2017  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Lake McIntosh @ Line Creek Nature Area, Peachtree City, GA

 

   
 
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   "HOLLY NEEDS A PUPPY:" LIVING WITH THREE 
LABRADOR RETRIEVERS IN DIFFERENT LIFE STAGES -
YOUNG PUPPY, IMMATURE ADULT, AND
SENIOR WITH DOGGIE DEMENTIA

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20

 
"I am thankful for paw prints on my floor, slobbery kisses on my face,   
nose prints on my windows, dog hair on my clothes, no room in my bed . . .
for there will come a day when these things will be missed."
 
~ Lab poster on the internet
 
 

That's true for us except we don't let our dogs in bed with us! It's only recently that we decided they can get on the couch:


Holly uses a hole-y wool sock and her hard chew toy for a pillow -- ouch.  (4 months old)

That started because I couldn't get down on the floor to play/cuddle with the dogs for about a month after my knee replacement. Having Holly next to me on the couch was a good way to calm her down and bond with her. Casey and Cody aren't interested in getting up there.

There's another quote that I like very much to the effect that the only fault of a dog is that it doesn't live long enough. How true!

It's so much fun to share the early stages of a puppy's life but then, like human children, they just grow up too darn fast. And unfortunately, with a dog's much shorter life span -- about twelve years, on average, for a Labrador retriever -- they are simply gone much too soon. It's so hard to say good-bye to them because they are like children to me.


Precious baby at 8 weeks; before we know it, Holly will be getting a gray muzzle.

Neither Jim nor I have ever had three dogs at once until we adopted little Holly, the yellow female Lab puppy showcased in the last entry, in late July of this year.

Previously we've had one Lab at a time or two at a time, but three? After all of our jokes about "too many dogs on the floor?"


How many is too many dogs on the floor??  Three = just fine with me!

As I wrote in the last entry, the timing was right for us this summer.

After thirteen years of traveling around North America in an RV for extended periods of time, including full-time the past three years, we had a house again, a large fenced yard with some grass and some shade, and no plans to travel anywhere in the foreseeable future. We're retired, with plenty of time and love to give to three dogs.

And despite our aging bodies -- late 60s -- we are still very active and able to give these high-energy dogs the exercise they need.


Jim and Casey in our new neighborhood

Still . . . raising a puppy properly is a big challenge for pet parents of any age and we know Holly has got to be the last young puppy we adopt. If we ever get another dog, it will have to be considerably older than eight weeks of age!

We thought about this quite seriously before adopting Holly. What would our life look like with three dogs, and how would getting the third one affect the other two we already have?

The main reason for getting a young dog or puppy now was companionship for Casey, our exuberant 5-year-old Lab, before she gets too old. Our oldest dog, Cody, a handsome black male Lab, was 9 years old when we got Casey as a young puppy. He was too old, really, to want to play with her much as she got bigger and more boisterous :


Casey (age 2), Cody (age 11) in our RV

Casey loves other dogs, pretty much universally -- any breed, any size, any age, either sex. She doesn't know a human or canine stranger. Since she's rarely been able to engage Cody in any play for the last couple of years, we started taking her to dog parks and doggy day care to have other dogs to socialize with. We hoped she'd love to have a young, energetic companion at home, too, while she's still rather young and energetic herself.

But would she perhaps be jealous and hurt a puppy instead of enjoying its company and playing gently enough with it?


Not to worry:  Casey (L) quietly watches 8-week-old Holly play with a water nozzle on the patio

And what about poor Cody, who is now 14 years old -- that's quite old for a Lab, the equivalent of 90-something in human years. How would he tolerate the antics of a young puppy? Would he hurt it? Or might we have to protect him from an aggressive, growing pup?

He's been such a calm, tolerant, obedient dog all his life that we determined it was probably him that would need the protection!

We took stock of the entire situation and decided we could manage to give all three dogs the attention, affection, protection, exercise, and physical care they need to be happy and healthy canine companions for each other and for us.

This entry describes what life in our dog-centric household has been like the last three months -- besides that much more hair everywhere!

