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Duke passed over the rainbow bridge this morning at the grand age of 13. He went peacefully in the backyard with us there to comfort him.
Duke’s favorite time of the day was early evening when he would sit in the front yard on ‘guard duty.’ Anyone who did not belong on his street was warned and many decided to take a different route rather than face the Wrath of Duke. Little did they know that he was not able to chase them with his advanced Degenerative Myelopathy. Despite his physical ailments he was very strong-hearted, loving and devoted.
As sad as it was to let him go, we have to remind ourselves that he gained 2 extras years that he probably would not have had if the Thulani program did not exist.
We said goodbye to Mozart T. this afternoon. He died peacefully with his head in my lap, after enthusiastically consuming a bottle of ‘baby beef’ and a bottle of ‘baby chicken’. Rest in peace, dear Mozart, you have earned it.
We brought Mozart T. into our home from the Baldwin Park Shelter in Los Angeles about a month ago. He melded smoothly into our pack and into our lives, without a ripple of disturbance. He was a very easy dog to be around. But he had his problems, physically. He was almost immobile when he arrived, with back legs that he could only use with help and great difficulty. We rearranged our house to ease his arrival, and helped him with his regular activities.
As the weeks went on, we began to let our hopes rise as he began to use his rear legs more, and to move about more independently. That is not to say that we had hopes of curing his horrible disease, but we were encouraged to believe that we could extend his quality life a bit, and to make him more independent. And when he needed help, he developed a very efficient means of transmitting that message to us so that we could assist him. By last week, although his rear end would still collapse on occasion, and he never was able to walk smoothly, he was able to walk on all four feet about 60% of the time.
Then yesterday, disaster struck. Within the span of less than an hour, he stopped using his rear legs entirely, and would drag them stretched out behind him whenever he moved from one spot to another. We gave him 24 hours to see if things would improve, but there was no sign of improvement.
So we took him into the vet hospital. X-Rays gave no hint as to what might be causing his difficulty. But we did learn that he had essentially no feeling in his rear end from about his mid-spine back. None.
With information from the veterinarian, I made the final ‘quality of life’ decision, and let him go. We still do not know the precise cause of this sudden, catastrophic failure, but we could readily see what condition he was in, and that was not tolerable.
We learned a lot from Mozart about coping, stoic behavior, love, gentle interactions, and other life lessons. We think his last month was a happy one for him—we know it was for us in a bittersweet sort of way.
Fare thee well, Mozart. We will meet again.
Director of Thulani
German Shepherd Rescue of Northern California
It is with great sadness that we pass along that Sigmund T. passed to the Rainbow Bridge last Wednesday. Siggy, as he was known to his devoted foster family, lived his last five months with Colby and Jim on the beautiful Sonoma Coast at Sea Ranch, just minutes from the beaches and forests. Siggy lived in warmth, comfort, and love until his final days—including breakfast and dinner in bed, and Colby and Jim acting as his loyal servants-tending to his every need and wish.
When Sigmund T. first came into the Thulani Program, we were puzzled because he had been well cared for, neutered, and microchipped, yet his owners did not come to claim him. In fact, we titled his announcement post ‘Sigmund T.: Why Are You With Us?’.
Unfortunately, it was a mystery that his foster family soon solved. Siggy did have a level of Degenerative Myelopathy (or some similar condition affecting his rear end) but not really much worse than a lot of our senior dogs. But what his fosterers began to realize is that he was suffering from progressive dementia. Many people are only vaguely aware that dogs can fall victim to dementia just like people, and we often ignore the symptoms or attribute them to something else.
Colby and Jim want to share what they have learned so that others may be better able to deal with their dogs if they suffer from this horrible disease.
In Colby and Jim’s words:
“He is a very sweet boy and does not deserve to suffer so this is for the best. So many dog owners and cat owners are unaware that their old pets can have dementia so he has been a good chance to talk about it. I would give him hugs except he does not want to interact and does not want pettings, this is common with dementia – a pulling away from interaction with all.
The most common signs are;
breaking house training
unable to obey commands – especially more complicated ones
loss of interest in toys
loss of interest in interaction with you, – pettings
going to the wrong side of the door – hinge side
inverting night and day
stressing over nothing – barking etc..
Siggy wants to be with me or Jim all the time, he is very stressed about being alone so one of us is always with him. It is hard but it is time for his sake.”
