I was originally going to title this post “A Happy Sight”, but our beagle Cricket is just not quite where we hoped she would be yet. Yes, she’s been carrying her ball around, and even playing just a little bit here and there, but she is still not completely back to her old high energy self, her arthritis still has her down.
She’s shown some improvement: she’s been barking more when I get home, and she’s been running around from time to time. When I got home from work last Friday, she went romping around the yard like a puppy and it just made me smile! But most activity like that is short lived. She’s still stumbling on the steps at times, and when I took her for just a short walk today, her legs were shaking when we got back.
I had taken her for a walk a week ago with the same results. But at that point, she had only been on a higher dose of meds for her arthritis for a couple of days. I thought some short walks might be good for her, but even a 10-minute one was too much. I decided to give it a week and try again, and that was yesterday but the results were about the same.
My gut feeling is that Cricket’s ball playing days are over, and that makes me sad. But honestly, I think I’m taking it harder than she is. She seems pretty happy otherwise, and I think the pain in her knees is probably worse some days than others.
After all, our vet said the bottom line was this: if Cricket were a human, she’d be looking at a double knee replacement. Her knees are that bad. It makes me feel like maybe we let her do too much over the last year, after her original diagnosis. But we let her do what she wanted to, and we want our dogs to be happy. Besides, that is what our vet advised: let her do what she wanted as long as it wasn’t bothering her. In typical Cricket fashion, she was fine one minute and suddenly stopped the next. This bad spell did not come on gradually. I think if she could talk, she’d tell us that she wouldn’t trade in this last year for anything. There’s always time to slow down, and that time is probably now for her.
I’m the one left at loose ends, trying to get the other dogs the exercise they need, when Cricket isn’t there to run the game. We’ve been playing fetch for the last 12 years with our little beagle, and once Luke joined the family almost 3 years ago, it’s been pretty much a daily activity. It’s a routine I was used to, and that I’m missing very much.
I’m still figuring out new routines, and I’ll fill you in on how I’m managing that another time. My biggest concern is that with Cricket’s activity level down, she’ll gain weight. That would be the worst thing for her arthritis. However, we know how to do this. After all, Cricket’s late beagle brother Kobi was pretty much a couch potato, but we always managed to keep him at a healthy weight.
To help keep Cricket occupied, I’ve started training her in the nose works that I’ve been doing with Luke. She’s not quite as adept at it as Luke, but she’s making progress. Since the class we were taking is over, we’re going more slowly, so she’s not getting quite as much practice as Luke did initially. But training means more treats, so we’ve got to factor that into the equation as well. The good thing for us is that Cricket, like Luke, doesn’t need super high value treats for training. I often use just kibble, interspersed with higher value treats. If anyone has favorite low calorie but tasty treats though, feel free to share in the comments what they are!
The most challenging thing about Cricket is that she only knows how to go two speeds: 100 miles per hour, or zero. So when I take her on those walks, I have to try to slow her down. If she hears a noise outside or sees a chippie, she goes tearing out the door slipping and sliding but not slowing down! The toughest thing for her seems to be stairs so there is one bright spot: thank goodness we moved to this new house, because our old house with tons of stairs would have been too much for her. At the most this house has three stairs in a row.
I said it before, as long as that tail of hers keeps wagging, I’ll know she’s happy:
Now, does anyone have any hints on how to slow her down when she’s feeling good? Maybe we should sedate her for a while (kidding, of course!)?
2 Brown Dawgs says
Do you have a place near you that does hydro therapy? It might be something for exercise that is easy on her joints. A good therapist can get any dog in the water and loving it.
No, unfortunately, we don’t. 🙁
I’m sorry to hear this. We’ve had a similar situation with Sampson and had to make the decision to increase his meds and put him on muscle relaxers. (I need to write about this….grrr…) But when he’s feeling okay, it’s so hard to have to tell him not to run, or wrestle with Delilah.
Thankfully, he listens well and I think he really does know that he can’t do some things anymore. When he goes in the bedroom with the high bed, he doesn’t even try to get up there anymore, he just lies down on the floor. For us we started out just keeping him on leash when taking him out, but now, like I said, he’s moderating himself.
I just sent you a message….
I think that’s the toughest part, Jodi, trying to find the balance between letting them just enjoy life but trying to keep them feeling well at the same time.
I’m happy to say that Cricket seems to be feeling better the last couple of days (knock wood). I think she knows her ball playing days are pretty much over, but she’s been spending more time outside in the yard just smelling around, and playing with some toys on her bed. She definitely seems to know her limitations (most of the time) too.
When our Golden Retriever Bentley was too old for active playing – in his 16th year (he lived to be 17 years old) we played while he stayed on his bed. I rarely played tug with him (it’s not a behavior I wanted to reinforce) but he loved doing it so we started playing tug so that he’d have to wriggle around a lot and engage most of his body muscles as we gently pulled on his tug toys. We’d do tug sitting, laying on his tummy, or laying on his back. We also played “senior fetch” where he’d stay on his bed and I’d throw his ball to him, then have fun trying to get it out of his mouth! It kept him engaged, entertained, and being active without having to get around on very old hips. I’m sure you’ll find ways to modify your play routines to keep Cricket happy and engaged and doing whatever matches her abilities.