2 + 1 = 5??

Sometimes it seems like it, especially when one of them is a rambunctious puppy that is all arms and legs and teeth.

In some ways there is a big difference having three dogs instead of two -- more poop to pick up outside, more hair inside to clean up,

more food, supplements, and meds to purchase, more trips to the vet, more logistical planning re: taking them for walks and bike, golf cart, or car rides, more chaos in general . . . and more dogs on the floor to trip over!

That's been especially important since I had a total knee replacement the day before Holly-pup turned 16 weeks. The last thing I needed to do was trip over one of the dogs while my knee was healing.


Bookends:  Casey (L) and Holly (R) sleeping on the kitchen floor

Doggie dynamics have changed, too.

Casey's been our "baby" for five years. It's taken her longer to grow up than any previous Lab I've had. She finally began showing more maturity this past year. She still loves attention and needs lots of exercise but she has settled down quite a bit and rarely pesters Cody any more.

Now, in comparison to Holly-pup, Casey seems downright mature!

Cody has always been mature. Even as a puppy and young dog he was the calmest, easiest to train, and most obedient of all my Labs.

Like Casey, he loves everybody and every other dog he meets but he's always shown more restraint when greeting and playing with them. That's why it was such a pleasure to have Cody accompany me on runs, hikes, and the Appalachian Trail trek.


Cody, age 2, training with me at Dragon's Tooth on the A.T. in VA before our trek

Cody's demeanor and behavior haven't noticeably changed since we got Holly in late July.

Casey is the one who has had to make more adjustments because she has the most interaction with Holly and has to share time now with Jim on walks and bike rides/runs. Fortunately, she seems to be taking it all in stride. We try to give her as much time and attention as she got BH (Before Holly). Three weeks after my knee surgery I was able to start walking with her again so that helps.

Casey is usually quite tolerant of Holly but as the pup has gotten bolder and bigger (from 9.6 pounds when we got her at eight weeks to 37.7 pounds at 20 weeks), she more often snaps at Holly's rough play and sometimes tries to hide from her so she can get a break.

That's why I titled this entry, "Holly needs a puppy!" Sometimes she's just too much for even Casey to handle and we have to give the pup time-outs.

HOLLY:  YOUNG PUPPY STAGE

It's pretty much been "all about Holly" the past 12 weeks since she came into our lives. A young puppy needs a lot of attention, positive direction, and supervision if you hope to have a good canine citizen when she's grown up.

We've seen a lot of improvement in Holly's behavior in that time. Not only do we sometimes confuse her with Casey when she's sprawled out on the floor or a dog bed -- because she's grown so much --  she also sometimes amazes us with the degree of maturity she can exhibit at such a tender age.

Then the next minute she's a typical 4-month-old baby dog again, chewing on a shoe, running wild in the house, or jumping on poor Casey.

Above and below:  Holly (3 months old) and Casey (5 years)


Holly playing keep-away with a stick

Holly has been relatively easy to train. Not as easy as Cody was, but a little better than Casey. The main thing is keeping up with her training on a daily basis since she "graduated" from the beginner puppy classes.

She also requires time outs when she gets out of control, plays too rough with Casey (she's drawn blood on Casey's neck and ears), or annoys Cody. He seems to enjoy it when she licks his drool but starts a low warning growl if she paws at him too long. (She likes to lie on her back underneath him and gently paw at his chin and belly with all four legs. She moves her legs so fast that she looks like an octopus with more "tentacles" than four!)


She also loves to lie on her back under the sheer curtains in the study
and paw at them with all four feet before she Falls. Asleep. Right. There.

At 20 weeks Holly has learned to control her bladder pretty well. She either rings the Poochie Bells on the back door to let us know she wants outside (to potty or play) or she'll bark. We also take her out at predictable times to potty, like when she wakes up from a nap or after she eats supper or drinks a bunch of water.

She's able, thank goodness, to sleep through the night most of the time now without barking at 4 or 5 AM. We've begun to just let her bark until I get up at 6:30 because we know she can hold her bladder and bowels that long.

