Lola's Diaryby Ellen
September 29, 2008
Caring for an Old Dog
Last week, Lola lost her appetite for a couple of days. Since one of the times Lola is most like her younger self is when her tail wags and she makes her way to her food bowl at the appointed time, this concerned me. I took her to the vet, and the first thing noted was that shes lost a lot of weight. Shes gone from an almost chubby 15 pounds to a light weight 11. The doctor couldnt find anything wrong with her and took blood, noting that she was fussing before the test, but not during, which was perfect. He asked me a few times about her water intake, said a dog can go a few days without food, but not long without water. She drinks more water than Pixie, and more frequently, so I worried about diabetes.
On a bland diet, boiled chicken and rice, Lola started eating as soon as we got back from the vet. But her legs are starting to buckle and she cant get up the porch stairs weve long stopped expecting her to get up the stairs in the house. I notice when I pick her up how light she is. Had I noticed this before? I think so, but somehow it didnt register.
Im feeling sad, wondering how much time she has.
Her appetite definitely picked up. I started mixing her regular food in with the chicken and rice, and Pixie is clearly pissed off that Lola is getting fed more often and more exotically. Maybe Lola was just bored with her food.
I call the vet a couple of times on Thursday to get the results of the blood test, taking a deep breath when I get through.
Its quite remarkable, he says. Her blood work is like that of a 4-5 year old dog. I dont see anything. Wow. So she either has great genes or great care. He always leaves you to fill in the blank.
I email DD with the update. DD had the mom dog Monday, who finally was put to sleep a few months ago at age 18, and gave us Lola 15 years ago. There arent a lot of people I can communicate with about caring for Lola.
This is the first time I have taken a dog from puppyhood to old age its a really good experience for me, going through the ups and downs, the minutiae of every day life, sad, funny (OK weve been calling Lola Tilty on occasion), sweetemotionally rich.
I recall how my parents farmed out Heather, our Irish Setter, when she got old, to a cousin in Texas I had left home and wasnt in touch. I didnt hear about it til later, when my cousin complained that she always got stuck with everyones old, sick dogs.
So, sometimes, we get to redress the past.
March 22, 2007
Pixie Arrives and Settles In -- November-March
Lolas Diary has a new character -- Pixie, named after Sylvias teachers dog. She and I drove down to North Carolina to pick her up from Ming Dynasty Shih Tzu last November. She was three months old.
Heard about the breeder from a neighbor, Bill, who was walking a Shih Tzu puppy named Brooklyn in front of our house and told me his mother had a Shih Tzu from Ming Dynasty. Enough of a recommendation for me.
The ride down was filled with stops at George Washington sites, as Sylvia is a member of the George Washington Wolf Power club. Got the sense of Southern culture that I wanted her to get a whiff of - and found the breeders and their RV stuck in the mud on the road that was being dug over by a developer, just as they hadsaid. We walked about a mile through deep mud and found "Shih Tzu Palace". Lots of cages, grooming table, dogs running around -- and our Pixie, chasing after her mother. She was five pounds, now is ten. Her coat is thick, caramel and white, with black tipped ears. Her tail is much shorter than Lolas. She has a wilder personality and is slower to train. We couldnt anticipate that she and Lola would take a long time to get used to each other -- til fairly recently, they would fight and need to be separated. They dont play together -- Lola hardly plays at all, and that was the source of a lot of the conflict. They are really cute together now, standing next to each other or following each other out or in to the house. The other night, I woke up during the night, and both dogs were lying next to me -- lola from under my arm to my hip, Pixie, underneath, next to my leg. People ask if Lola has been livened up by the presence of the puppy, and the answer is yes, absolutely.
I just took Pixie for an hour walk, splashing through puddles of melted snow, ready for more -- but not me. Ill be washing her off a lot now -- so close to the ground, her whole underbelly and beard are wet.
So... debating whether to take Pixie for another round of training (she completed Puppy Kindergarten at St. Huberts Dog Training School). Will see if she settles down more over the next few months.
May 7, 2006
You Can't Keep a Good Dog Down
Lola used to have a springy jump, but now she doesnt. Since we recently got a higher bed, she needs assistance to get up on it. Hence, the ottoman has become her stepping stone. Unfortunately, she doesnt remember how to use the ottoman to hop up on the bed about 50% of the time, so wakes me up, barking in frustration at the side of the bed. Then I tap the ottoman with my hand and say, up, in that sing-song voice we learned long ago in dog training class, and she returns to whatever memory loop she has at this point.
Two of the older dogs we know are not in good shape, and that, of course, has me thinking about Lolas impending dotage. One of the dogs, Monday, is Lolas mother, and the dog of my close friend Deedee. Monday is almost 15, and blind and deaf. She has a list of ailments some of which she receives medication for, some age-related and untreatable, but the latest one the vet advised would be so painful to treat (cancer), that it would be best to put her down. DD is reflecting about Mondays quality of life these days. But what a terrible decision to have to make. My brothers dog is a lab, also about 15. She, too, started having all kinds of problems, including dementia, and became completely disruptive to the family so the person who had always boarded her agreed to take her in and now my nieces go and visit her now and then and take her for walks. I know there was a disagreement in his family about whether or not to put her down. I remember speaking to a Shih Tzu breeder who said the great thing about Shih Tzus is they live in relatively good health, have a long life, and then have a heart attack and die, but this was certainly not the case for Monday. DD thinks Lola is in much better shape than Monday was at her age (12), and reminds her of what Monday was like five years ago. So when I look at Lola and see signs of her agedness I wonder about how this is going to go for all of us, with the wishful fantasy that she will not only have a longer than typical life, but a healthy one as well.
January 5, 2006
Seems like a good time to post an update about life with Lola. She recently had a bout of tapeworm. She received a shot and seems to be ok. I learned that tapeworm comes from a bite of an infected flea and can take years to actually be excreted. So it's impossible to know where she got it from. I was worried that it could do some damage to her - from what I read, it sounded like not, but the vet said it could. Need to follow up. Speaking of vets, I got pissed off at her regular vet, well, actually the receptionist. The regular guy was on vacation, and there was someone standing in for him. The receptionist wouldn't give me an appointment til the following week. She also said the vet couldn't speak to me on the phone. I like the regular vet, but I can't stand how his office runs. So, off I went to another vet down the road, who saw Lola right away. I also noticed that this vet was quite a bit less expensive. I think I'll keep both vets, so in the future, if I can't see one, I'll go to the other.