Ace and I had a visitor over the holidays — a highly vocal, but not too demanding 12-year-old mutt named Gracie.
My cousin and her husband in Charlotte were headed off on a cruise and they were having problems finding a petsitter for Gracie, who has never been kenneled. So I volunteered.
It wasn’t my first adventure in petsitting. I’d had a handful of canine guests in my home in Baltimore, and served as wrangler for three more while housesitting in Santa Fe. I’d learned, both times, that most issues that come up can be easily worked out, usually by the dogs themselves.
I decided they should eat in separate areas, just to be safe, so I’d fill one bowl, and call one dog. Both, because their names rhymed, came. When I said “stay,” both stayed. When I attached their names to the commands – ”Ace stay, Grace come” — that didn’t work either.
Finally, I got one to the porch, and fed the other inside, confusing them both in the process.
On day two, Gracie stopped eating entirely. Even blobs of liverwurst — in which her pills get hidden — had no appeal to her. Wanting her to get at least a little nutrition, I smeared peanut butter on her nose and let her lick it off.
Eventually, I broke out the most special of my special dog treats, and after a good sniffing, she decided to try one. On day three, she was eating normally again, and I’d figured out that feeding them both at the same time in the same place worked best.
By the second day, I’d noticed Gracie, who spent the first night on an extra dog bed, was eyeing mine. It’s only a foot off the ground, but she just stood by it, put her head on it and looked at it longingly. Being old and arthritic — her, not me – I gave her a boost and she spent almost the whole day there.
I worried that Ace, who likes my bed too, would take offense at her occupation of it, but, once I told him it was OK, he just jumped in and joined her.
If they were positioned right, there was plenty of room for both. With only minor repositioning, I could fit in, too.
For walks, I’d take them both on a short one, then give Ace a longer one. That seemed to suit them fine.
What I never totally figured out was Gracie’s whining/singing. She whines when she’s happy, she whines when she’s not. She whines when she wants something. She whines, I think, when she wants nothing at all, except maybe to hear her own voice.
Ace, puzzled by that behavior, quickly got used to it. At first, he’d rush to her side, but eventually — as I kept saying, “What is it, girl, what do you want?” — she became background music to him.
Just about every worry I had, when it came to the two of them, turned out to not be worth worrying about. As long as I supplied the food, water, walks and love, they’d easily figure out the rest — the less help from me, the better.
It’s us humans who make things complicated.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 8th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, attention, beds, behavior, complications, dog, dogs, elderly, feeding, grace, gracie, guest, humans, old, pet sitting, pets, petsitting, visitor, walks, whining, worries
The wonder, promise and growing popularity of diabetes-detecting dogs were highlighted in a Wall Street Journal story this week that featured Abbie (that’s her on the left) and Gracie (the purposeful looking retriever on the right).
Abbie, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 4, is 8-years-old now, and Gracie serves to alert her family when Abbie’s blood sugar levels rise to dangerous levels.
Gracie wakes up Abbie’s mother, Shana Eppler, about twice a night, when the 3-year-old British Labrador retriever rings a bell — a sign that Abbie’s levels have gotten too high.
Hypoglycemic-alert dogs, experts say, can outperform medical devices, such as glucose meters and continuous glucose monitors. In cases of low blood sugar, their performance is even more impressive, and more mysterious. They react to a scent researchers haven’t yet identified.
“Whatever is being secreted in that drop in blood sugar…we just don’t know what it is,” Dana Hardin, a pediatric endocrinologist who works for Eli Lilly & Co. in Indianapolis, told the Journal. Hardin is working to identify what the dogs are smelling in hopes it will facilitate training more dogs, and possibly lead to a detection device that performs as impressively as they do.
Dr. Hardin, who presented the first scientific research on the dogs at this year’s annual American Diabetes Association conference in Philadelphia, said she considers the dogs lifesavers.
But they are expensive ones. A fully trained diabetic-alert dog can cost $20,000 or more. While nonprofit training centers offer dogs free or at a nominal fee, their waiting lists are long. Interest in diabetic-alert dogs is rising, said Ed Peebles, president of the Las Vegas-based National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs. He gets about 20 applications for a dog every day.
Those families who get one — even if skeptical at first — are amazed by the results.
“I wasn’t about to trust my son’s life to something that is voodoo,” said Andrea Calamoneri, whose 15-year-old son Dylan has Type 1 diabetes. But seeing her son’s dog, Celeste, in action convinced her. “It gives you chills when you see it happen,” she said.
Abbie’s dog Gracie is always on duty, said Ms. Eppler, of Colorado Springs.
When Abbie’s blood sugar levels get too high, Gracie waves a raised paw. When they get too low, Gracie waves and then bows. “Rarely will Gracie let Abbie get below 90,” Ms. Eppler said.
“We joke that they are angels with fur.”
(Photo: Abbie and Gracie; by KC Owens / Wall Street Journal)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 12th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abbie, alert, angels with fur, animals, assistance dogs, blood sugar, dangerous, detecting, diabetes, diabetic alert dogs, diabetics, dogs, gracie, hypoglycemic, labrador, levels, pets, retriever, rising, service dogs, sinking, type 1, type 2
Names: Gracie and Chloe
Age: 4 years old
Breed: Golden retrievers
Backstory: Recent transplants from Florida, Gracie and Chloe are getting accustomed to Winston-Salem. They’re shown here walking with their owner, Terry. When he and his wife went to look at them and the rest of the litter, they disagreed on which one they wanted. He liked one of the lighter colored ones, while his wife preferred the darker.
And that’s why Terry walks two dogs.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 23rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, breeds, chloe, dogs, encounters, golden retrievers, gracie, north carolina, pets, photography, road trip, roadside, roadside encounters, silas creek trail, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, winston-salem
There’s a new animal blogger in town, and she used to be my boss.
Mary Corey, the Baltimore Sun’s features editor has taken over my old Sun blog (“Mutts”), given it a new name (“Unleashed,” not to be confused with the sister paper Los Angeles Times pet and animal blog) and is off and running.
The revamped blog launched last week with a poignant debut entry on the death, two months ago, of Mary’s dog, Gracie.
We’ve added Unleashed to our blogroll, and we wish Mary all the best in her new venture.