In fact, when we let her out of her kennel in the morning, her first impulse is to run to the counter where the food bowls are sitting for the dogs' breakfast. Cody and Casey do the same thing. They aren't desperate to go outside to potty, their first priority is food.

That's typical Lab behavior; they are notorious chow hounds:

All three dogs are hungry by the time we get up. That's the most frenzied time of day. By their mid-afternoon "supper," they are much more calm.

It will be both fun and a continued challenge as Holly matures. It's taken Casey longer than our other Labs to "grow up;" our fingers are crossed that Holly settles down by two, not four, years of age. We plan to take her to a series of advanced puppy classes soon to inhibit some of the typical adolescent dog problems that tend to crop up in the fifth or sixth month.

CASEY-IN-THE-MIDDLE

For five years the baby in the family, now Casey sometimes finds herself like the proverbial forgotten middle child.

As the new youngest and most demanding "need-it-want-it-now" member of the family, Holly often gets our attention first so she doesn't pee inside, bark incessantly, or chew on forbidden items. We naturally laugh at her puppy antics, just like we did with Casey's.

With Cody's aging body and mind, we also have to give him extra consideration and protection.

Poor Casey can fend the best for herself when we have to prioritize the other dogs' needs ahead of hers. We try hard to give her equal time and attention.


Casey still needs to play ball, run alongside Jim on the bike,
and go for long walks and hikes. She was two in this 2015 photo.

At first Casey seemed to enjoy spending a lot of time with Holly. The little puppy was a novelty, she was tiny, her teeth were tiny, and she slept a lot.

As Holly has grown larger and older, she plays rougher and is awake as much as Casey during the day.


By three months of age Holly was playing more roughly with Casey.

Sometimes it's hard for Casey to get a break when she wants one so she literally tries to hide from Holly somewhere in the house or gets as close to Jim or me as possible in hopes we'll protect her. Lately we've had to either command Holly to leave Casey (or Cody) alone or physically remove her for a short time out until she calms down.

We are a little surprised that Casey gets tired of playing with Holly. Casey has been such a Wild Child herself that we assumed she'd love a partner in crime. Apparently she's more grown up than we thought.


When Holly (R, age 4 mos.) is stretched out, she's almost as long as Casey (L).
Holly likes to sleep in the big dogs' beds during the day and not her nearby kennel.

It will be interesting to watch Casey's interaction with Holly as the pup gets older and wiser. I think they'll be an even match in intelligence and they have many of the same personality traits because of the genes they have in common.

CODY: SENIOR WITH DOGGIE DEMENTIA

Our oldest Lab is Cody, a handsome black male who has been with us for 14 years and 7 months now.

The average lifespan for a Labrador retriever is about 12 years. The three previous "purebred" Labs I've had all died at or before age 12. They were all from back yard breeders, before I wised up and started adopting Labs that are from better breeding stock.

Cody is the first Lab we've adopted from a conscientious breeder (Casey's and Holly's breeder is even more experienced). With some champions in his lineage, we expected Cody to have a longer life span than average. Although his physical and mental health are failing in recent months, he still has his thick, shiny hair, intelligent face, and sweet disposition.

He's literally the best dog -- of about a dozen -- that I've ever had in my life.


Cody at 14; this picture was taken a few weeks ago.

Cody has led a very active life. He's the last of my Ultra Labs, dogs that were able to run and hike with me on trails for up to 30 miles at a time. He hasn't gone that far since he was about six years old, however, because I had to stop running eight years ago.

As Cody has gotten older his hiking distances have gradually decreased. In the summer of 2016,  when he was 13 and we had our last hurrah in the Rockies, he was still able to walk comfortably for 5-6 miles at moderate to high altitudes. This past winter at Kings Bay on the SE Georgia coast he seldom went more than two or three miles at a time; I could tell he was getting tired much faster than before.

Since we moved into our house this spring Cody's ability to walk has significantly deteriorated and we can no longer take him out for walks except in the yard. He has little control over his back legs. The vet says it's not Old Dog Vestibular Disease again, or hip dysplasia, but a nerve condition.

