Friday, September 03, 2010

Old Dog, New Tricks

Over the years I’ve complained a lot about our beagle. She’s ruined dinner parties, rummaged in houseguests’ suitcases, and stolen chocolate bars. Then, of course, was the time she regurgitated a whole cake just as the clock struck midnight on Christmas day.

Then there was her ACL surgery last fall. I spent a good six weeks carrying this dog around because 1) She couldn’t walk and 2) She has separation anxiety problems. Let me just say for the record: a thirty pound beagle gets pretty darn heavy after being carried up and down stairs a dozen times a day.

Lately, though, Phoebe has slowed down. She’s really slowed down. Phoebe is fourteen and doesn’t do too much more besides sleep, eat, and have accidents all over our house. She’s also has cataracts and has completely lost her hearing.

Just this morning I followed her upstairs, calling her name, trying to coax her back to my office in the basement. Of course, she didn’t hear me, and jumped in surprise when I finally appeared in her line of vision.

So what’s a family to do when their beagle is, well, in her sunset years?

You guessed it. We are all learning new tricks to keep up with our old dog.

My husband was the first one to start this. Slowly, we’ve all learned the appropriate signals for ‘Come here Phoebe’, or ‘Go outside.’. Instead of now calling out ‘Dinner!’, my daughter picks up Phoebe’s food bowl and shows it to her.

Even the wiener dog has gotten into the act. She’s become kind of a mini-shepherd, corralling the beagle when she’s outside. She’s also developed a series of three rapid, high pitched barks~which is the signal for ‘Alert! The beagle is on the loose!’

So far, our old dog has adjusted to this new way of communicating just fine. She’s able to do her favorite things with ease. And as for the rest of us? We’re doing fine, too. Together, we’re discovering new ways to keep Phoebe included as much as she ever was.

I’m glad things are working out so well. It just goes to show you that it’s never too late for one old dog to teach her family new tricks.

I can’t imagine we’re the only ones to change routines for one old dog. Anyone else have a story about new tricks for an old pet?

Shelley Galloway


Estella said...

Our Yorkie had cataracts so bad she could only see shadows. She was 15, so our vet said surgery wasn't an option.
We learned not to move the furniture or her food dish. She would go to the sliding glass door when she had to go outside and we would go out with her(we live in town, no fenced yard) and wait while she did her business.
She died from kidney failure a few months later.

Laura Marie Altom said...

How awesome that you've all helped Phoebe cope in fun ways!!

Estella--my heart goes out to you! Hugs on your sweet Yorkie!