, energy, emotion and money, it paradoxically proved to be perhaps the greatest period of my life – I grew and found strength and resolve I never knew I had. I am so glad, however, that you are coping with Cody’s situation early on, rather than ignoring it. You really lift me by your kind words, but I would say that during and after your time remaining with Cody, you may find a sense of purpose helping still others who will someday face what I did and you are now doing.

  7. Many Many Many thanks for your beautiful journal of Yeager! What an awesome friendship! I was so grateful to find your story of caring for him as I have an old Newfy (13) who was starting to have trouble going down the stairs. It was getting very difficult to help her and I was feeling like there was no good solution after trying a number of different things. I learned so much form your blog and have since gotten the help em up harness which is AMAZING! With a very large dog it’s hard to assist them when their legs cramp up and they can’t sit up! She has been doing so much better now that her confidence is back knowing I can give her a lift when she needs it! It’s made all the difference in caring for her! Next up rugged boots! :)

    • Marie – the thanks are to you because hearing that your Newfy is being helped to the point where her confidence is returning (and your’s too, I am sure) is the whole reason I have and will continue to write about my life with Yeager. Sometimes, I wonder if I wasted my time thinking and then writing about it all, but when I hear from someone like yourself I feel validated. As you can see from this mirco-mag site, I was not trained as an animal behaviorist or vet, etc. So I was no more aware of how to help or what products to help me help him – and so everyone and anyone who is so motivated can do the same. Good luck – and so glad the articles proved helpful.

  8. Hi Carl, I “accidentally” came across your article about Yeager and was so very moved I had to write you and tell you, thank you. It brought back a lot memories for me and my thirteen and half year old Weim, Bella. I lost Bella on June 29th, 2008. She was a special needs girl whom at five, lost mobility in her hind legs (FCE). We were devastated and desperate to find ways to help her. Much our journey together was spent with several specialized vets and therapists, brought us to aqua therapy, Chinese herbs, acupuncture and a specially prepared meal for her delicate constitution. We lined our house with rubber backed bathroom rugs to prevent slipping on the hardwoods, had a special harness for quick trips and one of Eddie’s Carts which after it much anticipated arrival, Bella refused to use. We too managed to burn through several pairs of those kevlar booties. And through it all, we were able to keep Bella’s world evolving and engaging for her until the end. I think we were pioneers then. The technology and product lines for aging dogs have come a long way. Thank you for your generosity in sharing your personal experience and letting others know that there are alternatives to help our dogs live out their golden years in comfort, security and love.

    Gwen

    • I’ve waited so long to respond to you with the equal thoughtfulness you wrote to me. And though it may be four years since you lost Bella, I am understanding that while time may dim the immediate shock of loss, one can still very much miss the presence of animal companions. I would have to say that you doing all you did is amazing – all the more so because it was over a period of EIGHT YEARS. I only went through this for eight months. And while the technology and product lines do seem to keep improving, the one primary key factor is, as it always has been and always will be, the dogged (no pun intended) devotion and direct, pure love between human and dog companions. Thank you Gwen, not just for writing but for the commitment you kept to Bella.

  9. Finding your heartfelt words regarding your journey with Yeager is for me a genuine and treasured answer to my prayers for finding somebody, anybody who could understand, truly empathize with the journey I am on with my precious Lou E. Dogg (yes, that is his real full name:)…a spirited “mix” (personally abhor the word mutt:) who very recently just saw his 17th birthday. Unfortunately, most of the people in my life very clearly feel it is not “smart” for me to invest so much of my time, resources, and emotional energy into such a devotion to his top notch quality of life. Thus, since I am not blessed to have much in the way of family or friend support for my efforts, reading your and Yeager’s journey together, along with the experiences you shared of others you knew who had also been devoted “pet parents” has provided me a powerful combination of comfort, reassurance and confidence in the choices I have been making regarding Lou E.’s care. Perhaps another time I’ll share some details about Lou E.’s unique journey, but for now I just want to express my upmost admiration, respect and appreciation for all you did with and for Yeager….and, to acknowledge what you probably already well know, i.e. that your and Yeager’s “gift” of sharing your journey in such detail has, is and will continue to be a genuinely priceless, timeless source of strength and inspiration….especially to those of us not as blessed with a strong support system. Perhaps I have inadvertly overlooked it, but I cannot find the article you referenced you were writing as the third in this series. Is it available?
    Lest I forget, among the many comments you made I SO related to was “vetting the vet .” Lou E. and I now are also blessed to be with a tremendous doctor
    we found through a new emergency vet speciality hospital here in Palm Beach. My apologies for such a lengthy comment; I’ve used all these words and still don’t feel I’ve adequately conveyed my feelings too well; but, it’s very late, and I’m just so very grateful to have found you and Yeager:) His spirit truly is living and touching so many of us! God willing, I can find a way for my precious Lou E. Dogg to also one day be an inspiration for others as Yeager has been….

