Dogs have a knack for helping us accomplish our goals. Somehow, they seem to know what those goals are without ever being told. Maybe, they know our goals better than we do.
With no apparent effort, they can help us accomplish our missions … whatever the mission … even missions that are completely opposite from one another.
Dogs, for instance, can help us stick to a routine, or get us out of a rut. (Ace has done both for me.)
They can enlarge our circles of friends, and — at those times solitude might be best — keep it from getting too lonely. (Ace has done both of those, too.)
And they can both keep us young and show us how to grow old.
That last trick, I think, is particularly impressive.
Dogs, when you think about it, show us how to live our lives (in the moment, with abandon), cope with our maladies (with brave perseverance) and die our deaths (with grace and dignity).
Between the examples they offer, the similarities between our species and the uncovered secrets dogs may still hold, it’s no surprise that science and medicine and more than a few other fields of study are increasingly turning to them for answers.
What dogs have to teach us about living a healthy life — some of it obvious (if we pay attention), some of it suspected and undergoing research — was the subject of an article last month in AARP Magazine.
As it noted, dogs, as they continue to evolve alongside us, are increasingly mirroring us, right down to getting the same diseases and disorders.
“… This evolution is ongoing, a process scientists call convergence: Human and canine genes, shaped by the environment we share, are evolving in lockstep. Today, along with home security and leftover disposal, dogs confer a host of wellness benefits, especially to kids and older people,” the article’s author, David Dudley, wrote. “People with dogs sleep better, weigh less and get more exercise than dog-free peers.”
“And there are the less tangible perks, the ones cataloged in Marley & Me–style books. This burgeoning “dogoir” literary genre revolves around the reductive but basically correct idea that a dog is foremost an instrument of personal growth: It exists to ease your existential anxieties, impart lessons about love and friendship, and teach you how to be a better person.”
But as noted by Dudley, who weaves the lessons his dog Foghat taught him into the article, that’s just the beginning of what dogs might have to share.
He cites a couple of research projects as examples of the possible answers dogs may hold when it comes to aging.
Neuroscientist Elizabeth Head is studying elderly beagles at the University of Kentucky in an attempt to determine why, by age 6 or 7, they start showing signs of the microscopic beta-amyloid plaques that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
About a third of the beagles will succumb to canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, about the same percentage of Americans over 85 who will get Alzheimer’s.
“It could be that living in our environment — our food, our water, our homes — has made dogs more vulnerable,” she says.
Head thinks dogs might hold the key to defeating it. Past studies, she notes, have demonstrated that an antioxidant-rich diet and “behavioral enrichment” — a course of memory drills and new-skills training — can significantly delay or diminish plaque development and memory impairments.
At the University of Washington, Daniel Promislow, an aging researcher (in both meanings of the phrase), has assembled a team to join in a Canine Longevity Consortium. Through a a grant from the National Institute on Aging, they’re working on the first national longitudinal study on aging in dogs, which will include looking at how dogs stay so seemingly happy and carefree as they advance in years.
On the downside, as we all know, they can relatively suddenly become frail, forgetful and sick — as was the case with Dudley’s dog, Foghat.
“…He entered his dotage in roaring good health. Around his 18th birthday, I Googled “oldest dog in the world,” because I started to wonder if he was closing in on a record. He was what gerontologists would call a successful ager.
“And then, seemingly overnight, he wasn’t. If you have to go — and you do — a swift slide into decrepitude is the preferred way. The phrase is “compression of morbidity,” when the infirmities of age are delayed until the bitter end. Still, it’s no picnic. The joints went first. He started limping after a vigorous bouncing-a-soccer-ball-off-his-nose session. Then he needed help climbing into the car or crawling under the bed, his favorite sleeping spot.”
As Foghat declined, Dudley wrote, his “senescence appeared as both a comfort and a warning of what awaits: Some fears and eccentricities will lift with the years; others will only deepen. One by one, the things you love to do become too difficult and slip out of your life.”
With his death, Dudley says, “I was struck by the strange new stillness — the foreign silence of a household without a dog. It was as if a machine that had been humming in the background for a long time had suddenly been switched off.”
Amid that silence, Dudley, like many other grieving dog owners, started quantifying what he learned from Foghat.
” …And now that I’m no longer young, and he’s dead, I’ll do my best to follow the path Foghat blazed into my life’s last half…” he wrote.
