Ten Steps Plus One Year

It’s been a year since I first visited Barrett Veterinary and started on my ten steps to healing. Considering my multiple health issues, my age, and that one year is like seven for a dog, I’d say I’ve done pretty well. And by pretty well I mean still on the top side of the grass.09 Logan - 10Steps- topside

The problem is that the same 10-step program that, a year ago, got me out in the field doing 1-hour walks, now just gets me to the barn and back, and our barn isn’t far from the house. It didn’t happen all at once, of course, it’s been gradual. My 1-hour walks became 45 minutes, then 40, then 30, then 20, and so on. It’s hard to believe I was still walking a mile every morning when we first came home from Arizona in March. When I look south to the neighbours’ place now, a half a mile away, it seems a formidable journey.

These days I go out to the barn to help with chores once or twice a day and make the trek to the end of the driveway with Nollind to close the gate at night, even if the gate is already closed. I like the routine, and I like to feel included in the happenings of the farm, like I still have a job.09 Logan - 10Steps- stalled

Helping with the herd used to be my thing. I’d rush right in to assist when Teresa was moving horses around. These days I hang back, far back. My Border Collie herding instinct still says, “Get in there,” but my survival instinct says “Are you nuts?” I swear those horses are a lot bigger than they used to be, or maybe I’m smaller.

My life is definitely a lot different than it was a few years ago, even a year ago, but it’s still life, and it’s still good most days. I enjoy different things at a different pace. I always did like lying on the deck or in the yard watching the world go by, so that hasn’t changed. What has changed is that I just let it go by, the world, rather than chasing after it.09 Logan - 10Steps- yardtime

I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be here. Walking is getting tougher, the Legend isn’t helping much anymore, and some days it’s a challenge just to get up off my bed. Teresa got me some supplements that help settle my nighttime restlessness and my medications have been adjusted to levels that seem to keep me going as best they can but, when I look at my condition compared to a year ago, I know I don’t have another one in me. There’s only so much sliding downhill that can happen before the toboggan reaches the bottom and stops moving.

But, until then, I’ll be here, keeping the troops entertained. I figure as long as I have a skip in my step (in addition to a limp) and a light in my eye, I’ll be bargaining for a few more days.09 Logan - 10Steps- fieldwalk

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Working the System

Dog sitters are kind of like substitute teachers. You know how even the good kids might push on a substitute like they never would their regular teacher? Well, that’s what it’s like with a dog sitter. A guy can get away with just a little more.

In my case, I’m already pretty good at working my full-time people and they’re kind of easy but, bring on new recruits and I hit all-time highs. Take my pills, for instance. I know what’s “hiding” in those tasty treats they offer me three times a day. It’s cute how they think they’re being sneaky. But here’s the reality, I know the pills make me feel better but, if I make a fuss, I get better wrappers.

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Do I look like a guy who would take advantage?

It started with Greenies Pill Pockets, which are pretty tasty, and it took me a while to realize that I could up my game, get something better. All I had to do was stop eating Pill Pockets. It wasn’t easy, especially out walking. Teresa would pull a morsel out of the little treat bag that clips to her belt and, in my enthusiasm, I’d swallow it down before I realized it was Pill Pocket and not some other tasty tidbit.

Once I stopped eating the Pill Pocket altogether, they moved on to liverwurst. Yum. That stuff was so good, particularly the brand they found down in Arizona. I thought I’d reached the ultimate in pill coatings. But, after a few months I began to wonder, if I don’t eat the liverwurst, what else might they give me? I love chicken, but it’s hard to wrap a pill with a piece of chicken, same goes for steak, so I knew those were off the table. What the heck, I decided to gamble. I refused the liverwurst.

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Chico hasn’t figured out the system. He’d still be eating pill pockets.

You know what’s better than liverwurst? Liverwurst rolled in bacon bits. You know what’s better than liverwurst rolled in bacon bits? Liverwurst rolled in bacon bits with a dollop of bacon grease on top like icing.

Again I thought I’d surely reached the pinnacle of pill dressings. But, then again, maybe not. What if I was missing out on something better? It was tough, but I refused the liverwurst with bacon bits and grease. I couldn’t wait to see what they’d bring home from the store next trip into town. Any guesses? Have you ever tasted canned corned beef? Oh my. So delicious.

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Thinking about my next plate of corned beef balls.

I was content to stay with the corned beef for a bit, ride the wave so to speak, but then, bwa ha ha, the dog sitters came to stay. It was just too good an opportunity to pass up. After all, they weren’t going to be around long and might have new and better ideas about how to give pills to an old dog. They’d had one for a long while. Any of you remember Dame Dixie?