    • Dear Fay: I first read your extremely generous comments when you first posted them and have not known how to begin to respond. Your note is the sort of response that I go through the effort to remember incidents from Yeager’s last eight months, which most people would likely seek to forget as quickly as possible. If what I wrote can genuinely serve to support or guide or even somewhat offer validation for your efforts with Lou E. – wow, then I have managed to do what I hope. As for support, I also found it only after talking with others – some I wasn’t then close to – who I knew had dogs that were now gone. I approached the subject gently with them, and in writing at first, but you never know how many others may have gone through the same process and not been able to express themselves about it – and that is how the support came. And you should always feel free to write to me if you want just to talk through what’s going on with you and Lou E. Seriously. And as for the third part of the article – yes, but it came much later – check the categories under Dogs – it is the story of Snackhouse, which I wrote on or about June 3, 2012, the first anniversary of Yeager’s death. But again, thank you hardly suffices to express how much I appreciate your reaching out to thank me. Seriously will have you and Lou E. in my thoughts.

      • So touching and heartbreaking. Your Yeager looks exactly like my beautiful Weimi, Gracie, who is 11 1/2 years young. I share with you what William Wegman wrote on the stone of his first Weimaraner – “Lovely to hold, and to behold.” Yeager was a lucky boy to have been loved by you.\

        • Dear Jane – Thank you very much. May Gracie live long and healthy. I’ve only just recently adopted another “cousin” of Yeager and Grace – he turns 8 years old tomorrow. And yet…like Wegman still apparently feels about Man Ray, his first Weim – the memory of his company lingers still, so strong.

  10. Dear Carl, I’m so sorry for your loss. I can tell you loved your dog very much and I’m close to tears typing this because I’m going through the same with my dog. I have a 13 year old German Shepherd/Labrador mix whom I’ve had since he was 3 months old. For the past few months my dog has been showing signs of feet numbness in his back legs. His toes bend when trying to walk and his back legs are wobbly. Aft first I thought he was in pain also but he still insists of following me everywhere around the house and doing what he can to move around. He never yelps or groans like he is in pain. His back legs and hind quarters just gives out and he slides down sometimes doing the splits. I have wood floors in areas of my apartment and that is wear he usually falls. I’m already over $500 in debt taking him back and forth to the Dr. They found nothing wrong with him except old age and the Dr told me that nothing I do is going to change that and basically told me euthanizing is the best option. I can’t think of doing that when my dog still likes to cuddle, wags his tail, begs for people food and loves to be around me. I found your blog searching online for ways to help a very old dog and I’m so happy you shared your story. I’m going to get some rugs and order the booties you suggested. I just want my dog to be comfortable, as of now he can still make it out to go to the bathroom but sometimes he just falls or lays down and I have to help or pick him up. I would love that doggy cart/wheel chair but can’t afford it right now.

    • Thank you for taking the effort to write this about your dog, especially considering the dedicated commitment you obviously have to him.Obviously, I understand your dilemma but of what I have already written, the most immediate thought which comes to me is this: ultimately, this period of time will be a relatively brief one in your own life, and feeling pressured to perhaps end the life of a being who, although disabled, is still very much living and enjoying life…and that is the sort of decision which can, potentially haunt or trouble you internally for a very long while. I am always extremely careful not to give advice on these things because every person has a different set of circumstances – jobs, travel, family commitments, cost – which will influence the course they take….apart entirely from the number one factor that will ideally determine the general course and that is whether the dog is very much enjoying their life. The vet might well be reminded that he himself is advancing towards “old age,” albeit slower than the dog’s and that the vet can do nothing to stem his own advancing age and so he may as well euthanize himself before the inevitably physical ailments of more time on the planet begin to plague him. Obviously I am being factitious but I do so to raise the point that only because we humans have control….and financial responsibility…of the other beings we know and love as pets, we believe we have the right to determine when to end their life. Well – some people are more detailed in assessing such a situation and strive to be fair and consider the “rights” of the non-human. Most don’t You can figure out my personal opinion on this – but it also reflects a personal situation which has different obstacles to caring for an elderly dog than those faced by a majority of people. And so – it really does come down to your truth and honesty. In writing and talking so much about this subject in the last three years, the people I have met who are dedicated to caring for their dogs and determined to make them comfortable – and not keep them alive forever by any means – are the very first people who will chose euthanasia when the dog is experiencing a pain which will never abate. But they also hold equally firm to a value of not ending a dog’s life simply because the dog will soon be cramping their lifestyle. I do not have a link readily at hand but I also seem to recall there being a convention or meeting in northern California about elderly dogs and that there even may be some places with veterinary hospice care where those unable to care for an elderly dog, for whatever reason, can help them live out their days with dignity and more naturalness. Do know that not only I but surely hundreds of thousands of people who have experiencing the process you have now begun are with you in empathetic spirit, if not in real life.

Trackbacks

  1. The Yeager Fund for Special Need Dogs Who’ll Never Be Adopted « Carl Anthony Online: Presidential Pop Culture, Holiday & Food Americana, Myths & Old Dogs
  2. A Dog on the Verge of Loss: Fostercare Weimaraner #1 Paddinginton « Carl Anthony Online: Presidential Pop Culture, Mythic Americana, Holidays, Legends, Politics, Pie & Dogs
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  4. DOG TALK, Dec. 17, 2011 | DogTipper.com

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