Category Archives: The Pugnacious Pug

Peanut Was Here

Joel started a bedtime routine with Peanut many years ago. He’d place her on her bed, pat her lovingly, tell her she was a good girl (whether or not she had been that day), reminded her of how much we love her, and to have sweet dreams. It made her perky little ears and forehead wrinkles go slack. Soon after she’d drift off to sleep. Signaling the official end of the day, she seemed genuinely soothed and relaxed by the whole process.

I adopted the routine when Joel had to be out of town. She always had one or both of us telling her every evening that she was a good girl, that she did a good job for the day, and that we loved her. At some point I added, “Thank you for being here,” because I wanted her to know, in whatever way an animal can know, how much she mattered to us and that we appreciated her being part of our family.joelardenpeanutfamilyportrait

As luck would have it, the very day we decided that we needed a little Peanut in our lives, there was a little Peanut out there who needed us, too. Paperwork from the sellers reflected that she hadn’t had an exam in a long time. As such, they told us that we could return her and get our money back if a checkup revealed any issues. A checkup revealed a bladder infection, an infection in both ears, and cloudy eyes that would require daily drops if we wanted to try to save her vision long-term. Returning her was not an option.

peanutcollection2As her third set of parents, we promised her that this was the last stop and that we’d take care of her forever. From that day forward, our family life evolved into discovering different ways that we could all enjoy spending time together. Bringing her into the fold gave me a sense of completeness. I’m sure it’s similar for any couple that adds to their family; it’s all about caring for, loving on, and spending time with one another. Even as a kid I always longed to be a dog mom and knew someday I’d have a furry little bundle of my own when the time was right. Our little family meant everything to me.

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Peanut gave me a Dog Mom shirt for Mother’s Day

She was my morning coffee buddy and office mate. She watched basketball with Joel. She kept my secrets. She passed messages between Joel and I when we were avoiding speaking directly to each other. She knew when we needed comic relief. She was the reason we discovered how much we love walking through forest preserves. She could also be fickle and adorably naughty which we found completely endearing. We were suckers in love with that little dog and she knew it.

peanutisupforanything

Peanut was always up for whatever, whenever. Naps, car rides, walks – she was in. 

We made accommodations for her when she started having some physical challenges due to neurological issues and age. Through trial and error, we found ways to help her that worked well. We made more accommodations as the challenges continued through the years. Despite those challenges, we made life work and we all hung in there, enjoying the gift of time together. It was our mission as her mom and dad to make sure that not only was she as comfortable as could be but that she knew she still mattered to us immeasurably as a member of this family.

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Then, we sensed that we were in a time-frame of last chances to appreciate being together, before those chances were gone. It’s bittersweet to have that time and yet hear the clock tick louder and louder. I knew that Peanut was not exempt from the circle of life, but still…

It’s impossible to articulate the agony of making the decision to free her from a body that had done its very best through the years but was failing faster and faster. I would have done anything not to let her go but she deserved to be free. We owed her that.

Even though she had a full, long life and was loved beyond measure, I was not remotely prepared for the intensity of the grief that began the moment we parted and the most unbearable ache that surrounded my heart. That little dog did more for me and meant more to me than she could ever know.

I actually spent more time with Peanut in those twelve-and-a-half years than I had with Joel. More of a homebody who has worked from home, we were hardly ever apart. From life’s happiest joys to the most painful sorrows and every little thing in between, she had always been there for me. I treasure so many wonderful memories and am grateful for the time we spent together, but the disbelief that our story is over and the degree to which her loss still crushes me varies by the day.

Coincidentally, Peanut and Joel shared a birthday. For the first time in 13 years he won’t have his birthday buddy sharing a celebratory dinner and desert. She would have been 15-years-old today.

Peanut, you were a good girl, you did a good job, and we will always love you. Thank you for being here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twelve-Year Pugiversary

Joel and I were seconds away from meeting the dog that was advertised for sale in the local paper. As soon as Joel opened the door to the apartment complex, a then two-and-a-half-year-old Peanut* came trotting from around the corner of an open door and down the hall. “CLOSETHEDOORSHE’SESCAPING!” I yelled. Joel replied, “She’s fine, she’s not going anywhere.”

These would be the roles we would play as her parents for the next twelve years.