“So eat the best food you can afford. Go for a walk, even if it’s raining. Take a lot of naps. Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that the people you lick will not flinch. And when someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy.”
(Photo: Foghat, the author’s dog, in 1995 at age 1, left, and in 2012 at age 18; courtesy of David Dudley / AARP Magazine)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 16th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aarp, acceptance, aging, alzheimers, animals, answers, cognition, david dudley, dignity, dogs, dogs as teachers, elderly, enjoy, examples, learning, learning from dogs, life, old, pets, research, secrets, solutions
You say your old dog isn’t as fun as he used to be? Maybe he’s developing some behavioral issues, or requiring more maintenance. Or maybe his breed is no longer ”trending.”
Well now there’s help.
An outfit in Toronto has put together this video, offering what appears to be a trade-in program: You give them your old dog; they give you a brand new pup of the breed of your choice.
“Who says puppy love can’t last forever?” they ask.
Fortunately the outfit behind Puppy Swap is the Toronto Humane Society — and the pitch is a phony one, aimed at bringing light to the fact that each year thousands of dogs are surrendered, abandoned and turned over to shelters by people who weren’t in for the long haul.
Thinly disguised as a real business, the website encourages customers to “make a new best friend again and again with PuppySwap — the world’s first puppy subscription service … The moment your puppy grows up, becomes a bother or gets less likable, simply log back into your account and swap out your old best friend for a brand-new one.”
Subtle irony often goes undetected on the Internet, so some of those who see the video — especially those who don’t watch until the end — might think it’s legit — or even that trading in dogs continuously is a good idea. According to a CNET report, it’s not until a viewer clicks on “sign up” on the website that a screen comes up pointing out Puppy Swap isn’t real.
As of our visit to the site yesterday, though, it opened with a screen saying, “Puppy Swap is not real. Unfortunately pet abandonment is. Over 180,000 animals enter Canadian shelters each year. 40 percent will never leave … Spread the word, pet ownership is for life.”
The screen comes up again when “sign up” is clicked on. Those who click on “more information” get taken to a page of facts about pet abandonment, where another link directs them to how they can help support the Toronto Humane Society.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 15th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abandon, abandonment, animals, canada, dog, dogs, humane, irony, old, old dogs, ownership, pet, pets, phony, puppy, puppy swap, replace, responsibility, spoof, subscription, surrender, toronto humane society, trade, trade in, trade your dog, update
That up above is Friday, June 13th’s “Honey Moon,” under which Ace and I slept during a quick beach trip over the weekend.
Given the next Friday the 13th Honey Moon won’t come along until 2098 — and given Ace is 9 and I’m 60 — we decided, after some math, it was best to take full advantage of it.
So, even though there was plenty of room inside the home of our hosts on North Carolina’s Figure 8 Island, we slept outside on lounge chairs, so we could fully bask (though I remained clothed) in whatever it is that is so special about it.
The honey-colored full moon always occurs in June around the summer solstice, when the moon, in its orbit around the earth, comes closest to our humble planet. That point is called “perigee,” not to be confused with pedigree, which is a silly certificate, or peregrine, which is a falcon.
On Friday, the perigee coincided with the moon’s full phase, and coincided with a Friday the 13th as well.
All of which sounded too magical to not sleep under. The last time all those coincided was June 13, 1919, according to Universe Today, and it won’t happen again until June 13, 2098.
The honey moon is likely what gave us the phrase “honeymoon,” according to atronomer Bob Berman.
“That phrase dates back nearly half a millennium, to 1552 … The idea back then was that a marriage is like the phases of the moon, with the full moon being analogous to a wedding … meaning, it’s the happiest and ‘brightest’ time in a relationship.”
We’re not sure what sunrises are analogous to, when it comes to relationships, but maybe they’re reminders to wake up and see the brightness in your partner every day — the Saturday the 14th’s, the Wednesday the 23rd’s, and all the other non-special ones.
In any event, there was a nice one the next morning — sunrise, that is.
One of the advantages of sleeping outside is that you get to wake up to something like this:
Our beach trip is an annual affair, a gathering of college buddies, sponsored by the humans of a dog named Earl.
Earl and Ace are both starting to get up in years
That’s them to the left in their University of North Carolina garb. That’s them, not so far left, receiving the daily doggy blessing from host Steve, during which they sit enraptured, either by his words or the Milk Bone they know is coming.
