Adventures in Aging Canine Physical Rehabilitation Part 2

It’s been a year and a half since I wrote a post about Peanut’s physical rehab. Since that is one of my more popular posts, I thought it would be worthwhile to share an update.

Our little gal turned 13 on December 24th. A few weeks prior to that, I met a woman who just happened to be with her own 13-year-old pug at the veterinarian’s office. While making small talk, she referred to Peanut as a young pug. I thought she was joking but she wasn’t. It must be the black coloring she still has on her ears, around her eyes, and on her muzzle. It’s been wonderful to be fooled for so long by a dog that has barely been showing her physical age. It often tricks me into thinking that nothing has changed and the three of us can just hang out forever more.

Peanut Sleeping 13 years old

She doesn’t look a day over seven years old, eight tops.

Despite her youthful appearance, we’ve had to make some changes over time to Peanut’s exercise and standard care. Towards the end of summer, Peanut seemed more hunched in general. She was also starting to lose balance from behind on tile; she couldn’t keep her legs from splaying which was causing her to fall. We not only had a weak wrist that was getting weaker but also back legs that were no longer holding her up as well. Add a hunched frame and I was struck with the reality that she really was getting older. I think it all happened rather quickly but Joel says it has been a slow evolution over time. I don’t envy the animal medical professionals who have had to wade through our differing assessments of what started when.

Pain Medications: At our veterinarian’s advice, we started giving Peanut Metacam for pain. Since Peanut never gave us any reason to suspect that she was in pain until she started hunching, we decided it was time to provide relief. She’s doing well on it and does seem generally perkier and less hunched during the day. We also recently started giving her Tramadol in the evenings which has made a huge difference in her ability to sleep through the night without uncomfortably shifting around several times an hour. We initially assumed it was just something we’d all need to live with until we spoke with our vet about it. I’m so glad we did.

Carpet: And lots of it. Because my faithful companion still insists on providing a personal escort throughout the house, I had to find a way to provide traction on tile. There were tireless efforts of trying any and every combination of boots, socks, velcro, vet wrap, clips, bands, and incantations to keep her from sliding and falling on tile floors. Some provided only short-term assistance, others proved to be more of a hazard.

Socks and other ways to stop Peanut from Slipping

Sadly, no silver bullets here for us.

We tried keeping her crated during meal time preparation; times meant for revelry and leaping about. It didn’t go well. We now have inexpensive carpet off the role from Home Depot that covers the entire kitchen. Peanut can easily trot after us at will and once again run from one end of the kitchen to the other when that dinner bell chimes.

Peanut in kitchen on carpet

Strategically placed in the work triangle of the kitchen where spillage is most likely to occur.

Senior-friendly activities: We’ve incorporated more low-impact activities such as slow movements around the house and sensory stimulation. I picked some from this list and made adaptations that work for us.

Step Overs : We’re down to two tightly wrapped towels spaced a few feet apart because of the racing and potential tripping. (Peanut is more focused on the destination rather than the journey. She must get that from me.) Trying to slow her down using a leash only makes it worse.

K-Laser: We are now getting weekly K-laser treatments. I believe the science behind this as well as our experience that these treatments help accelerate repair and provide relief. You can find a local K-Laser provider here.

Low Incline Ramp Balancing: The homemade ramp that we’ve had for years now doubles as a core strengthening tool. This works better for us than the yoga ball. I prop the ramp up on a few pillows placed on the ground so that the incline is much less than it is on the couch. Even though the ramp is just a few inches off the ground, the slow back and forth movements provides good balancing and coordination exercise. Of course she only complies if there are treat rewards! We originally used a bosu ball  in therapy (rubber side down), so that or something similar would also be ideal.

More Buggy Time:  A pet buggy purchased years ago also allows for balancing practice. While our preference is to visit forest preserves, we bumped up the number of small walks around the neighborhood when time is tight. Whether she is standing or seated, she must balance while we are in motion. Of course the added stimulation of seeing and smelling what’s going on around the ‘hood is great, too.

Joel walks Peanut in buggy dog stroller

Chiropractor: For now we have paused on chiropractic adjustments. When researching dog diseases of the spine, I learned about Pug (Constrictive) Myelopathy and the suggestion that adjustments could be counterproductive. I have not yet spoken with the chiropractor about this to get her input. The only way we would know for sure would be to get an MRI, but due to Peanut’s age, we will not pursue that or any non-lifesaving surgical procedures which would be too high risk at her age.