Peanut 5 4 04 Homecoming

Her first day on the job of being our best buddy.

I became the overly-protective fussy mother and Joel became the fun dad, the calming voice of reason and the guy she could count on for the “better” treats (certainly not healthier but generally better tasting).

Today we celebrate being a family of three for twelve years.

JoelArdenPeanut_5_16_04_1stPhoto

First family photo.

Much of last year was rough; we didn’t know if we’d reach this milestone. Peanut became very ill. Specifically, she had a MRSA infection and she continues to struggle with those original symptoms from last February which include nasal congestion that still varies in its intensity. Those issues were masking the effects of age that were obviously continuing to happen in the background–the arthritis and trouble that has evolved over time with a wonky wrist and shoulder. Our attention has since turned back towards pain management and mobility support. Now, her vision and her hearing have become rather limited as well.

To say that it has all taken its toll on me emotionally would be an understatement; it’s hard for me to see Peanut this way. Joel handles it much better than I do. He doesn’t like it either, of course, but I’m glad he can be strong when I can’t be. He reminds me that none of us have been cheated out of any time. Quite the opposite; we’ve had more time together than we thought we’d have. I realize this is all part of the journey but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

Arden Peanut Office Mates Then Now

My coworker has been sleeping on the job for 12 years and counting…

I’d love nothing more than to keep this post totally upbeat and fun, but over the past year I haven’t been able to help but think about what we’ve had to say goodbye to and the precious things we’ll never do again. However, it has made me cherish the unique, quirky, and intimate opportunities that come with loving and caring for a senior. Hide-and-seek has become me banging on the ground, pointing to treats, and pretending that she found them first. She is now hand-fed her meals from a cart because she has a hard time standing bent over and seeing food in her dish. Not all of it has been precious though, a lot of learning how to navigate and roll with the changes has been frustrating and downright heartbreaking.

These milestones have become more and more bittersweet.

I could never write a post that truly captures what Peanut means to me because it would never be complete. Heck, I wasn’t able to write this post, which looks nothing like the first few attempts, without crying my eyes out. I’d forever be writing and editing.

From whether or not she needs a coat to go outside, might be getting sick and needs to see the doctor, or has had one too many treats already FUN DAD, she tends to be what Joel and I end up squabbling over the most. She is, after all, our baby.

At 8:00 this morning, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the pug was snoozing peacefully at my side having just finished her breakfast. Joel and I will both leave work early so we can take a group stroll. It is all just as it should be and I am grateful. Happy Anniversary to us.

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12YearsZichs112YearsZichs2

*The people selling her, the second set of owners, referred to her as Princess. According to some paperwork in her folder that we were given, the name on her registration papers is Pretty Pretty Princess. Joel and I both quickly agreed that we’d change it but keep it somewhat similar so as not to totally confuse her. She is peanut-colored, hence the name Peanut. Ironically, we found out shortly after giving her peanut butter-flavored treats that she was allergic to peanuts! Peanut and Pretty Pretty Princess are only two of the countless names we’ve called her over the years (most others being too silly or nonsensical to mention).

Peanut already had pups and was spayed before we got her. I suspect she was originally purchased and bred for a profit, then sold off to her second owners. Over the years I have tried to find our grandpugs with no luck. I’d simply be interested to see what they look like and learn more about them. Perhaps their parents would be interested to learn about Peanut’s health issues, too. Peanut is registered with America’s Pet Registry, Inc. Her mother (dam) is Accardi’s Blossom-Whynonna and her dad (sire) is Rowdy B. I believe the breeder was from Joliet, IL, first owner from Aurora, IL, and the second owners from Elgin, IL. Her date of birth is 12/24/01. If anyone has information on the offspring from a pug named Pretty Pretty Princess, PLEASE reach out.

Home Made Small Dog Coat and Harness: When Store-Bought Won’t Do

A pug mom takes matters into her own hands when she discovers that it was impossible to buy off-the-rack for her barrel-chested baby.  

My experience with dog apparel started years ago with a really cute cowl neck knit pullover coat purchased from a pet store. It would keep Peanut’s bare belly warm, and as a bonus, she’d look extra adorable! Tags removed, I tried to work the pug into the sock-like tube. It wasn’t great. Later on I’d discover another off-the-rack coat that was not only thicker but also fastened with Velcro. Even better! Tags removed, I lifted her up from the front, awkwardly threaded her legs through the leg holes (which could take a while if she kept pulling her legs back out) and tried to affix the Velcro under the belly. It was about one to two inches away from fastening. I would continue to find a variety of coats that seemed like winners but always missed the mark.

