So you think you can sleep?

PG-hotpink2When I mention I’m a little tired to people, they may take it as a complaint. It is more of a statement of fact. All of the things keeping me awake at night were originally set up under voluntarily circumstances. Having dogs is a voluntarily circumstance. Having a bunch of dogs who are different ages, sizes, needs and wants is just the way the cookie crumbled.

The 5-week-old puppies have been off their mark the last two days. There is an inevitability to pups getting some kind of digestive upset when we start taking them outside. The only litter we had in the dead of winter, who never made it to the yard, had perfect poop from day one to day 56 when they started going home. I don’t think it’s healthy to keep puppies indoors though. They need the mental stimulation and normalcy that comes with going out on the grass. We accepted the consequences and made our vet visits and fecal sample submissions accordingly.

The puppies were put to bed at about 11 p.m. after a quick trip outside. They had cuddles and medication. I went to bed with the hope in mind I’d actually get some sleep. The night before, Mac decided he wasn’t into crate confinement (not unusual for him). He’d sleep with me, but I don’t have room on the bed and he doesn’t need to be any more of a momma’s boy than he is. Tonight, I wore him out throwing the glow-in-the-dark ball until he didn’t want to do it any more.

Ahh sleep. More sleep. Sweet wonderful sleep! Then, the dominoes start falling at 2:30 a.m.

Ducky started barking hysterically. Maggie-the-Bracco, and Gabby-the-horrible are both in season. The bad boy choir at odd hours is not uncommon. He sounded really hysterical though. I got up and let him out. The dog room smelled like poop. I looked all over inside Ducky’s crate with the flashlight to see if he had an accident. It was spotless, because Ducky is a dainty guy.

He wasn’t the one who had the accident. The name of the guilty shall remain anonymous. Cleaning a crate at 2:30 a.m. is not fun. Remember unnamed-dog, you’re supposed to tell us you need to go out BEFORE you GO, and not AFTER. AND, you don’t need to let the other dogs tell me there’s a problem, you’re capable of letting me know yourself. I’ll get my butt up ASAP, no problem! No-name dog also soiled the floor with poopy feet while running out the door. Someone’s getting a bath tomorrow. No-name needs to quit eating dirt, it makes the colon move things a little too quickly.

I corral Ducky and anonymous dog and put the two back in their crates. Thankfully it is cold outside so nobody felt the need to frolic in the moonlight. Anonymous loves to dig, even at 2:30 a.m.

Then, Homer needed to go out. We don’t argue with 10 ½ year old Homer. He had urinary issues following his surgery for a perineal hernia operation almost two years ago. Don’t Google perineal hernia unless you have a considerable constitution. The vet diagnosed Homer’s condition long before it got to the full prolapse stage often portrayed on pet-related web sites. Homer is also having some other old dog issues we’re attempting to chase down. He has to pee. A lot. And often.

Homer went outside. Piper started barking in the back bedroom. She wanted out too. Even though she no longer feeds the puppies, she steadfastly insists on sleeping in the room with them. I let Piper out and smell #2 hit me like a tidal wave. The puppies needed their pen cleaned and it can’t wait until morning. 20 minutes and a lot of lysol later, I’m done. I have to wash up to my elbows because of some unfortunate splattering. The puppies are happy and up! They’re hungry! They’re nippy! We’re not getting into the habit of a 3 a.m. feeding., 6 a.m. will be soon enough.

pbAll this time, Pheobe had not said a word. Before retiring back to my bedroom, I woke her up and marched her outside. I hoped a potty break now would prevent another trip out of bed in an hour. She yawned. She stretched. She flumped on the ground as she stretched in objection.

I softly reasoned with her, “see you little twirp, it’s not nice when someone wakes you up out of a sound sleep, eh!”

She was a good trooper and got down to business right away. She also came right back into the house and voluntarily back to her bed.

