Our first litter of the year, Raven and Truman’s 7 babies!

It’s been 5 months since we have had puppies here, so these guys are an extra blessing. It never gets old having  2-week old puppies, with eyes and ears open, wobble over to you to give you a kiss! Oh, melt.


It’s a new year


It’s a new year and both Zak and Kiefer have been with me now for almost a year. Kiefer turns 15 next week. Zak and Paloma will be 15 in a few months.

Zak still has a bounce in his step. Kiefer is still opinionated and strong-willed. Last week he went to the local library with his former owner and offered therapy to lots of excited children. Paloma is still a happy-go-lucky girl.

All 3 of the super seniors spend more time napping. Paloma sleeps so deeply in the morning that she often doesn’t even hear me preparing their breakfast. All 3 of them are losing their hearing and sight. I will often see them staring into space like they are either in deep thought or no thought at all. That’s a topic of discussion and a source of laughter in my house.

The only supplements they are taking in addition to their raw food are Dasuquinprobiotics and digestive enzymes. The raw food provides all the pain relief, strength, and joint lubrication they need right now.


This is my last post on the super seniors. I don’t want to go into the details of how they die. We know they will. But what many people ask me is how do you make that decision, when do you know it’s time?  Often you hear, “you will just know.”  But you don’t just know until it gets to that point and it’s not always that simple.

Let’s start with some questions:

  1. Is your dog in pain? (Can you manage the pain?)
  2. Is your dog aware of what’s going on? (Are they still enjoying a nap in the sun or a cuddle on the couch? Are they happy?)
  3. Can your dog still walk? (Are you able to use a support like a sling?)
  4. Is your dog incontinent? (Are you willing to use diapers, pee pads, etc.)

For me, when there are a few things going on at the same time, it might be time. I kept Kipling until he had all of those things—he was in pain, incoherent, couldn’t walk, and was incontinent. I used to feel guilty for having kept him here longer than maybe he wanted. I just wasn’t ready to let go of him. I realize now that was okay.  I think he was holding on to being there for me.

Just know the loss can be so deeply painful, their presence is profound in our lives. They are our therapists, our unconditional love, the glue that binds our family together, the one who softens and lifts us, but most of all they are an honored and deeply loved part of our lives.

Be easy on yourself and give yourself the time you need.

Some people need to bring a puppy into their life right away to help heal. Some people need a long time alone to heal. The only right answer is yours.

When I lost Mabel suddenly, my heart was ripped out, and the pain was palpable. Two years later I know in my heart she sent me Maeve. Maeve IS Mabel, from her wild energy and enthusiasm down to the smell of her hair. But most of all she is as intense about her love for me as Mabel was. This has helped soothe my pain. I need to love dogs, our dogs want us to keep loving, too. After all, that’s what they are all about.

I am so grateful to the Berkshire Hills community who have opened their hearts to these amazing souls. You are very courageous and amazing.


Thank you, Sunny

(photos: Zak and I, Kiefer in his red sweater, Paloma starring at the fire, Maeve starring at me)





Seasons Change



The end of summer at Berkshire Hills was delightfully alive with puppies and volunteers. There were puppies running around the playground, chasing each other through tunnels, making sleepy puppy piles on their white lamb bed. Meanwhile, Mo, my 5 month-old grew long lanky legs, and my seniors took lazy naps in the sun.

Fall has now settled in. Mo’s legs grew 6 inches longer. We are buttoning down the house for colder weather, bringing in the firewood and pulling down the storm windows. Thanksgiving will be here soon.  I just love Thanksgiving dinner in this house.  It was built in 1790 and is such a  classic New England home with stone walls bordering the fields and several big wooden barns once housing oxen and tobacco. I sometimes laugh thinking about the stories I am adding to it’s history.

I fear this winter might be hard on my three seniors. They will turn 15 early February. Zak is a bit more uncertain when he walks. His gait is less coordinated. Kiefer can’t seem to keep his weight up and gets cold easily.  Paloma is the same happy girl as always. When I call her into the house she stops at the threshold wagging her tail with a big smile on her face. She’s not sure what I want. My daughter describes her as, “pleasantly confused.”

Now that we are spending more time inside, moving through the house has become a bit of a challenge. The 2 younger ones move around like little tornadoes, twirling into me. The older ones move so slow, or don’t move at all.  They just stand in the way blocking doors and pathways so I have to climb over them or gently push their butts off to the side to get by. And then there are 5 other dogs just hanging around me, waiting to see what I’m going to do next. It’s an odd dance that has no flow.

But, at the end of the day, everyone settles in for a cozy night, grabbing beds where ever they can and it all flows just perfect. Well, at least until Kiefer wants something!





The Unintentional Experiment

The Unintentional Experiment

With all of the puppies we had this summer, I ran out of my raw food three weeks before my next order was expected to arrive. Puppies eat almost as much as adults!  The next order wasn’t coming in for several weeks, so everyone had to eat kibble.