Determined that Peanut would have a coat she could actually wear, I decided to take a sewing class and make one myself. Since I hadn’t touched a sewing machine since Junior High school, I took a basic sewing class from the local Jo-Ann Fabrics store. Our instructor Teri was fabulous and helped me pick out a good, basic sewing machine.

Experimenting with different patterns using fleece bulk fabric, I finally found a pattern that worked well.

  • It accommodates her barrel chest
  • It’s easy to get on and off
  • Peanut can be standing or sitting while I put on the coat
  • No awkward wrestling with getting legs in and out

From my various attempts, this is one of the designs I like best.

Winter Coat How-To

Materials

  • Fleece fabric: Whole piece sized large enough to fold over and cover the dog’s entire body from neck to tail. In my opinion, an extra layer for the tummy is a nice touch.
  • Velcro: Enough strips to be applied from neck to tail along the back side as well as at least two long strips on the underside that will fold over to meet the back. Having enough Velcro allows for easy application each time the coat is put on; nothing needs to line up exactly to get a snug fit.
  • Fabric Shears: Any scissors will do but fabric-only shears seem to make extra-sharp cuts.
  • Pins
  • Sewing Machine: Primarily for the Velcro as I find that too difficult to stitch by hand.

I started out by ensuring I first had the proper length with the cut for the neck. Next, I played around with how much I would need to cut away around the shoulders so that it narrowed properly. The only hems here are around the shoulders so that it looks a bit neater. The fabric keeps its shape well enough around all the edges. It doesn’t stretch out or fray so adding any additional length to your measurements for hems is unnecessary.

Note that the Velcro strips sewn on the back narrow towards the tail to accommodate a snugger fit for Peanut. (Her sparsely-furred belly hangs a bit back there and I did not want her catching a draft.) I did not modify the cut of the cloth, only how I applied the Velcro.

Use caution and common sense if you do any measuring, cutting, and pinning while the coat is on the dog!

homemade winter coat dog pug design stocky barrel chested

homemade winter coat dog pug putting on the coat.pptx

Coat-cum-Harness

Since the winter coats were originally created, Peanut has required some assistance with keeping her balance when we let her out to go potty. She has trouble at times keeping steady, especially on uneven ground. I assumed we’d need to purchase a separate harness, but when I considered factors such as the accuracy of fit, threading her into a harness four times a day, and possibly having to put the harness over the coat, I considered turning the existing coat into a harness. An internet search revealed a photo of a key chain ring that was sewn onto a fabric harness for just the upper body that would allow for attaching a leash. Bingo!

Materials

  • Dog coat
  • Key chain rings
  • Ribbon
  • Sewing machine
  • Bungee cord or luggage strap with hooks

Attaching ribbon and key chains to dog coat

I conveniently had access to lots of unused key chains, so I sewed a ribbon over the back of the coat and threaded it through the key rings. It’s important to consider where the pressure will be applied when pulling up so it’s as comfortable as possible on your bestie. I focused the pressure around the upper chest, avoiding the neck, and just below the hip bones. Since the coat covers the entire upper and lower body, the pressure should be more distributed.

Dog coat made into harness with key chain rings front and side view

Yes, I have my dog attached to a bungee cord – but hear me out! 

I could have used a strap with clips from a piece of luggage, for example, but I went with a bungee cord secured by twist ties. It’s a good length for me to hold (a bit short for my husband) and affords a little give when tugging upwards. The twist ties are a simple way to keep the cord hooks from unhooking.

Summer-Weight Harness

Using the same basic pattern of the winter coat, I created a summer-weight harness.

Summer and winter weight home made dog coat

Summer and winter weight home made dog coat 2

The pink coat in this photo has a variation in the Velcro pattern from the first coat shown. This pattern affords more wiggle room for where exactly the sides get attached. It’s a matter of preference.

