Sunday, January 13, 2013

Unfarm updates and tips for living with an elderly dog

Well, it's 2013 and we managed to make it through 2012 relatively unscathed. We had two losses: Suki, who died and Buttercup - our hen turned rooster who we had to give up when s(he) started crowing. He did go to a good home, however, through a local farm store re-homing that places roosters with out-of-city farms that want them. We gained three new additions: Belle, our Brahma hen who arrived with Buttercup, and Beauty a black Australorp hen that we adopted to replace Buttercup so that Belle would have a companion; we also added a rabbit named Ginger who was given up by her owners when they could no longer care for her. 

After Suki died, Jojo was left alone and I was left with three bachelor bunnies. Adding a girl seemed to be the perfect solution: an unattached female might be just the thing to bring my bachelor males together. Forget sugarplums - I had visions of four calm bunnies, happily coexisting, dancing in my head. Alas, it was not to be. I now have FOUR rabbit cages in my art room, and have to juggle time out between four separate rabbits, instead of the three time outs I had before when Jojo and Suki could go out together. Of all of my pets, it is the rabbits who fight the most. Yes, those cute, lovable, fluffy bunnies are actually vicious fighters. Go figure. 

One significant loss that we did NOT experience in 2012 was Kita. He turned 15 last year and has slowed down considerably. He has arthritis and can no longer see or hear very well, but he's still happy and not ready to go yet so we keep him as comfortable as possible. He also sleeps a lot more than he ever used to and I always hold my breath a few seconds until I see his side rise when he's napping. As much as I would love for things to continue as they always have, and as much as I hate watching my children grow older, it is a part of having pets. Admittedly, one of the worst parts of having pets, but a part of it nonetheless. Given my experience with Kita's aging in the last few years I thought I would pass on a few tips for living with an elderly dog. 

1) Don't be so stingy with the treats. Splurge on some super tasty treats to spoil your pup. Kita is quite fond of original flavor beef jerky (the kind made for people - we get a bulk package at Costco.)

2) Let sleeping dogs lie - but if you must wake them, do it gently. Older dogs can't hear as well and tend not to sleep as lightly as they used to, so be gentle when you wake them up so you don't startle your dog. I put my hand on my pup's muzzle or paw, or wave a scoop of peanut butter under their nose to let them wake up more gradually. 

3) Accept accidents. More than likely, your older dog will have accidents in the house. They don't do it on purpose and they likely feel bad about it when it does happen, so yelling at your pup for something they have little control over won't help anyone and it won't fix the problem. Take a deep breath, give your pup a pat, and remind yourself of all the fun you've had together.

4) Now that you know accidents are in your future it's time to invest. Buy stock in paper towels and/or purchase an industrial carpet cleaner. Overboard, you say? I beg to differ. Our industrial carpet cleaner gets used at least once a week, it lives in our main bathroom and we've decided to name it Mighty Mouth. It is practically part of the family and one of our most used cleaning tools.

5) Quality over quantity. As your dog gets older, they will have more trouble keeping up on walks and likely won't be able go on the long rambles you went on a few years ago. It's time for quality over quantity, which means you take shorter, slower walks and let your dog sniff anything and everything without rushing them along or pulling impatiently on the handle of the leash. It's about the journey now, not the destination. Let your dog have fun and go at a pace that is comfortable for him or her. 

6) Take photos. We all get busy with our day to day lives and take for granted that our pets are always going to be there, but in the vast majority of cases, we outlive our pets and we don't know when the last day will be so take lots of pictures. Today. Now. What are you still sitting there for?

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