Fare thee well, Siggy—we will meet you at the Rainbow Bridge someday.
Below are some collages of Siggy’s life. Please enjoy them.
And thank you Colby and Jim.
Dear Thulani Program fans,
Like all dogs, I live in “the now.” Still, I think of the uncertainties in life as I grow older. I don’t wonder much about where my youth went. I don’t even wonder why I have stumbled when making a leap that used to be effortless. I just know it happens and I carry on as if it didn’t. I don’t look back, but my Thulani foster mom saw some value in turning the clock back for me. She wondered if I would ever be able to reclaim my health, let alone regain the beauty that once came naturally to me. These notions set my Thulani mom and me in motion.
On the mend. I used to dread walking. I was weak and my nails dragged on the ground with every step. Nutritious and delicious meals were served until I put on a few pounds and I regained my strength. My walks became longer and longer and my stride turned into an elegant prance. There was one small set back though. It was the dreaded dental day. The docs pulled nine, yes I said nine, infected teeth out. Remind me to brush better. O.K….. so that wasn’t so much fun but I recovered and now it doesn’t hurt anymore when I eat.
Getting to work. Like most Shepherds, I love to work. A “Help Wanted” ad at my mom’s office said they needed a “Director of Security.” I said “Great!” This could be right up my alley.” Through unabashed and blatant nepotism I landed the job. My duties: Display rugged strength; Remain watchful and alert at all times; and, defend my mom and her colleagues with courage and steadfastness. Hmm….all qualities admirable in Shepherds but I wondered if as a senior canine I would still be up to the task. I decided to go for it! It turns out I was more than capable of doing the job at hand. The visitors are all friendly and happy to give an old dog a scratch. The job offers frequent naps…..a must for any senior employee, and then, there is the most challenging part of my job; training the staff and visitors where the treats are hidden. Herding them toward the stash and giving the “Aren’t I darling?” look was the easy part. The softies give in right away. The treat goes from the hidden stash, to my trainee’s hand, and, “Voila!” …..right into my mouth. I wag my tail to show great praise for a job well done and everyone is happy. I love this job!
What I am Today. My days of uncertainties have become few and far between due to the Thulani Program and the goodness of Thulani foster parents like my mom. I have a renewed enthusiasm for life. Like always, I live in “the now” and I know what I am today. I am grateful. I am worthy. I am proud. I am a beautiful and radiant Shepherd.
Mozart T. came to the Thulani Program from the Baldwin Park Shelter in southern California, but not before he became a Rock Star Celebrity to facebook viewers all over the country. His story went semi-viral, with people all over pushing for someone to save him, and pledging funds to support him. As you can see from the attached pictures, he is a strikingly handsome old boy, but that only accounts for part of his star status. His personality is just as spectacular as his looks. And he is a fighter where adversity is concerned.
Mozart has melded himself into his foster home with perfect ease—a good friend and social companion to four resident dogs, and a whole bunch of transient foster dogs. And his social skills with people are top flight. He is an absolute pleasure to have around.
Mozart has fairly advanced Degenerative Myelopathy or some other neurological condition that has caused his rear end to be very weak and unstable. When he first came to us, we spent a lot of time helping him get from one place to another because his rear end often would just collapse. But his front legs are strong, his eyes sparkle, and he is alert and attentive to all the things going on around him (he doesn’t want to be left out of anything). He has a great appetite and his house manners are wonderful—he simply has this insidious disease.
When Mozart first came here, his back legs would not support him, and he spent a lot of time dragging his feet and legs behind him. In the process, he rubbed his feet raw in many places. So we put socks on his back feet to protect them from being scraped. Well, the socks worked great to protect his feet, but most amazingly, he began to walk on all four feet much much more of the time. He now will roam and explore our very large back yard, go up and down a couple of steps, and move around the house at will. This is not to say that he doesn’t collapse at times, and the DM is not going away, but his new mobility is a joy to watch.
And Mozart has revealed another wonderful trait—he talks. We all know that many German Shepherds talk, and some talk all the time. But Mozart is different. He doesn’t alarm bark, he doesn’t bark at the other dogs even when they are rough-housing, and he doesn’t go into the mindless barking that some dogs do. He has a characteristic bark that he uses for very specific purposes—when he wants something he asks for it. He asks for his meals—not the nagging barking or whining of some dogs—simply one or two barks. He uses the same bark when he wants help coming up the steps. He barks a couple of times and then waits for you to come help him. We realized what he was doing when one day he got himself wedged behind a chair and could not get out. He barked a couple of times and then waited for us to come and extricate him. No fanfare, no drama, no frantic barking—just a simple request for assistance. With that realization, we now know what to expect.