The summer harness uses the same basic pattern of the winter coat which is cut from one large piece of cloth. Two pieces of cloth could be stitched together but the idea is that it folds over the dog so the dog is covered from the base of the underbelly to the base of the back. Most of the middle of the belly is cut away as well as the upper back. The straps along the back are about 2.5″ wide; leaving enough room for one to two strips of Velcro. To add back support for the key rings, two pieces of a stiffer fabric were sewn to both the front and back of the harness. Some additional editing for a snugger fit was required after the basic harness was created.

Summer weight dog harness details

Peanut in summer weight home made harness

There are undoubtedly rugged, well-crafted harnesses available for purchase. Those options were explored, but since I wanted something right away and was concerned about sizing and the inability to return a custom order, I decided to try my hand at making one. For our purposes, these home made coat/harnesses work perfectly well.

Rain Visor

A few years after I made my winter coat, I discovered this one by RC Pets purchased from Healthy Pet in Aurora, IL that is really close to what I had been originally searching for. Even though Peanut is petite for a pug, she is a size 14, so a bit larger than the total sizing and weight would suggest. It’s warm and attaches easily with velcro. As a bonus, it is also water resistant. In an “if-only-it-kept-the-rain-off-her-head-too” train of thought, I came up with a way to attach a rain visor to the collar.

Rain visor for dog coat using clear plastic and velcro

I purchased clear plastic fabric from the store and continually cut down the size in a visor shape until it appeared to hold up and not flop over from its own weight while pinned to either side. Using velcro, I cut little squares and stiched them to both the underside of the collar and the visor. If it’s not raining, I don’t use the visor.

I sewed key chain rings directly to the coat for harness support as well, so this is now our go-to coat for rainy days.

Dog coat color up and down with without rain visor

Want to see how I use mitten clips and suspenders to attach little doggie socks? Check out The Dogged Battle of Frosty Paws.

The Tent-tacular Outdoor Potty Tent

Last year was one of the coldest winters on record with extremely heavy snowfall; I won’t soon forget it. As temperatures started to drop this past fall, I couldn’t help but fret about what winter would have in store for us this year and how it would take its toll on Peanut’s potty time. Considering how difficult the whole process was for all of us and knowing that her little body would be taxed even further with age, I really wanted to make this season easier to manage.

My first thought was to buy an outdoor dog kennel and cover it with tarps or boards. There was much discussion between Joel and I about the ideal size of the kennel, how much to spend, how much work it would involve, the likelihood of Peanut actually using it, etc. After all, we tried using a bottomless camping tent outside a few years ago but we believe she did not use it because she thought she was still indoors.

I searched craigslist often over several weeks to find used kennels that might fit the bill but we never found anything that stood out as the best option.  Just when I thought this project was not going to happen, Joel proposed boarding up the sides of a pole tent we already owned.

Our project was a go.

Joel in the completed potty tent

A fine-looking potty tent indeed!

It has been over two months since we built the potty tent. I’ll cut to the chase and share that it has been a complete success ! We could not possibly be happier with the tremendous relief from the hassles of winters past. Why?

No snow or ice!* 
No getting knocked over by high winds!!
Instant access to clear, odiferous grass!!!

What We Used

  • 10 x 10 pole tent
  • 9 sheets of medium-density fibreboard (MDF) 97 mm thick; 3’ x 11’ 7/8” (1.21m x 2.43m) These boards were not designed for outdoor use
  • 2-3 boxes of small nuts and bolts
  • Gorilla Glue
  • 13 wooden lawn stakes
  • 12 cable ties
  • Table saw
  • Center support board
  • Truck (rented to get the boards to the house since our cars were not large enough)

Approximate total cost: $180 (excluding the tent which we already had)

The following is based on using the materials above and Joel’s measurements for our particular tent.

Confirming our plan: We put up the tent and picked out what we believed would be the best spot. We considered the distance from the door to the house and direction of wind.

Preparing the boards: This was a weekend project that Joel approximates took about eight hours. This included cutting the boards down two feet each in length so that they would not be taller than the tent. Boards were placed flat on the ground and overlapped about one foot on either side. For our tent, this meant using three boards per side for a total of nine. Joel then glued the overlapped sections together so that he had three full sides for the tent. Lastly, he drilled holes spaced about ten inches apart through the overlaps so that he could add nuts and bolts for extra strength.

close up of tent boards

Close up of glue, nuts, and bolts.

