Written 6/20/08

When you go through old age with a Newfoundland, it is enlightening and educational, in a different sense than going through puppyhood with them, but no less enlightening. As with puppyhood, no two are the same.

Our old girl is now 12 ½. At 10 ½, she was in a precarious balance, and we weren’t sure she would pull through. Her platelet count was zero, literally. As she began to improve and time continued to progress, she had more of those ups and downs that come with old age. That episode probably resulted from a reaction to ampicillin, so now we have to be more careful with antibiotic choices. Since then, she has had a few ups and downs, but comes back with her usual spunk and sass. In the past month or two, her rear is growing weaker, so that now she needs help getting up. She can walk for a short distance once she is up, but she basically isn’t mobile.

Last month, she was going downhill fast enough that we weren’t expecting a return this time. Although we have been at that point before, this time was worse. She had developed a problem with an eye, and that led to glaucoma, so we had to see a specialist. The good news was that she wouldn’t need to have the eye removed, and the treatment worked well. She is alert again and very sassy. Sometimes she is sassy in the evening because she wants another cookie. When you ask her what she wants, it isn’t easy to decipher unless she wants to go outside. Then, she will start getting up in the front so you can put the sling on. (This is another progressive change. She finally decided that the sling was a necessary asset.) If she wants water, food, or anything else, you have to guess. Most of the time, it is easy enough to figure out, but sometimes when you’ve covered all of the bases, she continues to insist. What I have learned is that when her mental acuity is good, there is always a reason. It is not just the ramblings of old age. Often, though, her demands begin at about the time you get into bed. Sometimes it is for a cookie and sometimes it is not.

About a week ago, she began a uti. It was hard to keep up with her needs to go out for a few days, and there were a few accidents. Once it was decided how she would be treated and she began taking the antibiotic, improvement was very rapid. She has trouble with most oral pharmaceutical products, and is already having a little trouble with this, so the remainder of the course will not be easy. However, she is full of spunk again and very talkative.

Last night, we went to bed late, and the serenade began. We decided to offer another cookie (and you wonder why she demands a cookie after we go to bed,) but that didn’t take care of the issue. So, Greg offered her water again, then went back to bed. The serenade continued. Wondering if it was a need to go outside again from the uti, Greg decided to get up and take her out. When he came back to bed, he had a funny look on his face and was fussing about something. I asked him what happened, and he said that she went out and pottied, then “took off” to chase a possum who was helping himself to cat food. A few weeks ago, she was still mobile, could get up by herself and ran like most 90+ year old women. I can’t imagine how she managed it, but she was pursuing that possum with great determination. (Never underestimate the determination of a Newfoundland.) I also suspect that she knew the possum was there, either by hearing it or maybe by smelling it, since her area is next to the back door and cat food is kept on the back steps, where that possum has been a regular visitor to the cat food. Another mystery solved!

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