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.
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.
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.