Attaching the boards: We transported the three tent walls around to the backyard where the tent had been erected. With the boards propped upright against the tent legs, Joel drilled holes into the boards where they met at the corners (top, middle, and bottom). This is where we fed the cable ties through, securing the boards to each other.

tent pole corner

 Duct tape secures the tent frame. Cable ties (2 of 3 shown) secure boards at right angles.
Slight buckling is is visible after two months.

 Securing the tent: The last steps included pounding in the wooden lawn stakes. This was meant to help stabilize the walls with the buckling and movement we expected to occur from winds and general outdoor wear and tear. The stakes were added to both the inside and outside for stability and extra strength against wind.

tent and lots of snow

 Two outside stakes are visible. This has to be done before the ground freezes.

The potty tent was completed in the nick of time. It snowed that same weekend. We were deliriously happy that the tent remained completely clear, however, Peanut was not immediately sure what to make of it. We had to keep her in socks since she ambled in and out of the tent for several days. I later added two small leaf piles to the tent when I made the connection that leaves seemed to…inspire her. That’s all it took. Once she went potty in the tent, the rest of the snow-covered yard became completely undesirable.**

view from inside the potty tent

 View from inside.

After two months’ time, the boards have buckled a bit but it’s not bad. We made it a point to brush off any snow that would collect on the top of the tent because the cover is only a thin canvas material. Because we grew concerned about just how much snow the cover could take, we added a tarp over the tent draped down at an angle from our deck for added security. I’m not sure how we would have reinforced the canvas top if we didn’t have this option.

potty tent is holding up in extreme snow falls

View of inside. Several wooden stakes support the walls on all sides.

We’re delighted that the tent has provided an excellent barrier from snow and wind; it’s exactly what we hoped for and then some. The benefits we have all enjoyed have far exceeded the cost of materials and our efforts to build it. We don’t intend for this tent to be up year round, only for winter. It would be great if we could reuse these same materials, but if not, we will absolutely consider investing in sturdier components for future use.

Hopefully others who have similar problems can use this idea to create their own wintertime potty oasis!

Peanut in the potty tent

Peanut gives the potty tent two dew claws up!

*A little snow collected in the corners when winds were extremely high.

**Peanut also made the connection that being in the potty tent equaled treats. Because she is so food-motivated and a bit too smart for her own good, she would go in there and do somewhat of a curtsy while staring at me like she did her part and now it was my turn. We had to once again start rewarding potty anywhere she went outside, just so long as she knew that inside the tent area was also an acceptable choice.

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.

NEW
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 adjustments that work for us.

MODIFIED
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 (cold 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. I make sure I’m standing over her or right next to her to keep her from falling in case she stumbles. 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. The added stimulation of seeing and smelling what’s going on around the ‘hood is great, too.

Joel walks Peanut in buggy dog stroller

STOPPED
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 challenging 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 PugVillage.com for their compassion and support on this journey through senior care.

Through 2016

Towards the end of 2015 and around the time Peanut turned 14, her physical activity was limited to walking on carpet around the house when she was up for it, walks outside in the buggy, and trips out for laser therapy. Based on a tip we received in a Face Book support group for pugs with walking issues, we purchased a laundry cart to ease the burden on her bad shoulder and wrist; there was nothing more from a therapy perspective to make them any better. I fed her in the cart and pushed her around in it as I did things around the house – cleaning, cooking, working, etc. Not only did she not mind it, she seemed to like the view from a few feet higher than she otherwise saw the world and the ability to “go for rides” around the house all day.  I loved the fact that we could still do things together around the house without the physical burden of her trying to keep up. I can’t express enough how valuable having this cart was for us in her last  year.

 

Arden Peanut Outside Deck May 22 2016PeanutLaundryCart

Adventures in Aging Canine Physical Rehabilitation

Our sassy little senior has swagger! Unfortunately a bit too much swagger…

We noticed that Peanut had a slightly awkward gait shortly after she joined our family when she was just two years old. As a pup, it made her more impossibly precious. Now? Not so much. The misalignment has progressed over time and has caused a number of issues with her shoulder and wrist, so we’ve been back to the drawing board several times in attempts to address the problems. We finally found a regimen that seems to be working well for us that includes a combination of in-office visits and home exercises.