As older dogs, Ace and Earl react a little more slowly (except when treats are involved); grunt, sigh and harrumph a bit more; sleep a lot more; and, unlike the sun and moon, they don’t always rise and set so effortlessly.
All of which I could also say about myself. I did manage on Saturday, even after my restful sleep under the Honey Moon, to work in two — or was it three? — naps.
I’ve noticed I seem to spend with each passing summer a little less time in the surf, a little more time in the hammock, only occasionally getting those dog-like, running-in-circles, bursts of energy.
But I guess all those quiet moments allow me to figure some things out — such as, when it comes to dogs, and truly good friends, the honeymoon is never over.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 16th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, aging, animals, beach, dog, dogs, earl, figure 8, figure eight, friday the 13th, friends, honey moon, honeymoon, island, moon, moonrise, north carolina, old, pets, rise, set, sun, sunrise, sunset, travels with ace
The old dachshund abandoned with a note at a Los Angeles County shelter, then saved from euthanasia by a rescue group, then offered back to the “poor, sick and elderly” owners who wrote the note, won’t be reuniting with them after all.
Upon further reflection, Toby Wisneski, founder of Leave No Paws Behind, decided life with his original owners — two traveling ministers – might not be best for the 13-year-old dachshund, and apparently Otto’s owners have said they’re good with that decision.
The owners, initially anonymous, have now been identified as Chris Gonzales and his wife, Christine. That’s Rev. Chris in the video above, seemingly speaking in tongues at times, and not appearing too sick, poor or elderly. (Public access to the video was removed after this post appeared.)
The video, and some other interesting information, was unearthed by Mary Cummins, an animal advocate and wildlife rehabilitator who writes a blog in Los Angeles.
Cummins reported Sunday that Wisneski had decided that, in the dog’s best interest, “he will be remaining right here in our care and his humans agree.”
“We are both seniors, sick with no money. We cannot pay for vet bills, or to put him to sleep. He has never been away from us in all those years, he cannot function without us, please put him to sleep.”
Before euthanizing the dog, the shelter called a rescue group, Leave No Paws Behind, which agreed to take him in. They named him Harley, got him treatment for a skin condition and pronounced him healthy enough to be adopted.
Wisneski, the group’s founder, also held out hope, at the time, that she might find the anonymous owners and return the dog to them, along with an offer to pay for all his medical care and food.
When the couple learned of the offer, and about donations coming in to help them, they came forward and agreed to reclaim their dog, whose real name is Otto, when they returned to town at the end of the month.
In an interview with KTLA, Chris Gonzales — though he wasn’t identified by name – said he and his wife were out of town and planned to return to California and pick up the dog once they raised enough money to buy new tires for their car.
What seemed, up to then, a heartwarming story, was slowly getting squirrely — turning into the kind it’s hard to keep the faith in.
Cummins, who had publicized the dog’s story on her blog in an attempt to help reunite him with his owners, did some investigating, and came away less than impressed with the couple.
“They are not senior citizens. They are not disabled. They are merely obese. They are not poor. They are traveling ministers who give little talks then beg for money. They are not a legal church, corporation or non-profit. They make $60,000/year,” she wrote.
“He’s one of those faith healers that puts his hands on people and then everyone shakes like someone having a seizure,” she added. “He likes to spit out mumbo jumbo made up words while doing so. He invites people to meetings at Sizzler or the Old Country Buffet restaurants. People pay for their food, listen to him talk then he asks for money. He calls it a ‘love offering.’”
Cummins now feels, in case it’s not obvious, that returning Otto to his owners would be a mistake.
While that means a detour before Otto finds his happy ending, we think that’s the right choice, too — based on what we’ve heard about his owners and the fact that they abandoned him in the first place.
Despite all that faith they travel the country professing, the couple apparently didn’t have too much in their dog.
Wisneski has said all of Otto’s medical problems turned out to be minor and treatable, and that he’s in good health now.
Here’s hoping Otto finds the home he deserves.
And that the reverends find some tires.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 18th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, animals, baldwin park animal shelter, california, chris gonzales, christine gonzales, church, dachshund, dog, dogs, dumped, faith, gonzales, harley, leave no paws behind, los angeles, ministers, note, old, otto, owners, pets, religion, rescues, reunion, shelter, shelters, sick, traveling, traveling ministers
Tom Cohen has taken some dogs with funny faces and made them funnier.
