a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Of Tika the Old Dog, and Food, and Walks, and Bully Sticks

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Of Tika the Old Dog, and Food, and Walks, and Bully Sticks

SUMMARY: A general decline.

It is hard to write about Tika getting older and slower and less healthy. I meant to do so regularly, to track for my own purposes, but somehow don't have the heart for it most of the time.

She hasn't been in a steady decline, but more like descending waves: Some days or weeks almost like the same old Tika; other days or weeks I wonder whether she's going to make it to the next morning. I remember just before Thanksgiving, she was so bad, I was terrified that it would be all over during the holidays. And then she perked up again.

The worst part for both of us is the Cough. Vet had said that it might be pressure from the enlarged heart or just an old, weakened esophagus that doesn't stay open as well as it used to. Sometimes she'll hardly cough for days. Other times, as in the last 3 days, it's almost constant except during the short times when she can manage to fall asleep.

And it's not so much of a cough any more--just a harsh exhale with a rattle in the throat, with every. single. breath.

Some days she's perfectly happy to eat any choice of kibble that I offer. On other days, it's the same story that I think I've mentioned before: Might or might not eat any of the different kinds of kibble. Or might eat it if I give it to her by hand a few pieces at a time. Or, not that, but only if I put a few on the carpet in front of her a few pieces at a time.

Canned food, she usually eats. But no matter what it is, she's eating less and less of it and leaves some or lots uneaten (from the dog who inhaled anything you gave her). I think that eating adds to the discomfort in her throat or whatever's causing the problem. She still looks pretty good--the advantage to a nice fluffy coat--but underneath, she feels like skin and bones.  (I haven't weighed her lately... I should... but have always done so by lifting her and stepping onto the bathrooms scale, and my back is so painful lately that I'm not eager to do it. But I should...)

She usually is happy to lick my plate, however, or eat any doggie snacks/treats or human food that I offer. Haven't tried to make a full meal of that sort of thing yet, but this week I am at the point where I really need to make the effort to cook for her and see whether that helps.

Pleez can haz more charlie bears?

She still wants to play, but the urge doesn't last very long, and she doesn't shake very hard at all when shaking the toy. She can still sometimes pull pretty darned hard with tug-of-war, but sometimes now she doesn't want to.

She pretty much never runs any more for any reason. She'll still sometimes chase a thrown frisbee or toy, a couple of times, but only at half speed, and she no longer makes an attempt to grab it off the ground, which she always excelled at, like a shortstop scooping up a ground ball.

In the last week, I've been out in the park taking her for a walk almost every day, but just for a short, slow walk.

You know, she used to be untiring; could "hike" 10 miles with me, which meant that she ran back and forth and acted as scout the entire time, so probably more like 15 or 20 miles for her, and then still wanted to play when she got home. She used to fly over jumps and through tunnels at a phenomenal speed with great joy. So this is hard for both of us to take. Yet, going for a walk is still her favorite thing in the world, even on days when she doesn't want to eat or play.

But, this week in particular, she doesn't seem to have the energy to walk very far or very fast, and she's coughing a lot, and she's not eating very much.

When she lies down or sleeps, now, she almost never lies on her side like she did her whole life; she just puts her chin down. Vet person at the seminar I did yesterday with Boost said that fluid and pressure can become worse when lying on their side, so that's probably why.

I gave The Merle Girls bully sticks about an hour ago. Tika sniffed at hers and then put her chin back down. It hurts me to see that. But, after about 15 minutes, she picked it up and started gnawing. Set it down for a bit and went out into the yard to cool down, I think (can't believe it hit almost 80F today!). I rescued it from Boost, the little thief, and gave it back to Tika when she returned.

Then Tika took it out to the back lawn--to her exact favorite spot for chewing chews, working on stuffed Kongs, and the like.

Boost will typically follow and lie a couple of feet away, hoping that Tika will give up chewing and leave it, and this evening, same thing. So all of that is normal. But Tika isn't doing much chewing, just lying there with the rawhide between her feet, panting/gasping, poor girlie.

Another agility friend's dog died suddenly today, not even 11 years old. A frequent hiking companion of ours. I cried, not just for him and his humans, but for Tika, too, after the slow walk and her eating only half a can of food, and for myself, feeling the pain of loss in advance.

Then I just now heard an odd noise in the garage and went out to look. Because of some things going on here lately, I have a couple of interesting stacks that aren't usually there of boxes and dog mats and canopies and such, and there was Boost on top of one of the piles, eagerly checking out a couple of the storage shelves that are normally way out of her reach. Her look of alert surprise when I turned on the light and saw her there made me laugh out loud, and she came bounding back into the house.

My girls.


  1. Oh Ellen. I'm behind and just read this last night before I went to bed...read it on my phone so it was hard to respond...but thought about you guys all night. I'm so sorry she's having trouble eating and breathing....such a difficult thing. My heart breaks for her and for you. Just wanted you to know I'm thinking about you both.

    1. Thanks, Dawn. I appreciate your thoughts. It's so hard to keep up with everything, isn't it! I tend to go into massive-reading-blogs mode periodically now rather than daily.

  2. I really am glad I got to meet you and her. She's a heck of a dog...but then I think all your dogs have been haven't they. Must have something to do with their owner. Or something.