Dr. Jeff also says it will also begin to affect his colon one of these days, and his ability to go potty.


Hiking with Cody and Casey high in the Colorado Rockies the summer of 2016

It's fortunate that we aren't living in the RV any more because it had several steps in and out that would be impossible for Cody to negotiate now. Even using his ramp would be difficult at this point (we had to get that when he had Vestibular Disease for a week, three years ago).

It's good that we now live in a step-less ranch house -- no steps inside, no steps to get outside to the front or back yard or to the garage. Unfortunately, however, the house has all hard flooring -- wood, tile, vinyl -- and it's difficult for Cody to literally get a grip where there are no rugs.

Before Cody lost partial control of his hind legs we put area rugs in all the rooms, including the eating area in the kitchen where the dog beds and bowls are located (and back door to the yard). But the long hallway to the bedrooms, kitchen work area, and parts of all the other rooms where the area rugs don't cover are still slick.

In the past couple months since Cody's had more trouble walking we've had to purchase runners and small rugs to cover some of these exposed areas so it's easier for Cody to get around.

That's good for Holly, too, because her zinging around the house ("devil runs") and sliding on bare floors is not good for her developing joints.

Cody weighs 70 pounds. We cannot carry him outside when he can no longer walk out there to do his business. The vet has warned us that a complete inability to walk will spell the end of Cody so we're being very careful he doesn't get injured and exacerbate the nerve condition.

It will be a very sad day when we have to say goodbye to Cody but we know the time is coming sooner rather than later.

Other age-related problems that are becoming noticeable now are a decrease in his ability to see and hear and symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction ("doggie dementia"). This is the first time either Jim or I have had a dog with CCD so it's a learning process for us.

As with Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia in humans, CCD in dogs involves the loss of brain function, which affects their memory, motor functions, and behaviors.


Example of a personalized poster you can purchase online; the photo looks a lot like Cody.

Symptoms of CCD can overlap with other age-related conditions but our vet has ruled those out because Cody's heart, lungs, and blood work all appear to be fine. He's happy most of the time, and still very loving. He's a sweetheart.

You can find out about numerous symptoms of this disease and how to cope with them by searching reputable medical sites online. I'll just describe Cody's symptoms of cognitive dysfunction here.

1. Disorientation/changes in awareness: 

I realize now that the earliest example of this was when Cody started to cling to us at dog parks rather than "working the crowd" like Casey does. He used to be more outgoing and sociable.

Now he has trouble remembering which side of the doors to come in and difficulty finding me in the house. He sometimes passes the room I'm in without seeing/smelling/hearing me, even if I call out to him, then is surprised a little later when he finds me.

He wags his tail as if to say, "Oh, there you are!"

Cody's coping mechanism seems to be trying to keep me in sight as much as he can so he doesn't feel "lost." He has always been bonded more to me than to Jim because I spent more time with him when he was young and Jim was still working.

Not only am I his Alpha, now he's also become a total Velcro Dog -- he gets distressed if I'm more than five feet away. He wants to be right at my side or feet. He pretty much ignores Jim's and the other dogs' presence.


When I'm at my desk Cody's right behind me on a doggie bed, even if The Girls are in there, too.

I'm a fairly hyper person, especially after getting my knee replaced last month. It simply feels better to walk around than to sit for more than half an hour. So I'm in near-perpetual motion in our house and yard unless I'm sleeping at night or totally focused on something at the computer during the day.

Poor Cody follows me every time I go from one room to the other; he doesn't want to let me out of his sight. At least he's getting some exercise, but it concerns me that he's so insecure that he needs me to be so close.

I don't know how he copes when I'm gone; we don't have a doggie cam. I've never come back and heard him barking or whining but he sure is happy to see me when I get home -- even happier than he always was before.

2. Inappropriate vocalization:  

Unpredictable barking and whining are fairly new behaviors for Cody, who's always been very quiet except when someone comes to the door.

I have to guess what he wants -- usually a meal or a snack!

Cody has had no loss of appetite. In fact, he wants to eat more often now than before.

