Whole Dog Journal's Blog June 21, 2013

Good Dog Carly

Posted at 11:07AM - Comments: (6)

I stayed with some of my best friends recently, a family whose sons are close to my son, and whose dog Carly has been a part of WDJ since her adoption as an adolescent some 13-plus years ago. Carly has been used as a model for WDJ only sporadically for two reasons: she’s mostly black, which doesn’t always show well in print; and she’s never been all that crazy about the camera – she yawns and looks away a lot (two signs of mild anxiety) when the camera is trained on her.

Despite not being seen in the magazine much, Carly has been the inspiration for many articles in WDJ. Carly had separation anxiety for about a year after she was adopted, and would dig under the fence, chew shingles off the side of the house ( !!! ), and engage in many other acts of destruction in order to find some relief for her anxiousness when home alone. I asked Training Editor Pat Miller for a couple of articles about separation anxiety during this time, in order to help my friends come up with tactics for helping Carly.

We also had a feature about how to teach your kids to train the family dog. That article was really all about teaching Carly’s highly active twin 9-year-old boys to train her properly, with clear, quiet cues and ample rewards when she did the right thing.

Another time, I wrote an editorial about how annoying it can be when you don’t take your own advice. In the pages of WDJ, we always caution people not to leave a dog unsupervised with toys or chews – and once, when I was dog-sitting Carly and I got distracted by a long phone call, I realized that the backyard was dotted with stuffing from the toy she had been playing with earlier -- but I couldn’t find the main body of the toy, a sizeable piece of fabric. Shamefaced, I had to tell my best friends that I would be responsible for paying for any needed surgery, if it developed that Carly had actually eaten the toy and it caused intestinal trouble. (Carly was fine – and I found the toy MONTHS later, buried under one of my rose bushes.)

There have been many more articles inspired by Carly – although, right now, I’m sharing others that are already in our catalog with her owners to help her now, such as the ones on finding ways to get a dog who has lost her appetite to eat (“Tales of the Lost Appetite,” March 2008), and assistive devices to help a dog who has lost mobility (March and August 2011). Carly is at least 14 years old now, and in decline. Some days, she won’t eat at all, or she’ll take just a few bites of the chicken that the mom has cooked just for her. She is still determined to sleep upstairs in her house as she’s always done – but having a really hard time with the stairs, so the family has to take turns supporting her every time she goes up or down (and they had to bring out a gate again, not needed since her adolescence, to prevent her from attempting the climb when no one is home to help, so she doesn’t have a fatal fall). Really, the care she’s getting now is hospice care – and as the articles in our April 2006 and March 2010 issues made clear, it’s hard to provide, physically and emotionally. On Carly’s bad days, her eyes show no interest in what’s going on around her and she doesn’t want to eat (and I’m thinking about whether or not I should send my friends “Making Peace With Death,” January 2002). But then she’ll suddenly perk up and chow down, and greet every family member coming in the front door with shiny eyes and a slow-wagging tail like always, and even look for one of her favorite toys to chew or squeak.

There is no single correct way to decide how to spend a dog’s final days – with one exception: Heaping love, praise, touch, time, food, and attention on the deserving dog is always appropriate. That my friends are doing in spades, and I was privileged to share in some of that myself. I wish much love upon them all. Good dog, Carly.

Comments (5)

Thank you for your kind, thoughtful, knowledgeable, experienced and probably intuitive insights about dear Carly. My heart goes out to her and her mom. She has undoubtedly had a good, good life. The only thing I might add about a dog's final days (or even more so, their whole lives) is the help we can give them with therapeutic grade essential oils. (I strongly emphasize therapeutic, pure EOs).
Many blessings to you, Carly and her family.

Posted by: Becky and Buddy | June 25, 2013 8:05 PM    Report this comment

I lost my beloved Maggie a year ago. She was adopted and we grew together on WDJ articles over the decade she was with us. Good dog Carly, and good dog Maggie too.

Posted by: Carolyn M | June 25, 2013 1:14 PM    Report this comment

I had a Weim live to be 16. He had, had Wobbler's surgery when age 9, so his ability to walk had never been as good thereafter. In his last year or so, we found putting on a single buckle nylon harness (from UPCO) worked well. They do carry some for larger dogs. He wore it 24/7, and I could help him rise & manage to do stairs, with it on. At first, I tried to take him down, while standing beside him, like carrying a suitcase handle (hand through his harness). THAT did not work, he'd go too fast for me or loose his footing & try to take a header (me included).

I found that MY going DOWN the stairs backwards and ahead (aka some stairs below him -in other words, he was above me, but we faced each other) - worked best. I step on the stairs first & turn around while he waited on the landing above me. He'd go down (along the smooth wall) on my left, I'd be to the right side of the staircase, one or two steps below him. I held onto the railing with my right (dominant hand) & I pushed up & backwards on his harness - with my left hand, if he needed to be slowed or be steadied. In addition, if he lost his footing, I would put out my left knee to stop his forward momentum. He weighed 75 lbs, yet this worked very well & neither of us had any accidents from this scenario. I know it sounds like this set-up is an accident waiting to happen, but this "operation" covered everything that ever came up on the stairs.

He also had appetite problems. Our holistic vet, Dr. Gail Bowman found that giving him what she termed "aquapuncture" injections of B-12 were helpful. Not only did the vitamin B-12 (in appropriate acupuncture points) give him more energy & an increase in appetite, but it also gave him more energy. I don't think I can say enough, about how much acupuncture has helped all of my dogs. It can of course help with pain & inflammation, can increase blood flow & healing, get rid of allergies, etc. It is non-invasive & fairly easy for a trained vet to do, even on senior dogs. I'd highly recommend it, if Carly's owners have anyone in the area doing it.

Posted by: Betsy | June 25, 2013 12:04 PM    Report this comment

I don't know whether you all approve of DGP (Dog Gone Pain) or not, but it really seems to perk older dogs up and especially helps with their lack of mobility. I give it to my 11 year old Lab and know numerous people with older dogs that have had good results. My guy has had ACL surgery and has terrible arthritis in both back legs. He would not even stand still because they hurt so badly, but would rock back and forth from one to the other. Now he is standing steady and will even raise his leg to go to the bathroom.

Posted by: Unknown | June 25, 2013 11:02 AM    Report this comment

Thank you for this timely article. I can relate as I have a 15 year old beagle. He is still doing well with his mobility, but appetite and hearing are diminishing. His vision is ok and I am thankful for the years of agility training we did in the past as it taught him to watch me and respond to hand signals. It is hard to see our dear pets decline knowing that the end is so near. It takes great strength to decide when quality of life has deteriorated to the point that it is time to help the dog go peacefully.

Posted by: loucynda | June 25, 2013 10:54 AM    Report this comment

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