Archive for June, 2013
Everyone loves a quiz, right? At least one that doesn’t count for anything. Well, I have one for you that should be a snap. Here is the set-up.
I have two foster dogs. One is a robustly healthy, active five-year-old with no known medical problem. The other is an 11-year-old with stage III lymphosarcoma, and at least one prognosis of only a month to live. I took these two dogs into my fenced backyard, one at a time, and recorded his/her activities for a couple of hours—sometiimes with me simply sitting on my deck, other times with me moving around doing normal chores, and other times with me actively interacting with the dogs. Your task is to choose which dog is terminally ill based on their activities.
- Explored fence and yard
- Relieved itself
- Checked out veggie garden
- Sought my attention
- Snuffled with other dog through window screen
- Got a drink from the birdbath
- Ignored a lizard, but chased a bee
- Lay down next to me and dozed off
- Lay on the deck and watched the birds
- Picked up a bone and gnawed on it
- Chased a tossed squeaky toy and brought it halfway back
- Followed me when I got up
- Ate treat enthusiastically
- Lay zoned out with eyes open staring into distance
- Explored yard and fence
- Relieved itself
- Intensely focused on lizard
- Lay down next to me and dozed off
- Demanded my attention
- Got a drink from birdbath
- Checked out dogs in house
- Watched horses in adjacent pasture
- Relaxed in shade of oak tree
- Followed me when I got up to fill bird feeder
- Zoned out when I was not doing anything of interest
- Picked up dog toy and pranced around with it for about a minute, then dropped it
- Ignored ball I threw
- Howled along with siren
So which dog is terminally ill? You might get lucky and pick the one, but I’m sure you will admit that based on their normal everyday behavior, it would be very difficult to tell.
We humans would tend to subjectively view these two dogs quite differently, given the knowledge that one was a senior and terminally ill. But objectively, on a day-by-day basis there seems to be little difference. How can we explain this?
I would argue that a good part of the answer is that dogs live ‘in the moment’ whereas humans are aware of the ‘moment’ but then create ‘stories’ about what will happen in the future (e.g. the ill dog will not live long) and we are sad, a feeling that layers directly on top of the happiness that we are experiencing ‘in the moment’ with the ill dog. But we are very poor at predicting the future, and our stories will be wrong.
So for me, the take-home message is to follow the lead of the dog—LIVE IN THE MOMENT–and enjoy these most wonderful companion animals for what they give us ‘in the moment’. If you have a senior or terminally ill dog like Laird T. (Dog A), he still is at least 95% the wonderful companion animal you have always enjoyed so much. Focus on the 95%, not the 5% and, along with your Laird T. ‘live in the moment’.
Well, Thulani dog Angel de San Martin may be answering that question for us. Sweet Miss Angel was rescued from the San Martin Shelter early in November of 2010. At that time she was in poor shape, seemed very old, and was extremely lethargic. I guessed that she only had a few months to live, and confidently assured her first foster mom Nicole that when the school year and summer job were done the following Fall, Angel probably would already have passed to the Rainbow Bridge.
Contrary to my prediction, Angel got stronger and more lively with the ensuing months, and by Fall she was raring to go.
So Angel move in with Suzanne and Jim and their pack of four dogs in the mountains west of King City. The rural mountain air recharged her batteries and her spirit. When baby Brian came along, Angel decided that her job was as granny-nanny-dog, and she watched over him and spent much of her time watching kiddy cartoons with him.
She also continued to give her love, loyalty, and devotion to the other members of the family, and became a central figure in all the homestead activities. She was and continues to be the gentlest of souls.
Now, two years and eight months later, she walks a bit stiffer, sleeps deeper, and has the lumps, bumps, and minor inconveniences that come along with old age. But that did not stop her and Suzanne from making the trip up to Los Gatos last month to attend the Thulani part of the Rescue Reunion hosted by Joan H. and Jim R. every year. The Thulani subgroup was hosted by Holly T, another Thulani dog that has happily outlived our expectations.
Live on Angel!!
Imagine that you are getting on in years, that your former family did not take very good care of you, that you have the various bumps and lumps that come along in the golden years, and that you have a few special medical issues as well. What would be the ideal home for you?
How about with a foster mom who is also a Vet student at the UC Davis Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Well that is where Fiona T. now lives, with Kaylee S. and her fur-sister Marta. Read below in Kaylee’s own words how Fiona is getting along. What a wonderful story!!
Fiona came to us (my 6 year old Aussie and myself) in October of last year as a tired, heavily flea allergic and malnourished yet dignified ancient with a sweet but worn face and largely absent hair coat. A short 8 months, some serious TLC and a little patience later she is a lively old gal with the sweetest face and the most pleasing temperament any foster mom could ask for.
She can’t stick with Marta and myself on long hikes, but we take strolls along a nearby creek, go home and visit my mother on the family farm where she finds the horses, pigs and cats incredibly fascinating and roams about making sure everything is as it should be, and sleeps snug & sound by the head of my bed where she can snuff my fingers if they peek over the edge.
She now has a full, healthy, shiny coat, regularly manicured nails and definite sparkle in her eye despite the ravages of time. She has been a true joy and credit to the program.
Tragen T., another German Shepherd ‘bear’, has joined us in the Thulani Program from his shelter existence in southern California (thanks again, Karen). He was not named, so we sought a name that would acknowledge his ursinus propensities, but only came close. Nevertheless, we like the name so Tragen it is.
Tragen T. was picked up as a stray in the LA basin, along with a husky buddy. He is a gentle 10 year old boy who is easy going, gets along well with dogs, likes people, and seems quietly confident.
He rides well in the car, goes readily into a crate where he settles nicely, and walks reasonable well on lead.
Tragen T. is part of our Thulani Program, and as such, he will live out the quality life he has left either as an adopted dog or a permanent hospice dog. If you are interested in learning more about Tragen T. or possibly fostering him, please contact Bob at Thulanidogs@gsrnc.org
Laird T. was dropped off by his owners at the Castaic Shelter in southern California with a request to euthanize him. They said he had cancer (lymphosarcoma, stage 3) and had only a month to live according to their vet. They were offered a voucher to have him euthanized by their vet, but they declined.
Laird has been eating well, walks well, and has been quite energetic. On the surface, he appears to be asymptomatic at this time, but we have not observed him for very long.
For now it appears that Laird T. has some good life left to him, but we do not know how much. Based on his vet visit today, we are optimistic that we can give him some good quality life with the help of medications. This we will do.
Laird T. is part of our Thulani Program, and as such, he will live out what quality life he has left as a permanent hospice dog. Laird T. will need an especially dedicated foster family, one that emotionally is very strong. If you are interested in learning more about Laird T. or possibly giving him a loving final chapter, please contact Bob at Thulanidogs@gsrnc.org