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.
It’s hit the mid-70s in Columbus, with some sunshine and a nice breeze. In short, it’s a gorgeous early spring day in the Midwest — perfect for a nice, warm nap on the porch rug.
We have a tiny, pod-shaped patch of grass in our backyard, and right now it’s got about the worst case of yard mange you’ve ever seen. One area appears to have died entirely, experiencing complete plant structural collapse into a kind of hard brown thatch with only a few healthy grass plants here and there. Elsewhere we’ve exposed section of dirt and grass plants with colors ranging from a kind of puke yellow to a sickly green. Let’s just say it’s not the kind of lush grassy field that makes you want to walk barefoot and lie on your back watching the the clouds drift by.
The culprit is a wet winter, with lots of unpredictable temperature spikes and drops — and our little dog, Kasey. The back yard is Kasey’s preferred pre-bedtime venue, and the tiny size of our yard means her efforts have had a much more concentrated impact than would be the case in a bigger suburban yard.
Time to call in the professionals!
This Friday night I am sitting outside, in jeans and a short sleeve shirt in 70 degree weather, drinking a cold beer and reading the Sport Illustrated baseball preview. All around me I hear neighbors talking and stirring, with music wafting over the fence from a party somebody is hosting a few houses over. I’ve crumpled our weekly newspaper and tossed it into our fire pit for the blaze I plan to light when darkness falls. Kasey is digging and dozing in the last rays of sunlight.
All in all, not a bad way to start the weekend! I’m saying spring has sprung.
Paisley has arrived for her brief stay with the Webners, and immediately she upset the well-oiled rhythms of our household. For one thing, she follows Kasey around wherever Kasey goes — no surprise there, dogs are pack animals and Kasey’s the leader of the pack — and Kasey clearly finds it unnerving. At heart, Kasey’s a loner . . . which is why seeking some solitude behind boots and shoes seems like a good idea. And, of course, when tiny puppies are around you worry about accidents, and chewing, and stains, and curious little pooches getting trapped in inaccessible areas where they can’t get out and you can’t get in.
Who’d have thought that an impossibly cute eight-pound bundle of fur could cause such chaos?
Today the upset will end, as Paisley heads up to her new home in Hamtramck and Kasey gets to get some sleep and slide back into her leisurely lifestyle.
I rooted for former OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott as he tore through the Big Ten, I cheered as he gashed Wisconsin and Alabama with long, soul-crushing runs, and I chanted “Zeke, Zeke” as he ran for multiple scores to secure Ohio State’s national championship win against Oregon.
But now I like him even more.
Elliott, who was the first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys this year, has been tearing it up in the NFL, too. But the story that really caught my eye was this one, about Elliott making a big donation to help Texans adopt rescue dogs from the SPCA of Texas shelter. It turns out that Zeke is a big-time dog lover — big enough to contribute $10,000 to the SCPA, propose an event that would encourage families to take a dog that wants a home, and then personally show up to escort the dogs to their adopted families and give them a special treat.
Zeke’s got the right idea. I wish more people would look at adopting rescue dogs. My brother-in-law is a dog lover who always gets his dogs from the animal shelter, and he’s right about that. Our current dog Kasey was a rescue dog, and she’s been a terrific addition to our family.
Rescue dogs don’t deserve to be penned up in a kennel and run the risk of being put down because of space issues. They deserve a home, and people who adopt them might end up getting a really great dog, as we did. As Russell points out, many purebred dogs have health problems — that’s often a by-product of the inbreeding — whereas mutts usually don’t. But the mutts are dogs just the same, and happy to hang with people and share their hearths and homes.
As I said, Zeke’s got the right idea. If you’re looking for a dog, won’t you look first at the local animal shelter or SPCA facility?