First day out I turned down the corned beef and I was prepared to refuse any attempts to dress it up with bacon bits. I was holding out for something new. It took a couple of days of trying different things, things I’d refused before, but then G and S pulled out all the stops, offering up steak tartare (sans capers) topped with crumbled chicken breast au jus. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

I’ve had to back things up a bit now that Teresa and Nollind are home and I’m settling for raw ground beef as a wrapper, no chicken crumbles au jus. But, it’s been ten days, probably about time for an upgrade. Don’t you think?

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You bet I’m smiling.

 

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

I used to enjoy the end of the day, the prairie or desert sky coloured by the dying sun, going for a walk in stealth mode in my black coat. But that was before … before the dark became scary.

A few years back, Teresa and Nollind moved their bedroom downstairs and we loved it, Chico and I, because we had our own couch right there in the bedroom with our peeps. The pack could sleep together and still have plenty of space each.

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Our futon couch in the downstairs bedroom. Canine cushiness.

Then, one night when the light went out, I just couldn’t stay in the room. I slept outside the bedroom door where there was a night light. It became a bit of a joke. They’d turn out the light and say, “Bye, Logan,” because they knew I’d leave. Teresa made me a bed between the door and the basement stairs and I’d sleep there, or go upstairs sometimes, where there were more night lights.

Last fall, the night lights weren’t doing it. I was pretty much sleeping on the main floor by then, because the stairs were a challenge, and I started getting nervous at bedtime. Some nights I was able to tuck in and go to sleep, others I’d pace, back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. They tried taking me downstairs with them but that was even worse.

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Looks so easy.

When we set out on the road in December I found being in the more confined space of Sid quite comforting and I slept great for the first month. I had my couch and my pillow, and my peeps sleeping just twenty or so feet away. Then, one night, I just needed to get out of there. I went to the door, banged into it to get someone’s attention. Nothing. I went back to my couch and tried to settle. Nope. Back to the door. Bang. Back to the couch. Repeat.

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RV time was a great remedy for my nighttime restlessness … for awhile.

It didn’t happen every night, the restlessness, but often enough that Teresa and Nollind started putting a chair in the way so that I couldn’t bang into the screen door and wake them up. When I figured out how to get in behind it, they put a second chair beside the first. When they started leaving a light on for me it seemed to help for a time but then it didn’t. I was back wandering the trailer and, by the end of the trip, it was almost every night.

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Someone to keep me company is helpful when the “evening crazies” set in.

I hoped, and I’m sure Teresa the light sleeper did too, that I’d settle in once we were home again. Uh-uh. It was worse at home. So much space, so many shadows, so many now unfamiliar noises. I was a wreck that first week. I’ve always been kind of a nervous guy but this was exceptional, even for me. The vet was consulted, and she thought it might be something called Sundowners, a syndrome that affects people with dementia and old dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (a fancy way to say senility). I tell you, it was not a good day when I heard my mind could be going down the same degenerative road as my body.

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I can sleep almost anywhere during the daylight hours.

I was prescribed something called Selegiline, a human Parkinson’s medication that helps some dogs with cognitive issues. We were told it might or might not help and we’d know in a month or two if it was working. After only one dose, my nighttime restlessness increased, after two, the restlessness was spreading into the daytime hours, and the third had me vomiting. Teresa did some online research and found that Selegiline shouldn’t be given with Tramadol, a pain med prescribed by the vet down in Arizona. It could cause confusion, increased restlessness, and, you can probably guess, vomiting. I hit the trifecta of potential side effects. Teresa tried to take me off the Tramadol but I got too sore on my right leg so the Selegiline trial was abandoned. I doubt it would have helped anyway, since I’m a far cry from senile. I’m just sensitive, and getting more so with age.

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Daytime naps are the best.

This all happened when we first returned home in mid-March and things have improved since then. The vet increased my dose of Gabapentin, a drug for my arthritis that also has a calming effect, and I now take it right at bedtime along with some melatonin. It doesn’t work every night, but things are much better than they were.

The ultimate solution would be to let me sleep outside. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but inside where there’s likely not something lurking in the shadows is much scarier than outside, where there could be something lurking in the shadows. I can’t explain why but I calm right down out there. Problem is, it’s been too cold at night for my old bod. I get the shivers in the house overnight if I’m not wearing my fleece jacket. But, as soon as the weather warms up, come bedtime they can just kick me outside in my yard and we can all get a good night’s sleep.

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Love my dog house at any time of day.