WOBBLY SENIOR DOGS!
SNIFFING FOR CONFIDENCE
Moth has had a bit of a tough year. We lost Lily and Betty in the spring and summer and he grieved over his girls for many months. He was already an old boy. He's 14 - although he's been a little old man since we rescued him at 16 weeks... he's one of the world's old souls.
We had a few weeks where he didn't want to eat. His arthritis was becoming more pronounced and I was worried about how to get his meds inside him. So many older dogs go through changes in appetite and we work with a number of families who are worried about how to give their dogs vital medication. Moth has a number of supplements to keep body and brain together (I eye them up, of a morning, and wonder if they'd do anything for my body and brain....). I've had quiet moments of despair at 6am because he can't stomach anything in his mouth- and that's when he needs his first dose of meds.
Then there are vet visits. None of our dogs have needed to go to the vet all their lives. They're fed on a raw diet, are fit and healthy, and it's only in old age that they've needed support with arthritic pain and Moth's teeth.
Moth had teeth removed when he was 11, which is typical for whippets. Those early months when he needed to build good bone density were before we started raw feeding (he's been on raw for 12 years). So his teeth, like many whippets, haven't been as good as Maggie and Archie, who have been raw fed since they were pups.
After the upset of needing a dental, he became very anxious about vet visits and we went through many months of working hard to get him feeling comfortable about going to the vet.
IMPACT OF DEMENTIA
We were muddling along with him doing pretty well until Lily started to get dementia. She'd been his little Dotty Lou since they were teens and he couldn't work put this new version of his girl who came with forgetfulness and anxiety.
As well as coping with her random wobbles and night shouting, Moth was finding it hard to navigate his world because his sight and hearing were fading. He stumbled into things and fell off curbs, although finding his way round the house was familiar and he did OK at that. As long as no one moved any furniture...
Fast forward to today. His sight has deteriorated significantly and he now needs to have fortnightly ketamine injections to manage his pain.
Going up to the vet has been very hard for him. He's had several very difficult experiences up there and he had reached a stage where he started shaking as soon as his harness came out of the cupboard.
HOW DOG BRAINS WORK
Dogs often make links that don't necessarily make sense to us. In Moth's brain, his harness indicated going to the vet. Getting in the car meant going to the vet. Eventually, even opening the back gate meant going to the vet. After a while, he lost all confidence and only felt safe in the house and garden. He couldn't cope with walks, which was affecting his muscle tone. And he needed muscle tone to support his arthritic joints.
I felt very stuck and reached a point where I didn't know how to help him. I'd tried desensitising him to the harness and the car - putting the harness on for Sniff Trails was the first tentative step. But every step we took forward was knocked backward several strides: because he had to keep going up to the vet for his ketamine injections and these trips were unavoidable.
So, we stripped everything right back. We decided to stop the desensitisation. I'd tried going up to the vet at 6.30 every morning in the early days to help him get used to it, but it was traumatising him. So much so that he had acute diarrhoea when he got back for 2 days running. So that little adventure was shelved.
The harness has only come come out of the cupboard once in the last 3 weeks. I've started giving him a morning Sniff Trail without the other dogs - their afternoon one is shared but I felt he needed to do something on his own to build his confidence.
He's loving it. He bounces down the garden with me to his Sniffy Cabin. He's more confident in the house. So much so that he's leaping up and down the stairs despite not being able to see them properly! Not much Risk Assessment going on there....
The harness appeared for his ketamine injection last week and, although he was a bit shakey, he was much less distressed. When he saw Mandy vet this time, he went over for a whiskery "hi" and was a lot less flinchy with the injection. It's hard for him - ketamine stings when injected and it's down to Mandy's gentle patience that he's able to tolerate it. She's very special and he trusts her.
The other thing that has helped him has been fortnightly acupuncture sessions with one of his favourite people, Betty's Elizavet. Elizabeth has worked so hard with all of us to help him overcome his vet fear and has become a good friend. She comes to the house for tea and cake and Mothy has his needles 😊 He's not so keen on having them inserted or removed but he's content to settle next to her while they do their stuff (liver paste helps!) and we have a lovely afternoon putting the world the right way up again.
Living with older dogs can be tricky. I've done it many times and have seen all our hounds age in different ways over the years.
This little lot are my world. Helping them find their way through frailty and grief this year has unravelled all of us. At times, trying to find what works for each of them has felt a bit like a tangled mess.
But going back to our basic tools is what rescues us every time. Sniff Trails, plenty of rest, and giving them the chance to make choices every day is what builds confidence.
My little old boy may be a bit wonky and he still misses his girls. But he's getting there. One sniffy step at a time 😊