Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dog problems

As I've mentioned, we're having trouble with Jelly, our elderly dog, who's been with us for almost two years. She was partly blind and deaf when we got her, and has a host of other health problems (arthritis, mammary tumors and a heart murmur) that were not disclosed to us by the rescue from which we adopted her. She's had trouble settling down at night; if D comes down to the guest room to get some sleep after being up with Ess for a while, he has to take her in bed with him to avoid her pacing and smacking the door with her paw.

I was at the vet with Rocky last week getting a booster for one of her shots, and mentioned that Jelly would be coming in shortly (on the 21st) for her exam and shots. The vet is new to our beloved veterinary practice, so I was telling her a bit about Jelly's background and behavior. She immediately asked if we've looked into canine cognitive dysfunction, which is essentially doggie Alzheimer's -- down to the tangled webs of plaque in the brains of animals who have it. We hadn't, but upon reading the list of possible symptoms -- most significantly, getting "lost" in familiar places like the house or the backyard -- it's clear that this is what she's got. Of course, there is medication to treat it, but even online the cheapest thing I can find is $1/day, which we just can't afford.

And then there's the peeing. Our dining room rug is, for all intents and purposes, a lost cause. Over the weekend we found two more relatively fresh pee spots on it. D sprang into action -- rented a steam cleaner from the hardware store and cleaned it thoroughly before rolling it up and putting it in the garage until such time as we can bring it back out. We wondered if Jelly would just find another rug to pee on, in which case we'd need to start locking her in the kitchen when we're not with her.

The answer to that question came soon enough: Shortly after my sister's dog, Lucy, bounded through the house yesterday afternoon, there was Jelly squatting on the hardwood floor in the dining room. Argh.

On top of that is the barking. Jelly gets fed around 5:30 every night, and starting at about 2 or 3, she gets highly agitated, pacing through the house and barking at the least provocation (like setting a glass down on an end table). If I put her in the yard to get some peace, she barks insistently out there. The barking is nervewracking and wakes Ess to boot. If we feed Jelly early, she just starts the whole routine that much earlier the next day. We've recently started calling her Yelly, which is about the only thing in her life worthy of a chuckle.

I am at wit's end about what to do. Her quality of life isn't great; she pretty much sleeps, eats and goes to the bathroom (sometimes even out doors!). But she does not seem to be in pain, so I don't think it's quite time to have The Talk with the vet. I would be lying, though, if I said I don't look forward to the day when she's no longer with us. And then I feel guilty for feeling that way.

To be honest, I have never really bonded with her, in part because she is so rarely interested in human companionship. She lives for the most part locked in her own little world. D gets through to her -- he lays on the floor and snuggles with her, and cleans her face, and gives her treats. He loves her, and that makes this time particularly hard. I am seeing each transgression, each interrupted nap, each tussle with Rocky, as another step toward The Talk. D is just seeing the continued decline of his friend.

Bloggy friends, I know many of you are animal people. Do you have any insight about how to handle this? Any tips for retaining my sanity in the midst of cranky babies and giant containers of Nature's Miracle? Any advice about when it's time to have The Talk?