In Praise of Elder Dogs

This blog is created in celebration of the elder dogs, of any breed, who've touched our hearts. You are invited to add your own reflections, or, if you wish, track the progress of your own elder dogs. ("Elder," BTW, is defined here as 10 years or more, except in breeds known for shorter lifespans, such as the Great Dane.) Send your stories and photos to me at branta(at)

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Location: Hunt, Texas, United States

I've been privileged to share my life with five unforgettable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. This blog was inspired by Cooper, my first, whose indominatable bright spirit triumphed over his limitations. Every day of his life, till the very end, he woke joyously, happy to greet the day. I would wish the same for all of us!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Another Seizure for Tessie; Cooper in Decline

THIS BLOG HAS BEEN QUIET. I've just returned from two necessary weeks abroad, where I was privileged to assist with grandchildren as the family welcomed yet another. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was board Cooper and Tessie, but there was no other choice; when dogs outlive the expectations for their breed, life goes on, and trips planned must sometimes be taken.

I returned, however, to find my two elders in decline -- the worst we've seen so far. TESSIE, who'd largely slept, seizure-free, for the two weeks, reportedly had a small one during her bath and spent the rest of the day dazed and dozing. She seemed not to recognize me when we picked her up; perked up a bit when we arrived home; and slept for hours and hours, pausing only to poop, lick my face, and go back to sleep.

Up with Cooper in the pre-dawn hours (he was whimpering, trying to settle into a comfortable postion), I returned to bed at five-something, only to wake a few minutes later to hear Tessie in the midst of a full-blown seizure. It seemed milder than the early ones described here, before she was on Phenobarbitol, but it was more than the "small" ones in which she simply stares into space as if migrating briefly into an alternate reality. Her legs were extended, stiff; her eyes, lost in space; she salivated profusely. Yet it ended quickly, and when the worst was over, she looked up at me, cocked her head, and recognized me for the first time since dropping her off at the Vet's in early February! Another kiss -- she's never been a "kisser" till lately -- just a bit of pacing, and now she's back to sleep.

COOPER is in the worst shape I've ever seen him in. Over the past two weeks he appears to have lost vision in both eyes. His hips and legs are stiff and sore, and he's barely walked since we came back from the vet. He's had no difficulty recognizing me or our home, and responded enthusiastically to the offer of tiny dabs of port-wine cheddar cheese.

I'm hoping to see a turnaround today, as they realize that they're home and I'm here. For the first time, ever, the Vet volunteered that Cooper's time with us may be short. I don't recall his words, but the message was clear. Any day now could be "The Day." I just hope I'll know when the time is right. Most people would probably have put a dog in his condition down by now; some, I suspect, would have done it well before we even began to consider it. But now that we don't have to get up and go to work any more, and have no travel planned in the immediate future, we can provide the kind of hospice or pre-hospice care these elders need.

I've always said I wouldn't put Cooper down until the fire in his eyes went out. With both eyes blind now, it's hard to see the "fire." But as long as his tail still wags and he leaps at the promise of cheese, we'll just keep on keeping on and hope to do the right thing when the time comes.


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