Kiefer had his prescription kibble and the rest of my dogs do best on ACANA Free-Run Poultry Recipe, Grain-Free Dry Dog Food, as far as kibble goes.

A couple of weeks went by and I didn’t see any significant change in any of the dogs-besides huge poops. Huh, I thought maybe the raw food wasn’t responsible for the incredible improvement I saw with the boys. Could it have been the environment or maybe just a fluke?

But by the third week I noticed significant cognitive decline. Zak seemed confused and depressed, All of the older dogs responded slower. Kiefer needed to know where I was more than ever, which made me think his senses were not working as well. All of them were less engaging, but most of all both Kiefer and Zak’s hind legs were giving out. Kiefer’s legs would buckle even from just trying to get a drink of water, and Zak’s legs were splaying out from under him when he tried to get up off the floor. The boys went back to the conditions they had when they came to me in the beginning.

The order of raw food came in and finally, they were back to eating one meal raw food and one meal kibble again. Within days Zak could easily get up off the floor, and Kiefer’s legs stopped shaking and collapsing. The sparkle came back and the bounce in their step was even higher than before. The boys were enthusiastically engaging with our visitors again.

The change was SO significant.

I saw that with Kipling also, several years back when he was 14. But can I make bold statements based on one dog? No.  Now I’ve seen it in 4 old dogs.

I can say now, with confidence, raw dog food is medicine.








Zak’s Predicament


My old guys, Kiefer and Zak, have been here with us now for 5 months. Next month they will be 14.5 years old. I jokingly call them Benjamin Buttons, because I swear they are getting younger. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I freeze every time one of them is deep in sleep. I stand there, holding my breath, waiting to see an inhale.

The other afternoon, as usual, I had let the dogs out to lounge on the hill. The older ones, including Paloma, like to take long naps in the shade.  A few hours had passed and dinnertime was approaching. I called the dogs in and everyone eagerly came in, except Zak.  I called him several times to no response. So I searched under every bush and around every corner and couldn’t find him. I did several more rounds, maybe he went into the barn for his nap? He was no where to be found. The farm was so quiet.

I started checking the house. Maybe he got closed behind the pantry door. But no, he was nowhere to be found in the house either. At this point I was concerned. Had he passed out and was lying somewhere in the tall wild grasses? Is this how his life ends? I thought for a moment that if this was his last day, maybe it was a sweet way to go. Napping in the sunshine on a peaceful hill in the country.

I made my rounds again, calling his name and looking under the same bushes.  Suddenly his dusty colored head popped up from under the Sweet Mock Orange shrub!  Oh, I let out a huge sigh of relief! He never looked more beautiful.

Over the summer the older puppies had dug a shallow hole around the roots to stay cool. While napping under the shrub, Zak had slowly slipped down into that hole and was wedged under the shrub’s roots. He couldn’t shimmy himself out.

I had to cut the thick roots, and with the help of my daughter, we were able to push and pull him out. He was fine, but his back legs were a tad bit weak for having not moved them for some time. He stood up like a newborn foal and happily wobbled into the house just in time for dinner.

Sweet, silly Zak, so happy I have more time with you.


Super Seniors-the reward

I really wasn’t sure how it was going to play out a few months ago when I welcomed two old dogs with health issues into our home. Would it be too much to take on? Would I be able to help them? Will it become a waiting game?  Could I go through this again?  I was so grateful to have more time with Kipling that last year, but it rattled me and broke my heart.

When my daughter was young, she could sit for hours cleaning and polishing stones she found in the dirt. Bringing out their beauty was her reward. Like mother, like daughter, we both love to bring  the best out in things. For her it’s a visual satisfaction, but for me there is an emotional reward. My heart broke knowing that these boys lost their homes so late in life.  I was determined to help them live their last stretch as bright as possible.

Zak came to me suffering from nightly incontinence. He was overweight, depressed and aloof. Kiefer came here also depressed, as well as itchy, bald, smelly and greasy. And he was afraid he wouldn’t get his needs met.

So here we are after a lot of “polishing”.

Kiefer is eating real food for the first time in 11 years. His hair has started to grow back and is less greasy. The last time he barked at me, he realized I understood what he needed. He smiled and wagged his tail enthusiastically.  He is trusting the flow.

Zak has improved, too. He lost weight, his digestion is great, and best of all he is much more animated.  Every morning he bounces through the air as he heads outside. On a really good day he might even attempt a twirl.  Quite a difference from the old man who puttered into my home a few months ago.

I know that when someone feels good, they are more likely to be tender towards others. Last night as I watched the unbearable news about the Texas school children, tears quietly ran down my face.  Zak, out of character, leapt onto the couch and slid into the tiny spot next to me. He hugged his body perfectly around mine, looked up into my eyes and licked my face over and over again.  It was such an unexpected act of compassion.

The journey with these boys will play out as it will, but for now I have been greatly rewarded.

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 or singing loudly-often in other people’s voice’s (right now it’s Julia Child’s)  It’s one way to keep spirits up!

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.