Friday, November 30, 2012

Bark Out Loud and Then Take a Nap

A sleeping Boo Boo dog - a senior flat-coated retriever

It's been a quiet month here at SeniorPooch.com, but a busy one for me personally. 

Just to mix things up a bit, I posted a few less posts to see how the readership would react. We still get pretty decent traction for a blog that is only 1.5 years old, but it looks like you all like us best when we're posting more than one article per month. As always, if you have any thoughts on this or tales of senior dogs to share, I'm happy to share their story with the hundreds of unique visitors that we have every month. 

One burning question that I have is: Would you like to see new posts on the weekend?
I ask because it looks like there are a number of folks that like to read the Friday posts on Saturday, so I'm wondering if you're all just catching up, or just have a bit more time and would like to see something new as well.

I've spent more than a little of my time working with The Dog Squad working events, maintaining their website, and most recently being appointed Secretary on their Board of Directors. It's all pretty miraculous that one dog (The Mighty Boo Boo, pictured above) would change my life to this extent. 

This weekend I'll be dedicating one day this weekend to a number of Dog Squad activities, including going to see Charlie who came back to us recently. Charlie remains a champ of epic proportions, but needs a dog-only home with a family that understands that he needs some extra love and attention to get over his insecurity issues. While he was with a great family for a short time, it ultimately turned out not to be the relationship that either were looking for, and so Charlie is back with The Dog Squad looking for the right people for him.

I've been working on some new articles and have some design changes to go into the site coming within the next week. 

I'll end this post with a heart-warming video from Iowa, where a senior dog lost for four years was reunited with his owner after being shown on a local TV station as the pet of the week. WARNING: This one is a tear-jerker in the best way possible.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hands-on Massaging of Your Older Dog

Sometimes it takes a hands-on bonding experience to get through the day for you and your senior dog.

Massaging your older arthritic dog is not a cure by any stretch, but can make them feel a little more comfortable. I first learned about this practice with my first older dog who had arthritis and hip dysplacia. Much of what helped him during those achy rainy days were meds, but often those take time to act and were not the only tool I employed. Massaging is most effective as a way to stimulate circulation.

As a dog's skin is more sensitive than ours, it's best to wash your hands beforehand. It's probably also a good idea to do so afterwards, just in case your dog has a skin condition or likes rolling around in the dust (or mud or brushing up under bushes to scratch his or her butt).

Start off touching your dog in the areas you're going to massage to make sure they're OK with what you're doing. Run your hands over different areas to get a better understanding of tight spots. All dogs are different, so I didn't focus on the touching phase. It was only later that I learned about it in my research, but it makes a lot of sense. This gives you time to figure out if there are any places that you shouldn't be working and gives you the opportunity to find any new or changing lumps and bumps. If there's any pain, discomfort or different sized nodules that you find, it's best to check in with your veterinarian if you're concerned. For now it's best to move onto other areas of your achy pal's body and not massage any painful areas.

Don't perform deep tissue massages on your dog. He isn't a human and even if you have human massaging experience, you should NOT assume that the benefits are going to be the same. You shouldn't be doing any more than touching just enough to put enough pressure to feel the resistance of the skin.

There was one particular technique that helped out my old dog quite a bit was one that I found online (and of course cannot find now). In a nutshell, you run your fingers down either side of their spine. Don't press on the spine. Continue to run you fingers down from the top based of the spine to the base of their tail.

Like any health related article, check with your vet first. These are steps that have worked for me, but there's no warranty saying that they're the right thing for you and yours. For your reference I'm including a couple interesting articles that both backed up my own experiences, as well as added a new thought or two to this post.

Related articles:
How to Massage an Arthritic Dog
Dog Arthritis Pain Relief: How to Massage Your Dog

Monday, November 12, 2012

Coping with Sudden Changes in Your Senior Dog's Behavior

Boo Boo lounging around contemplating the meaning of life
"Boo Boo doesn't play." 