In “Dogs with Old Man Faces,” released earlier this month, Cohen has gathered photos of elderly dogs and combined them with tag lines reflecting not so much the wisdom that comes with being an old human, but the crankiness, irascibility, aches and fears – our increasing tendency, as we age, to seek out simple pleasures and our decreasing willingness to put up with annoyances.
“Muttley is worried about the future of Medicare,” reads one, next to a photo (at top of this post) of a wrinkled and anxious-looking pug.
“Duster enjoys a good knish,” reads another, accompanied by photo of a pooch whose white eyebrows hang over his eyes.
Each black and white image of an old dog is accompanied by a caption: ”Roscoe was one of the original Hells Angels,” reads the one accompanying the shaggy and graying dog shown above.
We learn that “Pedro likes Old Spice and Sinatra,” “Jack enjoys a hot cup of Sanka,” and “Chet is still upset they canceled Matlock.” Geppeto is horrified at how much things cost. Sumo wants those kids off his lawn. Sherman smoked too much pot in the 60′s. Riley can’t wait for tonight’s early bird special. And Pepper has been advised to cut down on salt.
“Dogs with Old Man Faces: Portraits of Crotchety Canines” (published by Running Press, $13.95) isn’t the consumate old dog book – Old Dogs by Gene Weingarten holds that honor, in our view — but it is a fun and lighthearted spin that incorporates photos of salty old dogs with stereotypical (but often true) phrases that you might hear uttered by a senior citizen of the human species.
Cohen, a former stand-up comedian, is a television writer and producer who has won three Emmy Awards and lives in Maryland with his own old dog. He has worked on shows for MTV, Nickelodeon, NBC, History Channel, ABC Family, and most recently, Discovery Channel, serving as executive producer, director, and head writer of the series ”Cash Cab.”
Based on a photo we found of him, he doesn’t quite have an old man face yet, but appears to be working on it.
(Photos: From “Dogs with Old Man Faces.” Top photo (Muttley) by Richard Dudley; photo of Roscoe by Tom Cohen)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 21st, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aging, animals, behavior, book, books on dogs, canines, comedian, crotchety, dog books, dogs, dogs with old man faces, elderly, faces, humans, old, old dogs, old man faces, pets, photos, producer, tom cohen, writer
With exactly what, I don’t know. But in the past four days, he has taken to yelping when he gets up from a long nap or makes a sudden move.
At the dog park this week, he has plodded along lethargically, showing little interest in other dogs — even when he ran into this little white fellow who shares his name. How’s that for a pair of Aces?
I have poked and prodded every inch of his oversized body, but I’m unable to pinpoint what particular spot might be hurting him.
So today, we’re off to the vet.
My first thought was the hips. That’s based partly on the simple fact that he’s very big. Then, too, some of you might recall, when I took Ace to an animal communicator three months ago, she told me he was having some mild discomfort in that area. Add in the 10 months we’ve been traveling, and all the hopping up into and down from the back of my jeep he’s been doing, and the hips seem as good a guess as any.
I knew the day would come when the jumping in and out of the car would need to cease, and given his size, maybe that practice should never have started. Chances are — at age 6 — that day is here, earlier than I expected, and not without some accompanying guilt on my part.
Then again, it might not be his hips at all. Although he’s hesitating to jump into the car, he’s not yelping when he does so — only when makes a sudden movement, usually after laying still.
I’ve pushed on his paws, rubbed the lengths of his legs, looked into his ears and down his throat, poked his belly and prodded his hips. None of that seemed to bother him. He didn’t yelp. He didn’t do that thing he does where his eyes get big, which signifies, to me, anyway, rising alarm on his part. That would have told me I was getting close.
The only time he yelped was when I lowered his head, making me think maybe the pain is in his neck, or spine-related. A half hour massage followed, which, though it might not have helped at all, he seemed to appreciate.
Twice, I’ve come home to hear him howling — not howls of pain, I don’t think, but howls of loneliness. Twice I’ve left the video camera on, to try and capture their onset, but he didn’t howl those times. And the times he did, he immediately cheered up and ran around when I walked through the door.
I’m pretty sure Ace is less than in love with our new basement quarters, though he likes the upstairs and yard just fine. He has shown a distinct preference for being outside, content to lay at top of stairs, keeping an eye on the kitchen window of the mansion owner, who gives him a daily biscuit.
