The Super Senior Project

Caring for our older dogs

Suddenly, I took in two new senior dogs, and that’s in addition to three other seniors that grew up here, plus three younger dogs. With so many older dogs under one roof, and with the generous contributions and volunteering from the wonderful Berkshire Hills community, we have the perfect situation to find out what helps these sweet souls to:

  • feel comfortable
  • enjoy life
  • stay as healthy as they can
  • and make the final decisions about end of life.

My eyes just got misty writing those last words. I’ll talk about that, too.

I hope our discoveries will help you


Super Seniors

Kiefer and Zak are gentle in their older age. No one gets into a tiff over girls anymore, or gets obsessed with marking their scent around the property. They are true older gentlemen.

They wake up with tails wagging and bodies bouncing as they make their way outside.  But coming back inside for a delicious meal is why they are truly animated this early in the day.  The older guys savor their food longer than anyone else, slowly enjoying each bite.

Zak gets about 18 oz of raw food-a day, along with:

  • Dasuquin and fish oil for his arthritis
  • Gabapentin for pain relief
  • Digestive enzymes with pre/probiotics, along with “Runs Be Done” for his digestion and nutritional absorption
  • Fresh veggies and fruits-one cube (I blend up fruits and veggies and freeze in ice cube trays)

In his previous home he suffered from diarrhea nearly every night. This regime of diet and supplements has solved that issue, thank heavens!

Kiefer gets the same amount of raw food, along with everything Zak gets:

  • Dasuquin and fish oil
  • Gabapentin
  • Digestive enzymes with pre/probiotics
  • Fresh veggies or fruits
  • (Kiefer doesn’t need “Runs Be Done.”)

Kiefer also gets

  • Milk Thistle twice a day for his liver health

Kiefer’s hair has grown back and is less greasy. He occasionally licks his hair, but has stopped chewing his skin.

His mid-section looks more relaxed and less bunched up, so I am guessing his liver feels better. He has more energy, and is much more animated and joyful.

My concern now is that he doesn’t gain weight.

Both boys’ back legs can be wobbly on their bad days. Maybe they over did it the day before.

After breakfast they wander around outside, sniffing and exploring for a while.  All 8 dogs settle down for nice naps on the thick comfortable beds back in the house, or if it’s warm outside they will lie in the sun by the back door. Their choice.

Everyone is up and out in the afternoon. I try to play fetch with them, but to be honest only Maeve plays, the rest could care less. But they love when I am out with them, no matter what we do.

The boys have adjusted great with all of this. The only thing that could be an adjustment for them is that I am always talking loudly-often in other people’s voice’s (right now it’s Julia Child’s), or my words and thoughts get turned into off-key Broadway tunes.  I think up until now, only my dogs knew this!

Dinner is served at 4pm.






Super Seniors-Paloma


Have I mentioned that I also have Paloma?

She will be 14 in July. She was born and raised here. She was always my first choice for bringing on vacation due to her love of the water and all things outdoorsy.  Oh, and also because she walks beautifully on leash.

Paloma is in good shape for her age. She is a bit stiff and chooses not to do stairs anymore. Her hearing is certainly diminished. In her younger days, when I called her she’d stop on a dime and run back to me. Now I call her-many times- and eventually she looks over at me. She’s in no hurry about anything.

I’ve fed her raw food for a long time now. I am now supplementing her diet with deer velvet and green lipped mussels. I’m not sure if I am seeing any difference. But in the mean time she has a sparkle in her eyes, and when I let her into the living room for a nap on the couch before breakfast, I almost hear her giggle.

I love that girl. She is all soul.

Super Senior-Zak

Zak walked slowly through my front door with his head down, as his previous pet parents brought in his very well-worn bed, a bag of food, and a large medley of meds.

Molly’s eyes were misty as she said her good byes. This was emotionally tough for everyone involved.

I remember him when he was a young enthusiastic dog. Never have I met a gentler dog. He came from a breeder out west when he was a few years old and lived here at Berkshire Hills for a while before moving to his home with Jon. He, like most of my determined and clever males, couldn’t stay here with all of the girls so he needed to go into a guardian home. We didn’t want any accidental breedings.

While he was living with us, twelve years ago, I often saw Zak cheek to cheek with some guy who was repairing something around the property. Zak was a zen boy and loved nudging people with his nose to get some snuggles.

My hope for Zak at 14 years old is simply for him to feel better physically, but even more so, I want to see some joy in him.

Super Senior-Zak

Zak has been here for a week now. Jon described him as aloof, but to me he was clearly depressed and probably in some pain. He lost the sparkle in his eyes. I saw that same thing with Kipling, my old guy, and realized it was a sign of pain. For Kipling it was his arthritis, and once dealt with the sparkle came back.


Zak was on a daily pain killer, along with fish oil, Dasuquin and Prozac. He was put on Prozac because Jon felt Zak was anxious. He had been chewing things around the house and getting into the garbage.  I know that chewing is a self-soothing activity and was sure Zak was frustrated with his changing situation and once here the chewing would stop. So, I weaned him off the Prozac.

And as with all my dogs, Zak was also put on a raw diet for one of his meals. So now, there are 9 dogs in the house that howl in great anticipation as I prepare their meal! I’ve been contemplating getting a pair of ear plugs.

I’m beginning to see subtle signs of joy, a slow tail wag here and there, a few deep and silent snuggles into my neck. He loves a good neck massage.