It's a line I used many times to describe my old friend's standoffish behavior with younger dogs. 

With dogs of equal "speed", he was always fine. Shy at first, but when push came to shove, he'd manage a few short wags before moving on his way when meeting another dog. 

I got him when he was already a senior pooch, so there's little telling what his younger days were like or it was his ailments that made him who he was or his time in the shelter.

That said, in hindsight there were signs that I could have used to better predict that his arthritis and hip dysplasia were becoming more troublesome. 

The first was his change in sleeping accommodations. Where he originally liked to sit in his big fluffy bed, he began to sleep more and more on the floor or on an older, flatter bed that I had in my back room. Towards the end he had issues standing up. The depth of the bed was obviously a chore for him to navigate. 

This tracks with his feelings about younger dogs who would try to re-introduce him to jumping around. Since he couldn't get out of the way of the many 20 lb. puppies, he hide and get just nasty enough to keep them from getting to close if we were unsuccessful in keeping our distance.

He would also tend to walk along straight lines in the pavement. Straight lines with no obstructions are predictable. They're easy to use as a guide. His eyesight was decent and never changed from what I could tell, but at night he used to have problems with shadows. From further away he'd sometimes approach shadows carefully when we were in a location that he wasn't familiar. Once or twice he stepped to the side to avoid them, walking sidelong into a car bumper. 

For dogs that are losing their eyesight, I'd recommend not making many changes around the house. Rearranging the furniture is going to take some time to get familiar. Expect that they're going to slow down until they figure out alternative ways of navigating.

A loss of hearing is another issue that may cause an otherwise calm passive dog to act schizophrenic. If a dog can't hear, it's going to be surprised if you walk up on them from behind, even if you've done it a million times before. Take the time to work out hand gestures to replace verbal commands. 

Slow down, have patience, and take your time getting reacquainted with your senior dog all over again. They'll appreciate the extra attention.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bark Out Loud for Your People



This Bark Out Loud is dedicated to the folks who get out there and make a difference for dogs that aren't their own. Above we have our friend, Larry Abgarian, who has not only contributed many  pictures to SeniorPooch.com, but also rescued and fostered his share of dogs. My pal Rusty, also pictured above, wouldn't be with us today if it weren't for Larry. He's just one of many interviews that we've had over the past year and a half.

Becky White is another canine superhero, who, as a dog walker/boarder in Toronto, Canada, who I met because of a particular article she wrote about senior dogs. Over the months we've become friends and I can tell you that I've learned a heck of a lot about what makes a great pet advocate blog from her example.

The first interview where I put out a call to folks that I didn't know came from Eugenia Vogel, whose interview on training set the standard for the interviews that we continue to post here today and reinforced how we can help build a happier dog, by just being a bit more consistent and thoughtful in the things we say and do.

There are many more, but the last one I'll call out here is an interview with Melissa Lisbon, who is one of the founders of the San Jose Animal Advocates. Melissa's focus on educating the public about homeless animals and supporting the shelter and rescue communities highlights how someone with a will to make a difference can pull together the right team and change the world one small dog or kitten at a time.

I'd encourage anyone who's interested in reading more interviews to click through on the Interview link to get first hand accounts of animal advocacy in your community.

I'm honored to share a mission with you all.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bark Out Loud Because You're Not Alone

Peppy, a chihuahua mix, is still available for adoption

Sometimes the world can be a scary place when we're alone. Lost and by ourselves we struggle for meaning and latch onto hope to justify hanging on when things are at their most perilous. 

There are times when Hope and her sister, Fear, are so intertwined that we can't see one without the other.

Have you been there and done that?  OK now step back and recognize that they're both in your head and neither are real. Step outside of yourself for a while and focus on helping others. Get out there and call your local rescue or shelter and see if you can foster a dog in need this holiday season. 

You can't help from changing when becoming part of something larger than yourself. The door is open, but no one else can walk through it for you.