I deposited my shoes in the bathroom and walked, in the dark, down the hallway to my bedroom. Heidi looked up at me from my spot on the bed and groaned. Heidi knew she had to move. “Oh poor dog, you got the warm spot on the bed,” I said out loud. She just made grumpy noises.

Tonight, I think I’ll have a better chance at getting some rest.

Um.

Yeah, that.

Zzzzzzzz……

Jane’s day

Jane's 14th birthday portrait.

Jane’s 14th birthday portrait.

Her rear legs aren’t working like they should. We know sometimes she can’t feel them properly. There’s not much we can do. Monkeying around with the health of a 101 year old dog (14 ½ yrs) would only end one way. We’ve had our share of super-geriatrics over the years. While the spirit is strong, the ability to get aspiration pneumonia or a heart attack following surgery is just as real for an old dog as it is for your 95-year-old great-aunt Bohme.

It’s a tough realization for older people when they know there’s no fixing something. You just take what you’ve got and live the best that you can. Really old people and really old dogs have this in common.  I believe it’s called “wisdom”.

There is still the FU factor though, in dogs and people. Jane doesn’t let the idea of infirmity prevent her from trucking out to the back end of the pasture, sometimes twice.  It is 1200 feet round trip. She’ll sleep three hours afterward. If the kids wake her up, she snaps at them like an old lady swinging her cane at the great-grandkids. The idea of mousing or squirreling keeps her alive some days. In the absence of that, bacon and popcorn does the trick.

I don’t think Jane knows or even believes that she’s old. She just lives to the fullest capacity her body will allow her. She has accidents and gets mad about it. The dog herself does not have a shame button. Some dogs would feel like they’d wronged their own existence by soiling the floor. Jane just gets mad and determined.

When Jane was 4 weeks old, she climbed the side of a 36” x-pen, and flung herself off the top.  “Surely she escaped through the side,” said my mom. We put her back and watched from around the corner.

Jane, 3 weeks old

Jane, 3 weeks old

Puppy #9 of 9 climbed up the pen, teetered on the top, flung herself of, bounced, rolled a few times and was off.  I remember saying that she’d probably live to be really old dog with an attitude like that. I’ve had plenty of dogs with attitude, but the herding dog of death nipped their heels over the rainbow bridge at 11 or 12.

Jane has been lucky, like anyone who reaches 100+ years old. She is also lucky in that she doesn’t know that she has out-lived most of her immediate family. She knows they’re gone, but a dogs’ memory is designed to be existential. In some ways, we’d be lucky if it were the same for humans. Dragging a bag of bricks around called grief and anger has done a lot of negative work for the human condition.

Jane has experienced grief in ways we would not necessarily expect. The night we came home after her litter-mate Portia died, Jane sat in the back yard staring into the dark. I am the last person who believes in anthropomorphizing a dogs’ feelings, but she knew Portia was dead. Dogs leave here for other reasons and the remaining dogs do not mourn the same way.

Jane sat out behind the house and stared into the dark, long after the other dogs came in. It might have been Portia, or the rabbit crop, watching for night birds, or watching the bats, but she did it for weeks. Then, one day, she came in with the other dogs and did not return to her vigil.

She had quiet strength before, but there was an additional resolve in her personality after Portia’s death. Dogs dying out of a pack leave a void in their position. Trying to fill in that void is like water rushing it’s own level. She became the alpha at that point, and remains the dowager queen even as age has made a mark on her speed and diligence.

Jane with great-great granddaughter Lillian

Jane with great-great granddaughter Lillian

I know our days with Jane are short. Weimaraners don’t typically live much past 12, though a few lucky people get to enjoy their dog to 14,15 or even 16. The oldest one we’ve heard of lived to be 18, but this is a great exception.  My mom and I talk every day about when it will be the “right” time. Hoping for her to peacefully die in her sleep is somewhat unrealistic, but we hope for it nonetheless.  Jane has always been self-directed. I have a feeling her exit will be no less definitively her decision.