The Geriatric Dog

Hazel.  Oh where to begin !  A dream dog really, we have all had them in our lives, that one very special dog, kind, patient, not to mention the softest fur I have ever petted in my entire life, she didn't get the nickname "Bunny Dog" for nothing.  This dog has been in our lives for going on 14 years now, longer than we have been married.  Hazel has brought  us insurmountable joy over the years and each day we have with her feels like a gift.  You see about a year ago Hazel developed a seizure disorder that became progressively worse, the prognosis was probable brain tumor.  We put her on some seizure medication that worked for a short period of time but the seizures became worse and the decision needed to be made.  At first we had both said to one another she has had a long and very full fulling life, loved dearly, walked and run daily, possessing a basket filled with dog toys and allowed on every piece of furniture we own.  It was OK to kiss her, hold her, and let her pass over the rainbow bridge. 
 After much more discussion and a few more debilitating seizures we set Hazels appointment for surgery.  Well, over one year later and she is showing no signs of seizures and remains happy and healthy, we are very blessed.

I am not sure why it has taken me so long to see this but we are now living with a geriatric dog.  Hazel still walks miles every day with Daddy and we are hoping she will run again with him once we get back to Florida.  Her appetite is wonderful, she is not over weight, and still can be easily enticed into a game with squeaky Mr Squirrel. 
 I see the signs of her age too, no longer able to jump up on our bed, it is a nightly ritual to lift her up and let her settle.  The sleeping !!  we kindly joke about Hazel's 10th morning nap and not to disturb her for a walk until she has surpassed nap number 15.  When she is awake her old enthusiasm for play is still there but she tires more quickly.  After a more vigorous walk or run you can see that her muscles are sore the next day, and she finds it hard sometimes to settle into a comfortable position when sleeping.  Brian brilliantly found her a dog bed that is made of memory foam, the perfect place for an old dog to rest her bones, he is the best Daddy.

 I have been taking care of older people for many years, and had thought that dogs would fall into the same sorts of health troubles as humans do and most of their issues are the same as older humans.  I concocted a list of things people with older dogs should consider for their fur babies, I learned quite a bit and have taken steps to work on all these areas for Hazel.  Important to know that Hazel comes from a line of Lewellyn Setters that have historically lived to 16 and 17 years,  I hope I am not jinxing myself !!

• Digestive system: Gastric mucosa atrophies, hepatocyte (liver cell) numbers decrease.
• Endocrine system: Pancreatic enzyme secretion decreases, hyperplasia of pituitary or adrenal glands.
• Integument: Skin becomes inelastic, footpads hyperkeratinize (get thicker), claws become brittle, muzzle grays.
• Cardiovascular system: Lungs lose elasticity, vital capacity (volume) decreases, cough reflex and expiratory capacity decrease, cardiac output decreases.
• Genitourinary system: Kidney weight decreases, prostate gland enlarges, testes atrophy (intact dogs), prepuce becomes pendulous.
• Musculoskeletal system: percent of body weight represented by fat increases; muscle, bone, and cartilage mass are lost; bones become brittle; bone marrow becomes fatty and hypoplastic.
• Nervous system: number of cells decreases; reduced reaction to stimuli; altered memory; diminished visual acuity, hearing, taste perception, and smell.

What ever changes are to come we will weather them all together, she is the light of our lives and we are determined everyday to make each one, for her, the best day ever.  To my dear sweet friend who so recently sent her most beloved friend across the rainbow bridge, I still think of you and her everyday, and you still remain the best Dog Mommy know who you are.

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