Getting Old

Our dog, Liia, is getting old. She is a big dog and they seem to get old sooner than the little ones. She was born in 2004 and has spent the last few years being middle aged. We still saw the puppy in her from time to time, particularly when she is invited to go for a “long walk” through the bush, but this summer has seen a rather steep decline.

Liia this morning

Liia this morning

We first noticed her aging when we returned from Ireland. We had been away for a month. Maybe the time away allowed us to see her with new eyes (remind me not to let J go away without me for a month). She seemed slower, more tentative with obstacles, and her toenails were scratching along the ground as she walked. Our dog sitter mentioned the decline after we returned from the canoe trip in Algonquin, noting Liia’s difficulty with her stairs. We decided she needed to go and see the vet, if only to get advice about how to keep her as well as possible, for as long as possible.

The vet’s diagnosis was not very optimistic. It seems Liia has both spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis. Both are a result of aging. the arthritis makes her stiff and slow, but the stenosis is a bigger issue as it has caused the loss of feeling in her feet making her unsteady, wobbly, with a tendency to fall. He prescribed some drugs which won’t cure the problem but should provide a little more quality of life by reducing inflammation.

One of Liia’s favourite things in life is the car ride. She doesn’t know a lot of English, but “want to go for a ride?” will always cause a lot of dancing, wide wet smiles, and rushing toward whichever vehicle we are offering. Open the door and she would bound in, landing on the far side of the back seat in her excitement. She still gets excited about the ride, but she can’t follow through too well any more. Front legs make it onto the seat with the rear ones working away uselessly as she tries to drag herself into the car. The Jeep, which is much higher, is almost impossible.

The hated ramp

The hated ramp

So, I built a ramp. Liia watched suspiciously as I worked away in the shed. She didn’t seem to understand this contrivance was meant to improve her quality of life. I needed the leash to virtually drag her to the base of it, and behold, she did go up once, and down again, but when we tried it the second time, she completely refused, put her bottom on the ground and gave me a good  display of her really sharp teeth in her really mad face. J tried to coax her onto the ramp with cheese with little more success. She did finally use it a second time, after I modified it to go in a side door rather than the higher back one, but she didn’t do it willingly.

I suppose Liia is not so much different than lots of folks who are getting older. We really don’t want to admit we need help, supports, things to make our aging lives more comfortable. We fight change even though change would be a good thing.

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5 thoughts on “Getting Old

  1. I know how you feel. We watched Bounder age and finally had to make the decision to let him so when we got back from the East Coast. I miss him daily.

    • We miss Liia a little every day. She spends a lot of time at the bottom of the basement stairs, because it is cool there, only climbing stiffly back up when she really needs to.

  2. Hi there. I’ve been through that sort of thing with multiple dogs. That ramp is very steep, so needs to be at least half again as long. Most dogs need to become accustomed to a ramp by starting with it horizontal on the ground and once they feel secure with that, propping one end up four or six inches, and so on. Depending on what motivates your dog, make it a game and/or use lots of treats.

    Also, you might ask your vet about a shot of cortisone near the sacrum — you can find the specifics online. Apparently it works quite well in some circumstances, but *which* circumstances are not always clear in advance.

    All the best for you and Liia.

    • You are right! The ramp was too steep. We’ve been using it at one of the side doors which brought it down over a foot. Liia is getting better and better at using it, to the point that she now has all four feet on it before getting the front ones in the Jeep.

      Thanks for the cortisone advice. We now have her on deramaxx and are moving to maloxicam. There seems to be some improvement from these drugs already.

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