Seeking Treatment

Through the years, we’ve gotten a number of consultations and tried a few different treatments. An animal neurologist suggested that it could be a neurologic disease or tumor, and the only way to know for sure would be an MRI. Since the problem had been getting slowly worse through the years, we decided it was likely not cancer and opted to not put her through the MRI procedure.

We gave acupuncture an honest effort but all Peanut did was fuss and nip at the doctor, hardly the “most dogs fall asleep” experience that I had been told was the norm. We didn’t really notice any changes with the chiropractic care to warrant repeated visits either. (We are, however, getting good results from chiropractic adjustments to address hindquarter instability.)

Watching the problem slowly but surely progress, I sought out local rehabilitation centers to see what, if any, treatments might help out our little buddy. While there were a few different treatments to choose from, we decided to first go with K-Laser therapy. The goal is to reduce symptoms of pain and immobility by promoting circulation and decreasing inflammation. During the treatments, the technician repeatedly stroked the laser wand over the affected areas. For Peanut, this was her hips, knees, lower back, and wrists.

While it was not a miraculous turnaround, I did notice some improvement which was encouraging.

Peanut getting laser treatments

Here Peanut is receiving laser therapy. The treatments don’t hurt at all, it’s just that mummy’s little lamb chop sometimes gets a bit nippy. 

After completing the recommended dosing of laser therapy, we switched to Alpha-Stim treatments coupled with water therapy. We were told that neurological issues were generally more responsive to this method, so this different approach would allow us to observe whether or not one method was better than the other for treating Peanut’s issues. We did not observe any noticeable results at all however, so we stopped after three treatments.

Peanut on the underwater treadmill

The Six Million Dollar Pug: Better than she was before. Better… stronger… faster.

We have since switched back to laser treatments twice a month coupled with monthly chiropractic adjustments as well as daily at-home exercises. Because I have seen noticeable results from the laser and the adjustments, I think it is worth the effort to continue treatments. I’m all for diet, exercise, and medication alternatives whenever possible, especially when medications have serious side effects.

At Home Exercise

Note: These were recommended for us. Please consult your veterinarian or a licensed animal physical therapist to ensure that any exercise you do with and for your pet aside from standard day-to-day activities and play is appropriate.

The canine physical therapist gave us a series of daily exercises to perform at home to help strengthen her weak spots. We were met with some resistance when we tried to recreate the setup. Seeing as “Good girl!” is not nearly enough of an impetus to obey our commands, we learned that to get cooperation, we had to pay the pugnacious pug price: popcorn.

Daily step-overs (or what has become gallop-overs) to force Peanut to deliberately coordinate the lifting and lowering of the legs. We needed some type of long pole to lay on the floor for her. We just happened to have a whole bunch of snow brushes that fit the bill, so that is our completely sane and reasonable explanation as to why there are four snow brushes lined up on the floor of a carpeted storage closet. If we don’t do this exercise by noon, she will remind me that she needs therapy (read: popcorn).

Peanut step over exercises

Peanut’s rating: 4 popcorns

All I have to do is walk over some poles for popcorn? Ha HA! Suckers! I could do this all day!

Figure Eights Another exercise designed to help the deliberate coordination of movement and force her to put more weight on her bad side to build up strength.

Peanut figure eight exercises

Peanut’s rating: 2 popcorns

I don’t understand this one. Walking around in circles? Can I just have the popcorn?

Treat Ball Knocking the treats out of the ball with her paws is great for coordination as well as general stimulation.

Peanut with treat ball

Peanut’s rating: 3 popcorns

Knocking treats out of the ball is awesome until that last one that never seems to want to come out. I’m going to stop and stare at it now until you help me get it.

Stability Using a half-inflated yoga ball, this exercise intends to make Peanut use her entire body to stay balanced. We do most of the work holding her up and we only get a minute’s worth of balancing at best but it is still a good addition to the regimen. (She is NOT left to try to balance on the ball without support! We’re holding her the entire time.)

Peanut on the yoga ball

Peanut’s rating: half kernel

Meh. Giving this half a kernel is generous. This one’s just weird. 

As an added benefit, these exercises and activities seem to do as much for her mentally as they do physically.

Next on the list to troubleshoot is loss of hearing! I have already started teaching her sign language. Our very first sign that took no time at all to learn? BONE!

NEW: Adventures in Aging Canine Physical Rehabilitation Part 2 added January 20th, 2015