Note: This is what I was writing yesterday when the phone/DSL went out. It was a tough day for sure. I finally put all my thoughts and fears into one post and faced the inevitable. :'(
I've been struggling recently with some things. I have blogged about part of it, but not all. I'm having a hard time with the aging process. Not my own ... well, a little, but that isn't the issue ... but that of my darling Ali and China.
Less than a year ago I also had Mai Lin, China's mother, and when I lost her suddenly to an intestinal infection which her aged little body (she was almost 15-1/2 years old) just couldn't fight off (despite the fact that she was frisky and generally in good health), I asked the vet to check both these others to be sure they weren't ill, also. Both were deemed essentially healthy for their ages (then 13, now both are 14).
China has been on anti-seizure medication since she was just a few months old when she had a grand mal seizure. Over the last few years, she has gained weight, and I could not figure out how I was going wrong. The vet found that she has Cushing's disease which comes with excessive appetite or loss of appetite and the gain or loss of weight as follows. It usually bring seizures as well, but since she was on medication and had no discernible seizures since her puppy-hood, that was determined good. She has cataracts and has lost a great deal of her hearing over time, but remains a spirited, happy little dog. She is unassuming, yet appreciative of every bit of attention. Just ask (shouting, of course, so she can hear you) if she wants to go outside or go in the car, or even just hold up her harness, and she prances like no body's business! She has a high-stepping gait that stirs the heart of anyone who sees it, and loves going and doing. This girl loves life! But she is aging. It is noticeable, and it breaks my heart.
China will eventually begin loosing control of her muscles as part of the Cushing's disease. I already see the beginnings of this. Sometimes she just trots across the floor and one foot just doesn't plant on the floor. Or coming up steps, sometimes she simply misses a step as if a foot just didn't move quite right. There have been no serious falls or such, but a bump on the nose occasionally happens. And she jumps right up and goes again, with her incomparable verve for life.
Then there is Ali who has always been my regal little prince. Not a lot of common sense at times, but very smart and could learn commands fairly quickly. Where China pranced, he strutted, head high and tail curled over his back with attitude. Last fall, the vet saw just a little bit of cataracts in his eyes. Then on a recent visit to the vet for another issue, the doc was surprised at the growth of the white curtain in my boy's eyes. It has come up astoundingly fast and is progressing rapidly.
He has a degenerative process going on in his lower spine, as many of us do as we age. I'm beginning to see some of the results of that as he no longer stands tall and proud, but usually with his feet slightly spread to balance. Going up and down steps
And then we talked about senility in Ali, as I've mentioned before. It's not just "senility" that is the issue, but the things that come with it. Most remarkably for me is the separation anxiety, as it makes it very hard for me to leave him at home. When I do and he gets anxious, he rips up cardboard boxes, and lacking those he starts in on the "good stuff." I try to take him everywhere that I can, but when I go shopping I would have to leave them in the car. Anything but the most temperate of days makes that risky. Fortunately we live in an area that is so laid back that I can leave the windows down without concern, but still..... I've crated them in the past, but we quit because the crates were so bulky when we had three dogs. I'm trying to reacclimate him to it now, but it is really difficult with the other issues. He sees it as a punishment, I'm afraid, and I don't want him to be afraid of it or me.
A couple weeks ago I began to notice that Ali is now having trouble hearing. The loss of hearing seems to have been sudden and fairly profound. I used to crackle a paper or sigh heavily, and it would wake him from a deep sleep. Now I'm having to shout to wake him or get his attention if he isn't looking at me. I'm sure that adds to his confusion and fears. Not seeing, not hearing, and not remembering at times has to be terribly depressing. And it shows. He doesn't play with his toys nearly as much as he used to. Of course, at his age, some of that is just normal, but this is more than what I call normal aging.
I know I won't have either of them very long. Especially Ali. I see his physical and mental decline heartbreakingly progressing. I've avoided thinking very much about this. I've talked about it, yes, but I don't dwell. It is just too sad and I can't do it or I'll become non-functioning myself. And now, I've just spent almost an hour saying all this. An hour because I kept getting up and walking away from the computer.
This morning I got something in an email from a friend. It is very sweet, very dear, but it reduced me to tears. Real, falling down the face tears. I'm going to put the link for this, but be prepared before you go there, because if you love your four-legged family members like I do, it is going to get under your skin. Just warning you!