Super Senior-Zak

Yesterday I took Zak to the chiropractor for his first adjustment. I was told he has a history of neck pain. Dr. Bud Allen, cracked his neck a few times and adjusted his back. Zak didn’t flinch and seemed to enjoy it. Bud said that Zak’s neck was out of whack and his spine clearly was showing signs of arthritis. We left there with a week supply of an anti-inflammatory, as well. Dr Allen told me that this new med wouldn’t help with nerve pain, but it would help the inflammation. If it helps, then we will know we are not dealing with nerve degeneration.

This morning, Zak woke up and leaped towards the door like a reindeer! He had such a remarkable joy and bounce to his step, something clearly worked!  I laughed and clapped my hands in shear surprise!

Zak feels good.


Super Senior-Kiefer


Grindstone!” Robert would shout, and Kiefer would put his nose to Robert’s out stretched hand! Robert never used an expected command, which made people laugh!

If Kiefer wasn’t home keeping Linda company, he could be found greeting guests at Robert’s photography gallery down the road. Kiefer had many friends there.

Kiefer deserves to be remembered for his whole life, not just the last leg of it. And to this day he has the softest and the sweetest eye-contact. Robert and Kiefer were a team. First in agility, and then as a therapy team for a children’s reading program at their local library.

Kiefer’s owners could no longer care for him, due to their own senior challenges. So he arrived here at Berkshire Hills six weeks ago.

Super Senior Project-Kiefer


Kiefer’s challenges

Having recently turned 14,  Kiefer strolled into my house and made himself at home. I could see his skeleton through his thinning hair. Large patches of his coat were missing from his legs and hips, and what hair he did have was very greasy. No one wanted to touch him because their  hands would end up with a thick layer of  yeasty smelling grease.

“BOOF, BOOF, BOOF”. He barks at me to make sure he knows where I am. He barks at me if he needs something or even if he doesn’t know what he needs…he barks at me all day and evening,

His challenges are now my challenges. What makes him comfortable, what makes him happy, can he get healthier, how to get people to want to touch him? What helps with the barking, can his diet improve, will supplements and bodywork help him feel better?

He is such a sweet soul. This is his journey.

Super Senior- Kiefer

Addressing Kiefer’s Needs


Kiefer looked at his lard covered prescription kibble and took a small bite. He gave me a look, like, “omg, not this again.” He ate about half a cup, not enough to sustain him.

Sadly, he went down the typical allergy rabbit hole when he was young. He was put on a prescription kibble and immune suppressing allergy pills for all of his life. The previous owner said that none of this helped his allergies. Well, I thought, if they aren’t working, why give them? So I stopped giving him Apoquel.

He looked up with sad puppy eyes when he smelled the real food I gave my dogs.  He’s starving, I thought, what’s the worse that can happen if I give him organic raw beef, chicken and duck with offal and ground bones?  I figured if the kibble wasn’t helping him thrive anyway, why not at least give him a delicious taste pleasure? I wasn’t expecting any miracles, I just wanted him to enjoy what time he has.

To my surprise, he didn’t have any allergic reaction to raw meat. The itching stopped, his coat became less greasy, and he had more energy. Is it possible he could have been eating real food all along?


Super Senior- Kiefer

Kiefer has elevated liver enzymes and an enlarged liver, as well as anemia. His back legs tremble and slip, his eye sight and hearing are also beginning to fail. But cognitively he’s all there.

For his sight, I make sure I turn the light on when he’s walking down the stairs. You can see that he has no idea where his paws will land when the stairway is darker. For hearing, I find a higher pitched voice seems to work better. For his slipping, we have rubber bottomed booties, but I want to make sure the yeast is under control before I cover his paws. I tried putting Dr. Buzby’s toe grips on his toenails, but had a hard time getting them positioned right. He still slipped. So yoga mats are the go-to for now.

As far as his “boofing” at me, well, it was me who had to adjust. I just make sure he knows where I am.

I checked with his vet to see if there were any supplements or herbs that were contraindicated with his liver issues, and they said not that they knew of. What about painkillers? With his liver in bad shape they ruled out Carprofen, perhaps Gabapentin. Besides going to specialists and doing further diagnosis procedures, they were out of suggestions.

So we’re on our own.

One of our Berkshire Hills pet parent, Kristen Hough is a professional energy healer. She read Kiefer’s “Emotion Code” and felt his liver was in pain. She suggested milk thistle.

He eats twice a day. For now his daily treatment is given in his breakfast (8 oz of raw):

  • a milk thistle tincture -3-4 drops for liver healing
  • a spoonful of pumpkin for some initial constipation
  • a probiotic for good bacteria in the gut, and digestive enzymes to help break down his food. As we age digestive enzymes decrease.

For a dog who is dealing with health issues or is older, it’s a good idea, in my experience, to go slow and give the smaller dose of things. It takes energy to process supplements even if they are natural.

I noticed that Kiefer seemed to be a bit more wobbly the following day of his first milk thistle dosage. I think he’s adjusting to a lot, so I started to reduce the milk thistle a little going forward. His spirits are up. He even tried to mount a girl in heat!

I have a little background in shiatsu and acupressure, so I started working along his spine. I stopped to watch if this was painful for him. Kiefer got up slowly, turned in a circle and then returned to place himself with his back right up against me so I could do it more. He looked up at me with eyes full of gratitude. My heart went, “ooohhh, buddy.”