These old dogs.
It’s a roller coaster ride daily, this loving and living with old dogs.
My life is getting a little closer to normal…for now. I feel like I have to add that qualifier because the whole thing could collapse at any moment.
We had a rough month right after Tango’s unplanned splenectomy and subsequent cancer diagnosis.
We made a couple unscheduled veterinary visits and one emergency vet visit that netted Tango a night in said emergency hospital. For the last 10 days or so, though, things have hit a blissful patch of boring normalcy.
Tango even got to get his joint injections yesterday.
Those were scheduled for a month ago, but then his spleen had to grow a gigantic mass and mess up all our plans. Damned spleen, so inconsiderate.
In the meantime, I’ve had my hands full with our other old dog, Lily, the one with significant cognitive deficiencies.
I haven’t written about her much because, well, Tango’s spleen wanted the spotlight.
The advances in veterinary medicine are truly great.
Dogs are living longer than ever before. Lily had cancer at age 13. We removed it and returned to our regularly scheduled lives. Even ten years ago, I don’t think it would’ve ended that well for Lily. The downside to old dogs living longer is that, well, our dogs are now experiencing different difficulties.
Lily’s dementia is getting worse. She forgets to lie down. She doesn’t know where she is sometimes. She’s losing the ability to know when she has to go to the bathroom. She walks in circles. She sleeps so long I check to make sure she’s breathing.
Lily’s still engaged in her world frequently, however.
When Schooner barrels outside, she’s following right behind to see what’s caught his attention. She eats her meals with gusto, still likes her daily Kongs, likes to be with us, and is mostly a bright-eyed girl.
She’s lost most of her hearing and her vision is definitely compromised.
I have to gently tap her on the back to get her attention. Thank goodness we taught hand signals as well as words when we trained her years ago. Those hand signals are all we have left now.
Lily’s interaction preferences have changed significantly.
When we want to pet her (which isn’t often, as she finds touch more aversive as she ages), it’s best if we go for Lily’s chin as opposed to over her head. Otherwise, her faulty vision must make it look like we’re coming at her hard and fast as she blinks her eyes and dodges her head as if to avoid being struck.
She is still engaged with us most of the time, though, and seems to enjoy being one of the three dogs in the house — wherever they are, you’re sure to find Lily with them, hanging out, sniffing, doing perimeter patrol around the fence every day.
When Tango was away for many hours and for his overnight veterinary emergency, I was intrigued to see Lily — who doesn’t really seem to care very deeply about Schooner or Nemo (when he was alive) — greet Tango warmly by sniffing his face and wagging her tail earnestly when he arrived back home.
I look for little signs like that, signs that let me know some of the original Lily personality is alive and well.
She didn’t even greet me that warmly when I got back from my 10-day business trip in December! Tango was away for a day and she checked him out from head to toe, as if to ask “Where have you been? And now that you’re back, are you ok?”
Both Tango and Lily are experiencing the more severe “old age” maladies — cancer for Tango, dementia for Lily. It’s a lot of work for us, yes. Ministering to the very different needs of two old dogs is expensive in money, patience, and time. But having these old dogs around really is priceless.
There will be difficult decisions in our future, we know that.
But right now, for this very instant, living with these two old dogs is pretty darn special.
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