Perhaps he forgets that he already had supper? Or maybe he has so little to look forward to now (no interesting runs or hikes any more) that food dominates his thoughts?

Cody's internal food clock is as good as it ever was, even better than Casey's. He starts doing his dinner dance and nudging me every afternoon about an hour before suppertime.

It's pretty comical and it lets me know the old Cody is still in there somewhere.

3. Interactions with people and other dogs:

Cody used to be very sociable with everyone he met. In the last few months he's had little interest in -- and even shows some fear of -- new people, dogs, and situations. He was used to moving around to new locations in the RV all the time during his life so I don't think this is related just to us moving into a different house and community six months ago.

At this point he basically ignores both Casey and Holly, and gets grumpy if Holly is too playful with him. Casey's learned to leave him alone because he won't play with her any more. Cody rarely snaps at either of The Girls, although he'll sometimes let out a warning growl.

He looks quite tolerant of Holly and Casey in the next two pictures:


Casey (far right) is trying to engage Holly with a ball on the puppy's first day at our house.
Cody is content to just watch this new little creature.


This doesn't happen any more because Holly is too big now to share a dog bed.

The only reason Cody's sometimes in the middle of all the canine action in the house is that while he's trying to stay as close as he can to me, the other two dogs are often right there, too.

Labs like their people!

4. Little interest in former activities:

It's only natural that Cody would be able to walk/hike/run less as he ages but he's also simply lost interest in doing things he used to do -- lying outside in the yard by himself, wandering around sniffing everything (or marking his territory), swimming, playing with toys, etc.

He does still have some interest when I'm digging in the dirt, planting things, because he likes to wait for a wiggly worm to pop up. "There's my Cody!" I'll say to him in a perky voice.

And he is still interested in snuggling, being petted all over, rolling around on his back, going for golf cart rides, and EATING.

Have I mentioned that Labs like to eat??

5. Sleeping very soundly:

This one kind of scares us sometimes because we think he may be dead!


Hopefully, Cody's just sleeping soundly!  Two-month-old Holly
looks like she's about ready to pounce on him.

We'll come back after being gone a while and he doesn't hear us come into the house, talk in a normal volume, put groceries away, even walk right by him. Something finally wakes him up and he comes up to me with that surprised look in his face, the one that says, "Oh, there you are!"

And I give him a big hug because I'm so grateful he woke up.

DOGS ARE PEOPLE, TOO

These symptoms are eerily similar to what I've read and experienced with my own mother re: human Alzheimer's -- forgetfulness, loss of interest in people and activities a person used to enjoy, social isolation, fear of new experiences, new behaviors and personality traits.

Like human caregivers, pet parents with a dog that has Canine Cognitive Dysfunction need to be patient, compassionate, and do what they can to lessen the discomfort and enrich the mental environment -- enriched diet, supplements and/or medications to ease pain, food puzzles and other stimulating toys, sticking to a predictable schedule as much as possible, short play sessions/training (you can teach an old dog new tricks!), preventative meds for heartworms and fleas/ticks, regular veterinary check-ups, including vaccines and blood work.

Cody's been such a sweet, easy-going, and lovable companion for so long that I'll do whatever it takes to make his remaining time with us as comfortable as possible, including protecting him from our new little Wild Child. My gosh, she likes to play rough!

When it's clear Cody is suffering or absolutely cannot walk, we'll put him to sleep. We made the mistake with Tater of keeping her alive longer than we should have -- more for our sake than hers, we realized later.

We don't want that to happen with Cody.

WOULD WE DO IT AGAIN?

Get a puppy under all these circumstances, I mean, knowing what we know now . . .


Jim laughs as he watches Casey (on her back) and Holly play in the back yard.

Probably, because Holly is so fun to watch and she's going to be another fabulous canine companion like Cody and Casey when she grows up.

But it sure would have (probably) been easier on us if we could have found a suitable older Lab puppy or young dog that was already house-trained, obedience-trained, and would let us sleep all night.

Next entrySue gets the first of two new knees!

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, Casey, and Holly-pup

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2017 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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