A Dog's Eye View: Zoey's end of the candle

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Lisa Mason

Lisa Mason is an experienced dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training group. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.

My life has become a chaotic quilt patch-worked together by events driven by either Zoey, my 15-year-old dog, or Willa, a puppy who’s now 5 months old. At times, because of their distinctly individual needs, I feel I am living the quiet joys and vivid challenges of the proverbial candle burning at both ends, with Zoey and Willa each occupying opposite terminals. With each day, and with them going in seemingly opposite directions, I learn something new, adding to my repertoire of life living with dogs.

On one end is Willa with her frenetic puppy energy, enthusiasm and zest for living and learning, which needs to be appreciated and answered but also tamped down occasionally. More on her next time.

Sitting at the candle’s other end is Zoey, whose requirements are of a more physical nature due to her age. Because her needs for entertainment are so simple, so quiet — an extra moment to sniff that particular leaf, two seconds more standing as the breezes pass over her or sitting just that little bit longer in the sunshine — my attentions to her are governed by her needs for comfort and safety and by my desire to make her days and nights as peaceful as possible. I work to stay keenly aware of and attuned to the subtle shifts in her energy or appetite levels, her moments of disorientation or the times when her balance is of a particular challenge for her. This requires dedication, commitment and vigilance.

Her bedroom is a rectangular affair framed by sturdy, secured furniture. The floor is a study in colorful towels, under which is the occasional crib pad in case the night gets too long and I’m not able to get her outside in a timely fashion. Some nights, sleep seems elusive and she paces, circling until exhaustion sets in and she slides down the room’s edges, which have numerous pillows placed to buffer her slide. Not knowing if this is caused by discomfort or disorientation, I stay with her, trying to figure out what she needs. She sleeps later into the mornings now, waking with a groggy start. I need to be there to help her outside because her balance is usually a little off first thing. We have hardwood floors, so little red boots go on her back feet to help with traction and with her balance when she is inside.

Mealtime is no longer a simple decision of which raw foods to feed her. Her kidneys are starting to struggle, so now I need to think of those meals and supplements that will make digestion less of a challenge. She eats slowly, occasionally slipping out of focus, going where mentally I don’t know — I know only that I have to wait for her to come back before resuming.

As with Willa, caring for Zoey requires patience and stamina. Many nights have become sleep-deprived because I rest with one ear tuned to her. The days often test my ability to respond correctly to what she may need. Is she restless because she needs to go out, or does she simply need to get to the water bowl? I watch, I listen, I try to interpret ... and not always correctly. But she is my girl, my responsibility, and I will do whatever for as long as she needs.

Lisa Mason is an experienced dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training group. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.

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