Managed Care For Elder Dogs

"black great dane and woman sittting on lawn"

“Do you see what I see?”

We got through another morning where all of the routine tasks that require doing when Jasper starts moving around, no doubt looking for one of his humans to come downstairs to give him a hand, needed to be done.  With A up at 4AM because he’s on the early shift this week, I pushed away from my computer screen, found my way downstairs and got started.

Blessed with blue skies and sunshine, the living room was flooded with natural light, the better to see one solid piece of poop sitting on top of the plush green carpet. Jasper was standing at the foot of the stairs, slowly wagging his tail, so I didn’t see it at first. Easy enough though to grab a paper towel, scoop it up and toss it into the garbage before coaxing Jasper to come into the kitchen so that he could navigate three steps down to the back door and out into the back yard.

There are shoveled trails in the backyard making it easy for all three dogs to stretch their legs, find a place that they like to pee and/poop before heading back inside. Jasper sets out with just one small slip of his back leg. He likes poking around where the two grapevines are; despite his weakening back legs, he can still plow through snow banks to reach a few more of his favorite spots.

When he’s ready to come inside, I hold the back door open wide, call him just like it’s no big deal and hold my breath while he tackles those three steps. He’s got a no-slip, good-sized rug to land on at the top. Most of the time he aligns all of the elements he needs to get up these stairs; he’s bulked up across his upper back because almost all of his walking comes from the power of his front end.

If he’s ready for breakfast, I put that together and if the timing’s right, he gets all of his meds stuffed into hot dog pieces.  The meds are for pain and for keeping his stool firm. We’ve upped the dose once since we started him on this routine; he handles himself well when there’s a coordination of food twice a day, meds every 12 hours, getting outside for bathroom breaks at regular intervals and knowing where his humans are.

We keep the vet up-dated and there have been at least two instances where we have called to alert his staff that we are on our way over because there was a noticeable physical change with Jasper that looked pretty dire to us.

Not yet, advised our vet. It’s not his time.

We knew that too, but we also knew that we needed his professional interpretation of what we saw so that we’d know how to monitor Jasper’s physical state going forward. We know that the weakness in his back legs is neurological. We’re comfortable with our decision to manage Jasper’s care.

Jasper still plays with his collection of toys, guards the house when he hears outside noises that he feels are a threat to his family; speaks up when he has something to say and he still calls the shots as the alpha in residence. He’s not suffering. He thinks he’s fine. If his back legs are confused, he’s not too worried as long as he can still get from point A to point B.

He is still very much himself.

And so we continue to make adjustments to the things that we can, taking each day as it comes.  It’s the hardest thing we’ve done in quite a while but we don’t know any other way.

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