Something about the basement bothers him. And friends I’ve talked about it with have different theories. Maybe he was mistreated in a basement in his puppyhood. Maybe the old mansion we’re living under is haunted. Maybe, with a firehouse around the corner, the sirens are bothering him, though they never have before — and we lived in Baltimore, where sirens are background music. Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight, or he’s getting arthritic and the cold and dampness of the cellar aggravate it.
He’s moving slowly, lethargically (except when the treats come out), and rather than circling twice before laying down, he’s circling about eight times.
Yesterday, working with my theory that it might be his neck, I took a treat and moved it around in front of him — from side to side, then up and down. There were no yelps. Either it caused no pain, or the thought of getting food superceded it.
So, with fingers crossed, we’re headed to the nearest veterinarian, with hopes that whatever is bothering him is something minor, something that will pass or doesn’t cost too much to fix, something unrelated to all the traveling I’ve put him through — 21,000 miles of it over the past ten months, something that is neither chronic nor old-age related.
Because he’s too young to be old.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, aches, aging, america, animals, back, basement, depression, diagnose, discomfort, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, emotional, health, howling, howls, mansion, neck, north carolina, old, pain, pets, physical, road trip, sick, spine, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, veterinarian, veterinary, vets, yelping, yelps
Puck’s family thinks their aging dog has lost most of his senses. He’s deaf. He’s blind in the one eye he has left. And if you put a treat on the ground in front of him, he can’t seem to hone in on it by sniffing. It’s more of a random search. He may or may not taste his watered down food.
But at least one sense remains — not one of the big five, but an important one all the same — his sense of dignity.
At 17, Puck doesn’t run anymore. In recent years, his three block walks shrunk to two block walks, then one block walks, then no block walks. He can’t do the stairs anymore. He has epilepsy, an enlarged heart, a hacking cough. He goes through long periods where he seems to zone out – standing motionlessly like a mini-cow in pasture — possibly the result of mini-strokes. He wears a diaper around the clock.
These days, Puck doesn’t jump, doesn’t play – instead he spends his days asleep or in quiet reflection.
And that’s just fine with George Fish and Kathleen Sullivan.
Puck can cuddle as well as he ever did; relishes a scratch behind the ears as much as he ever did – maybe even more.
George was once my college roommate; and my overnight visit with them last week at their home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, was the third time I’d seen Puck – the first being when he was a youngster, the second about two years ago. When I reconnect with George on the phone, I’m usually afraid to ask about Puck, fearing the worst. But George generally volunteers the information: “Puck’s still alive.” Or “Puck’s still around.”
George and Kathleen’s daughter, Elizabeth, was 7 when they got Puck, and she came up with the name — as in pucker up — based on how much he liked to kiss. She’s 24 now and living in California.
The dog – part of a litter that resulted from an unauthorized get-together between a poodle and a terrier — didn’t look anything like a poodle, Kathleen notes. “But it was cute.”
She called her husband to let him know: “We sort of have a dog now.”
“George came home and I think in three seconds he was in love,” she said.
Nearly a generation later, Puck remains – less lively, less mobile and diaper clad. It attaches with Velcro and holds a sanitary napkin, a regular one during the day, a maxi pad at night. It’s removed for his trips outside, where he mostly stands motionlessly, his tail periodically going into bouts of wagging.
Every night, they tote him to his upstairs bed. Every morning, they carry him to his downstairs bed, which they call his “office.” Next to it is a family portrait, a toy fax machine,a stapler and a collection of Puck’s other favorite things.
George says he has learned a lot from Puck – both about patience and grace.
Puck has had to put up with eye ulcers, which led to the removal of one of his eyes a year ago, and after that he lost sight in the remaining one. Vet bills amounted to about $4,000 for the eye problems alone. He also has been on medication for epileptic seizures since he was a pup. He’s probably had some small strokes, and his cough has led to more vet bills and interrupted sleep.
How much does all that matter in the big scheme of dog-family love? Not a bit.
Some friends tell George it’s time to put Puck down, but George can’t see doing that – “not as long as his tail keeps wagging.”
Posted by John Woestendiek August 29th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, aging, animals, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, elderly, fredericksburg, george fish, kathleen sullivan, mixed breed, mutt, old, old dogs, pets, poodle, puck, road trip, terrier, virginia