Thank you for those great ideas! On weekend mornings when I sleep in a bit, Cricket will often bring a toy up on the bed before I get up. I’ll play tug with her a little bit then, so I’ll have to be sure to do that more often.
Sand spring Chesapeake says
Oh cricket, just love the seniors and it’s hard to watch them slow down.
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
Aw, poor Cricket. Shadow stumbles on the steps sometimes, too, but she is stubborn about going up (and down) on her own. Just like Callie was.
I have found that using an ice pack on Shadow’s joints, even if only for 5 minutes at a time, helps cool the inflammation enough to help her walk better. Her arthritis isn’t as bad as Cricket’s, but I think 10-15 minutes on/off might help Cricket some too. I just put ice cubes in a Baggie and then wrap a washcloth around it. I place it on whichever joint feels warmest, and after 5 minutes, put it on the other joint or just wait 5 minutes and put it back on the same joint for another 5 minutes. The trick is to love on her while holding the pack in place. And Shadow loves being loved on.
The Sojos Blueberry Cobbler treats are low-calorie (not sure of the exact count), and they break in half easily. Or, like Emma said, use some of Cricket’s meal kibble for treats.
Sheba does well on stairs, but I think it’s because her arthritis is in her front shoulders, whereas Cricket’s is in her back knees.
Cricket is SO stubborn about getting help on the stairs! She will let us help her up on the furniture though, but I have to watch her so I can help her down when she’s ready too.
Thank you for the idea about the ice, I’ll have to try that. We’ve had those Sojos blueberry treats before too, and they loved them, so I’ll have to get some more.
I’m glad that Cricket’s still loving life, but I’m sorry that you’re having to adjust to a new normal. I can’t remember how Cricket feels about veggies–but green beans and carrots cut into little bits and frozen peas work for Barley when we need low cal treats. Unfortunately, Barley won’t work long for veggies, but she’ll tolerate them for a little bit.
That’s so funny that you said that, Beth, I have been planning a blog post something along the lines of “Trying to find a new normal”! Unfortunately, veggies are a no go with Cricket. But that does remind me that I should try those with Luke, because he loves most, and I think with him I could at least mix them in.
Lynn LaChance says
No advice, just love that Cricket-and you are doing great with her, as always. For sure as you say, as long as she is happy, and she certainly is!
Good luck with Cricket. My son had a dog that suffered from arthritis. She lived a long time and full life but it was difficult to watch her as she aged.
Thank you! It’s probably harder on me than it is on her, really. 🙂
The Island Cats says
Aw, poor Cricket. We don’t know anything about nose work, but as long as she’s happy…that’s what matters.
M. K. Clinton says
I know how difficult it is to see our best buddies slow down. Cricket will enjoy nose work. ♥
Caren Gittleman says
I don’t know about nose work, but you have a lot of people who read your blog that are far more knowledgeable than I am, that sounds like the way to go. Poor sweetie, I wish they could talk so that we really knew how they are feeling. xoxo
Nose work should wear her out mentally. You just have to use low cal treats, or if she eats kibble, give her part of her kibble meal in treats for nose work searches.
That’s a good idea, Emma, thank you. I’ve used kibble a little bit but I need to measure it out I think to be sure she’s really getting the right amount of food in a day. She’s really enjoying the nose work too, and coming along well!
Jen Gabbard says
Nose work has been a tremendous help for keeping my dog busy & entertained without overdoing it physically. We also do some food puzzles & frozen Kongs to keep Laika’s mind occupied since she can’t do as much exercise anymore because of her arthritis. When it comes to fetch we do some short indoor games in the living room; I really didn’t know if she’d enjoy it or not since it’s not nearly as ‘exciting’ as chasing something across the yard but she still loves it. I think the fact that we have thick carpet makes it much easier on her joints, which is why I’ve never seen any more lameness or pain afterwards, but of course every dog is different.
As far as trying to keep her from getting too over excited I wish I had some decent advice, it’s something I’ve been trying to work on as well. We’ve looked into the ‘relaxation protocol’ but have had varied results so far. I’m sure I’m not quite as consistent on that point as I should be though.
I think our lack of carpeting is a big problem here. I just ordered some throw rugs though, and a long runner for the hallway so maybe I can try a little ball with Cricket there when it comes. I’ve done gentle tosses of the ball in the yard when she seems interested, but then she just takes the ball and brings it in the house!
I had tried the relaxation protocol with Luke, and it went well for a while but then it didn’t. I don’t see it working with Cricket. If she knows there are treats around there is no way she is going to sit still – LOL!
easy rider says
I’m sure the nose work is a good way to keep her entertained :o) and I’m sure she is astill a super happy pup, she has you and her siblings :o)