Professional Physical Therapy: We left one physical therapy group and got a second opinion from another. Regarding the weak wrist, we were told that no exercise could accomplish strengthening it back up and that we’d actually need to brace the weak shoulder, the source of the problem. Because I think she would hate the harness and since she compensates quite well from day to day, we are not pursuing the shoulder harness at this time.

Treat Ball and Figure Eights: She stumbled around too much while batting the ball. We also eliminated figure eights because she was tripping herself while scrambling to get the treats. It’s adorable when a puppy does it, but a wonky senior? Not so much.

We cherish the good days and do our best to roll with the bad days. But roll we shall.

Blooper photo_Stopping Peanut from SlippingBlooper photo. The Floor Manager must first inspect new stuff on the floor during photo prep.

Thank you to all the great members at for their compassion and support on this journey through senior care.

Rhapsody in Bluebird

My very productive afternoon of house cleaning came to a screeching halt when I happened upon this:

blue birds

We get Eastern Bluebirds from time to time zipping across the yard but it’s not common at all to witness them just hanging out on the deck.

Clean or watch pretty birds?
Clean or watch pretty birds?
Let me take half a second to think about that.

Seizing the opportunity and grateful to have the time to stop and watch, I perched in front of the window and savored the gift of having a front row seat to the bluebird show.

bluebirds oct 2014 1

For well over a half hour, I watched them watch the world, huddle up with one another, sample the suet, preen, cough up little berries (that was odd), and bathe for what appeared to be the first time for some.

bluebirds oct 2014 6

That might be pops on the left. Most of the birds still had little speckles on their chest and a few baby feathers.

Is it the blue that makes them so dazzling? I could not look away.

bluebirds oct 2014 9

At one point there were eight bluebirds frolicking about. They didn’t have the foggiest idea that I lurked just feet away, completely captivated and delighted by their presence.

bluebirds oct 2014 4

bluebirds oct 2014 8

bluebirds oct 2014 5

I stayed fixed on my little blue buddies until one by one, they were gone.

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” – Vincent van Gogh



Help Birds Have a Brighter Future

September 1st marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon. The Passenger Pigeon was one of the most abundant birds in the world during the 19th century until they went extinct in 1914.

Billions to none… the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

 “The extinction of the Passenger Pigeon had two major causes: commercial exploitation of pigeon meat on a massive scale and loss of habitat.”

Now, a report recently released from the National Audubon Society says that climate change is threatening 314 bird species with possible extinction.

The State of the Birds Report 2014

The birds don’t get a say in how our actions and decisions affect them. We know better and we can do better. I’ve read only a fraction about some of the long- and short-term consequences of the loss of a species; it is a large part of what motivates me to give my undivided attention and best possible care to whatever winged creatures come through the doors at the wildlife rehabilitation center.

state of birds 2014 birds in rehabiliation

 Feathered friends at the wildlife rehabilitation center.

The Top 5 Reasons I Give a Hoot

  1. They are pretty, intriguing, quirky, and fun to watch. Emphasis on the pretty!
  2. They give us clues about the health of the environment.
  3. Slurping up mosquitoes and other pesky pests – insectivorous birds rock!
  4. They spread seeds and pollen which helps other environmental goodies grow.
  5. They help naturally control disease and rodent populations.

Learn how you can take action right now:  Read it.   Watch it.

humming bird mug and humming bird 2

 Because, I mean, come on.

By the way, that IS delicious bird-friendly coffee in that mug!

Why Do Good Girls Like Bad Birds?

Sleek, black as coal, smart as a whip and a little bit naughty…I am bewitched by the American Crow. When the wildlife specialist said that the recovering crow could be moved from the indoor bird room to an outside enclosure and observed for flight, I jumped at the chance to give him a lift. YES I wanted to move the crow!

The crow had remained quite calm the past several times I had provided him with room service, so gently but firmly, I carried the surprisingly light bird in my hands as I walked outside. Maybe he sensed that he was being looked at, because the very moment I glanced down at the top of his head, he looked up at me.

When I volunteer at the wildlife center, I tend to mentally slip into a bit of a Snow White fantasy world where woodland creatures may very well sing to me and help me clean up around the place. The instant our eyes met, I had a dreamy notion that we were having a true connection. We needed no words; just two sentient beings sharing a moment and an understanding. Soon, we’d be making quick work of washing all those dirty dishes…


Crow Nip 2014

Not only was I not mad, I admired his brass. He can’t get rid of me that easily.

