Kasey has lots of accustomed spots in our house, but this location in the front room, where the morning sun shining through some stained glass leaves the room dappled with light, is a particular favorite.
Call me crazy, but in these weird and disturbing times there’s something reassuring about seeing a dog napping peacefully on a couch.
We boarded Kasey while we were on our recent trip to Maine.
We put her up in a really nice place, staffed by bubbly, outgoing young women, where Kasey and the other canine guests all have their own reasonably roomy spaces with their own chairs, beds, and water and dog food bowls. The spaces aren’t crates, but are more like little individual rooms that are open to the ceiling. Kasey gets walked and fed regularly, the young dog-loving employees enthusiastically track her bowel movements in a daily report, and we even pay extra for special TLC time. As dog boarding options go, it’s a nice one.
And yet when we return home after one of these trips to pick up Kasey, inevitably her bark has turned into more of a squeak and she seems utterly exhausted. We should all wish to be able to experience the deep, total slumber that Kasey immediately falls into the instant we get home and she finds a sunny spot in the yard. Either Kasey and her canine comrades are out partying until late at night, adopting the “what happens at the boarder stays at the boarder” mentality, or she just hasn’t slept much because she misses her special warm spot in the sun — and perhaps also misses Kish and me and the sense of security and routine that Kasey associates with us.
Most people tend to think of dogs as simple creatures, lacking much in the way of emotional complexity. I think the reality is a lot more nuanced. Outwardly, dogs might come across as panting, napping, pooping, bright-eyed simpletons, but down deep they may be a rich stew of angst whenever they’re taken from their comfort zones. And when a pooch is a rescue dog, as Kasey was, you wonder if every boarding experience calls up unpleasant memories of the past.
Perhaps we’re projecting and feeling unnecessary guilt about our trips, and Kasey’s outward hoarseness and apparent fatigue are simply due to a stay in a place where dogs are barking a lot and it’s hard to sleep because there are lots of strange dogs, and strange dog smells, in every direction. But what pet owner doesn’t like to think there’s a reservoir of deeper feelings lurking behind that doggy exterior?
The last few days I’ve been responsible for walking Kasey in the morning. We’ve got a routine going: she sleeps in while I take my lap around Schiller Park, she barks angrily when I return, she waits impatiently while I shower and dress, and then we set out toward Frank Fetch Park. On the walk, Kasey smells everything there is for a dog to smell — namely, everything — and along the way she answers the call of nature multiple times, leaving it for her trusted aide to clean up after her.
Some might argue that picking up after your dog helps prepare a lawyer for the work day ahead.
We’re back from our trip to Canada, and this morning we picked up Kasey from the boarder. I could be wrong about this, but I think she’s happy to be back home.
Russell’s here for a visit, and he’s brought his dog Betty. She’s a pretty and smart beagle mix who’s about 6 months old, and she’s got a lot of energy.
It’s interesting to observe the interaction of Betty and Kasey. Betty wants to romp, and Kasey wants to sleep, but they share one great interest: pawing through as much dirt as they can. It was be a close call whether our backyard bushes survive the furious digging competition.
Recently we took Kasey to the vet’s office while we went on a weekend trip. When we returned the vet reported that Kasey had been very anxious during her stay — so anxious that they actually had to give her some kind of sedative to calm her down. One symptom of her stress was that when the vet’s assistants would try to walk her, she would constantly tug them toward the road, as if she wanted to return home.
Of course, this news made us feel like crap — nobody wants to hear that the canine member of their family is suffering from anxiety issues — but it also leaves us with tough and limited choices. Although it is increasingly common for people to travel with their dogs these days, we can’t take Kasey along every time we go on a trip. We can’t take her everywhere we go, and leaving her alone in a hotel room seems like a recipe for disaster. We’ve had her stay at our house with a dog sitter who stops by a few times a day for some of our short trips, but that approach often produces accidents. We’ve taken her to the vet, where the anxiety issues have occurred, and we’ve boarded her at kennels, but those stays seem to leave Kasey sleep-deprived and exhausted. Kasey is an old dog, and the constant barking you hear whenever you visit one of those kennels seems to really bother her.
People used to talk about “a dog’s life,” as if the leisurely romping and dozing we associate with pooches was the kind of lifestyle we should all aspire to, but researchers have found that dogs in fact deal with lots of issues. Many dogs have serious problems with separation anxiety when their owners leave the house; others are high-strung and have delicate constitutions thanks to the constant inbreeding needed to produce the latest designer dog. Some dogs take daily medication for psychological issues, which really makes you wonder: what does it say when our modern society is to the point where there is a significant issue with dogs being over-medicated for mental conditions?
I’m not sure what we’re going to do with Kasey when we travel; we’ve got a while before we both have to be out of town again. I do know this: I’m willing to accept a few accidents on the carpet if that means she doesn’t have to be sedated.
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that our dog Kasey may be dealing with deafness.
If true, it’s not surprising, because Kasey’s getting to be of pretty advanced age. She’s a rescue dog, so we’re not exactly sure how old she is, but the vet estimates from her teeth that she’s probably somewhere around 14 or 15. Lately she’s experiencing some of the gimpiness, gastric, and bladder problems that you see in older dogs, and she spends a bigger portion of her day sleeping, too.
The apparent deafness, though, seems to be a more recent development. I’ve particularly noticed it this week, while Kish has been on the road. It used to be that when I would get home from work Kasey would hear me walking up the steps and the key rattling in the door and come to the foyer to greet me with a few welcoming wags of her tail. Now she doesn’t, and when I call her she doesn’t come, either, so I have to search the house to find her. Usually she’s up in the upstairs bedroom. As always, she’s happy to see me when I come into her field of vision, so I’m guessing that the change in habit has less to do with diffidence about the arrival of the Old Boring Guy and more to do with not hearing me as I come in.
There are other potential signs of hearing problems, too. Kasey is terrified of thunderstorms, but lately it’s only the loudest peals of thunder that seem to bother her. She doesn’t come running like she used to when the clatter of the bowls in her feeding area indicates that food is being laid out for her enjoyment. She seems to bark more, and I wonder if that is because hearing herself bark is one way of interrupting her increasingly quiet world.
There’s no problem with living with a hearing-impaired dog, really — you just need to make sure that she sees what you are doing and can then follow the patterns of behavior that we’ve established over years of living together. She doesn’t need to hear “time for bed” if she sees you heading up the stairs, and the sight of her leash is as effective a communication about going for a walk as a verbal command. If she’s adjusting to a changing world, we certainly can do that as well. Kasey may end up as deaf as a post, but we’ll love her just the same.