Well…

First, let me apologize for not publishing last week. It seems a few of you were looking for the weekly post that wasn’t here. Sorry about that. Those on the mailing list got an email saying I was taking a week off. The world didn’t cooperate, and I had little to write about. If you want to be on the mailing list, just ask.

Honestly I’d like to skip this week too, but I can’t.

Some of you might know Skookie:

She’s our alpha. She adopted us over 10 years ago when she decided she really liked our Siberian Husky, Danno. She started hanging around our home, befriended the contractors who where working on our place (she got great food from them!), and eventually we invited her inside. That was a new experience — she had to figure out hardwood floors, stairs, and kitchens — but she got pets, food, the companionship of other dogs, and comfort. After a couple of hours though, she’d ask to go back out. We’d open the door and let her go. She wasn’t ours, and it wasn’t our place to fence her in. We joked that she had “errands” to run.

As you might guess, her actual owners let her run loose. We were in a rural area and she had a large radius in which everyone knew her. Once I wanted to walk our dogs while she was around. She was obviously coming along and I didn’t want her darting out in front of cars on the street, so I put a leash on her. At least one driver stopped to say “Hey, I know that dog. Is she yours?” I suspect they didn’t believe my answer and to this day probably wonder about our inability to keep her home, but if so they didn’t argue the point.

Eventually Skookie decided our home was hers. That was driven home when we came back from a two week vacation and found her sleeping on the front porch, awaiting our return. We contacted her owner who told us they were done with her and if we could catch her we could have her. We brought her into the house and stopped letting her run loose. Her days of running “errands” were over.

As I say, that was over 10 years ago. Initially she complained about not being allowed to run loose, but eventually she settled into the new lifestyle. She took the alpha role from Leah in a nearly bloodless coup one day while we were out. To be fair, Leah probably appreciated losing the job, but it was still a surprise to find her nicked ear when we got home. Over the years Skookie has seen the passing of both Leah and Danno, and the arrival of Cruzer and Tinkerbelle. She came along on a 1000 mile move to a different country, and two more moves to different homes in the years since we arrived.

It’s been a long and eventful life with us, and she probably had an “exciting” puppyhood too. We’re told that she was living in the Central Valley in California, running loose and living on all the gophers she could catch. Apparently she was so skittish she had to be live trapped. We cannot confirm any of that, but it’s what her previous owners said.

At a minimum she’s 16 years old and it is quite possible she is 17 or 18. I’ve read that vets can look at a dog’s teeth and tell if the dog is very young or very old, but almost any adult dog looks to be somewhere in the three to five year old range based on their teeth. It seems teeth are not a great indicator of age, at least not if all you can do is glance at them. All this means that her actual age is anyone’s guess.

I share this because this past week has been challenging. She’s been slowing down for some time and hasn’t climbed stairs for at least a couple of years. She spends steadily more time sleeping and panting, less keeping Cruzer and Tinkerbelle in line. Last week it abruptly got worse.

Late one night I heard her get up, take a few steps, make a funny noise and fall over. I rushed downstairs to find her on her side, apparently in a seizure; legs extended, neck arched. After about 30 seconds she regained consciousness, rolled onto her belly, and started panting. There were more seizures later that day, and it’s possible she’s had them in the night for some time. There is just no way to know, but I did recognize the odd noise from a few nights in the last couple of months.

We got her to the vet that afternoon and her prognosis is probably what you would expect. There’s no easy way to figure out what is causing the seizures and any imaging that theoretically might help is difficult for old dogs. And it probably wouldn’t show anything useful in any case. She could have a mass growing in her brain, kidney issues, liver issues, very late onset epilepsy, or a number of other things, none of which are effectively treatable given her age.

To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to bring her back from that trip to the vet, but they suggested prednisone might help for a while. It’s an anti-inflammatory so it might shrink any mass in the brain and it should reduce pain in other places. As such it may improve her quality of life. But it’s not a cure. In fact I probably wouldn’t have agreed it if she hadn’t tried to jump into the car on the way to the vet’s office. That was a big surprise. There’s still some fight in her, and if she’s enjoying life it’s worth letting her stick around a while longer.

So now we watch and wait. The steroid seems to help. There are fewer seizures and she has a bit more energy. She eats, particularly treats of all kinds, and we indulge her. She still won’t climb stairs, but I didn’t expect that. We’ll just take it a week at a time and see how it goes, but we know it won’t last forever.

That’s the big news from the last two weeks. Everything else pales in comparison. I will leave it there.

That said, here’s a photo of a spring tulip in our front yard, just because.

Take care, keep safe, get vaccinated and/or boosted, and tell your friends and family you love them.

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