Mozart is a joy to have around, and a great dog to observe. We will give him the best life we can for as long as he will let us.
This handsome boy Ashton T. came into the Mendocino County Animal Services shelter in Ukiah as a skinny stray. But full of life!! Unfortunately, during his medical evaluation, they found him to be heartworm-positive, and to have serious kidney disease. So the Thulani Program stepped in. With the invaluable help of the shelter director and a volunteer, Ashton was transported to the San Francisco Bay area, and transferred to the Thulani Program of GSRNC.
- A week later Ashton is still very active and playful. He bounces around almost non-stop whenever his people are in the vicinity. He doesn’t just run, he gallops. He is happy to meet other dogs, but is a little awkward in his approach—he just needs a bit more socialization. And he really likes to jump up on people–we are working on that and he is learning quickly
At the moment Ashton is being treated for the heartworm (luckily he does not have a very heavy load) and is on a special diet for his kidney problems. The shelter described him as a ‘picky’ eater, but he loves his new diet. Definitely a member of the clean plate club every meal.
Ashton is part of the Thulani Hospice Program which means we will find him a permanent home and the Thulani Program will pay all of his expenses for the rest of his life. If you might be interested in helping Ashton live out a quality life or even providing him a loving home for whatever time he will give us, please contact Bob at email@example.com.
Zane had the best life–the constant and sole companion of Denis for 12 years of his life. But then disaster struck when Denis died. Prospects for a 12 yr old German Shepherd, even one as fabulous as Zane, are not good. But Denis’ daughter would not give up, and she found the Thulani Program. We took Zane in, and immediately found Valerie and Dan A. who wanted to make Zane part of their family.
Zane found his salvation! Valerie and Dan doted over him, put up with his mild separation anxiety, reveled in his somewhat quirky behavior, loved him for everything he naturally was, and gradually convinced him that a wonderful new chapter had begun for him. And that was exactly the case for four glorious months. Zane settled in, gave his full love and attention to Valerie and Dan, especially Valerie who was with him constantly while Dan traveled for long periods. The stories that Valerie passed along were riveting, heartwarming, inspirational, and incredibly gratifying.
But then a short time ago, disaster struck again when Zane was diagnosed with an extremely fast moving and aggressive oral cancer. Although the news was devastating, Valerie and Dan dealt with it by emulating Zane–living ‘in the moment’, not dwelling on stories about tomorrow, and enjoying everything Zane was willing to grant them.
They let Zane go last week, but the pictures accompanying this tribute speak volumes of the devotion, the depth of the bond, the intensity of the relationship between Zane and Valerie and Dan, and the bittersweet joy that characterized this most intense final chapter of their relationship.
We should all grieve and exalt in this example of one of life’s most awe-inspiring events.
Fare thee well, Zane, and treasure your memories Valerie and Dan.
The last time we saw Jayne (AKA Thulani dog Janie T.), she was settling into her new home, and was having a great time playing with the Preston family and with her fur brother Rex.
Well, now, she has revealed a new talent—soccer defender.
Please let me explain.
Susan and her family are hosting some professional soccer coaches from Holland. While they were working with Sarah and Cole Preston on soccer skills, everyone noticed that Jayne had some unusual focus and talents. No one was going to get a soccer ball past her and get close enough to the goal to even think about scoring. Enjoy the pics attached.
It is rumored that Jayne will be offered a contract to play in Europe—unconfirmed, but if you look at these pics, it seems logical.
King T. lives up to his name. I don’t know if he is a ‘King’ Shepherd, but he is a very large, handsome, loveable boy who just wants your attention. He is people and dog friendly, wants to please, rides well in the car, and likes to go for walks. He likely was an outside dog, but is housetrained.
King T. seems to be very healthy for a senior. He does favor his left front foot at times, but seems to ‘walk it off’ as he moves around. We will look into what is causing this.
For all of his size, King is a gentle giant and very affectionate. He is in the Thulani Program because of his age. He will make someone a great family companion.
King needs a special home in which to live out his life in comfort and love. If you might be interested in providing King a loving home for whatever time he has left, we will cover all expenses. Please contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org
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’.