♫ And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place…so hum a merry tune ♪

American Crow Wildlife Rehabilitation June 2014Here is my guy. Is he handsome or what?

While this post was written in good fun, the bird was certainly not “bad,” he was just being a cautious bird that was caught by a predator (me). The title is based on the song Why Do Good Girls Like Bad Boys – Angel & The Reruns. I didn’t get any feedback prompting this update, it just breaks my heart that these birds are ever considered anything less than highly intelligent, highly social creatures that want to live their lives as much as we want to live ours.

Birdie Went a-Courtin’

Love; Exciting and New

I was typing away at my computer when some unusually boisterous tweeting outside the office window grabbed my attention. There on the deck was a male house finch energetically bowing, curtsying, flashing some tail, and singing up a storm while a lady perched opposite him looked on. Because I had a mouthful of tea, I lightly whacked Joel on the side and pointed out the window so that he’d have a look.


(Gulp) “He’s courting her! That’s soooooo sweet. Look at him go! Why don’t you curtsy and sing like that when I enter a room?” I asked.

My male just chuckled. Noted.

House Finch 3 is a Crowd

 Uh, I’m trying to work here pal. 

The passionate suitor then fluttered up in the air a few inches away from her, teasing her into a game of chase.

Will You Accept this Seed?

I’ve also been watching a cardinal couple for several days now. It’s touching to observe just how much this male cares for his lady. Always a gentleman and protector, he lets her have prime seating at the feeder while he hops around to nibble on what remains scattered on the floor.

Cardinal Couple Feeding

Even after she has eaten, he passes along a cracked sunflower seed as a gesture of sire suitability .

Cardinal Couple Courtship Male Feeding Female

Sure, she can crack her own shells but it’s nice to have someone else do it from time to time, no? 

Notable Courtship Displays

Superb Bird-of-Paradise – I was the unimpressed recipient of a very similar dance given by a strange gent at a nightclub many moons ago. Just like the female in this video, I too fluttered away.

Flamingos – They move as a group like a beautifully choreographed ballet. Or a music video from the 80’s where everyone you meet while dancing down the street jumps in to join you, somehow magically knowing all the moves.

Greater Sage-Grouse – Some guys are less about the pomp and ballyhoo and more about making sure that you get a good eyeful of the size of their air sacs.

Green Thorntail Hummingbird – Considering how quickly hummingbirds deplete their energy, the length of this fella’s aerial dance is impressive. I bet he’s wondering how much longer it is going to take her to make up her mind.

African Weaver Bird – In my opinion, this guy wins the courting game hands down! He builds a HOUSE for his prospective lady! The other fellows can go take their flashy hips elsewhere.

Finch Courtship Get a Nest

For the Love of Birds or an Excuse for a Nap?

Feeling energized to get a jump on yard work, I set out before lunch to do some raking around our plantings under the deck. Seconds out the door, I heard a flurry of fluttering. My eyes immediately followed the fluttery mass towards the top of the closest tree. While the birds silently looked on, I scoped the area to see what the fuss was all about. I’m confident that it was all about this:

New Bird Nest Under Deck

Under Construction

 That little ledge isn’t exactly well hidden from (my) prying eyes but it does seem inconvenient for things with talons or grabby paws. Considering that it is only about three second’s flying time from the feeders on the deck, I can understand why they picked this spot.

I wanted to check yard work off my to-do list but I also didn’t want to discourage the builders from coming back, so I made quick work of cleanup from around just a few shrubs. While I tidied up, I found a bunch of feathers buried under leaves that I set aside in a small pile close to the nest. Literally, an early house warming gift:

feathers in the yard

I hope our guests will be pleased with this assortment. 

Since it’s the birds’ world and I’m just living in it, I wrapped up my task much sooner than planned. As far as I’m concerned, any wild birds that survived The Winter of 2013-2014 get to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it.

And so just like the birds, it only took seconds for me to decide that I should flutter back to bed for a leisurely read and an afternoon nap.



This photo taken on May 8th is the final result after several teardowns. They appear to come and go from a side entry; all the branches are bunched up to the top of the “roof.” I also think there is a bit of slit somewhere in there which acts as their window.  I try to sneak peeks to figure out just how they are getting in and out but they are lightning fast.

Bird: 1 Human: 0

final nest build under deck 2014


June 10th: We are officially now on fledgling crossing alert.

baby sighting in nest under deck June 2014