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

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.

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

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