A Painful Goodbye

I have spent the last week looking for words more elegant than “I feel like someone ripped a hole in my heart,” but I haven't found any. Perhaps there aren't any. Last fall I shared a bit of the experience we had been going through with Sirius Black. After he went blind, it was initially diagnosed as SARDS, a poorly understood condition, but one that has few side effects besides the blindness itself. Over time, he should have adjusted to the blindness and generally resumed generally normal activity. He didn't. Over the last few months, his condition gradually deteriorated. He could walk less far and became confused more often. Eventually, he could not walk or even respond at all. Looking back, we can even spot signs of deterioration in June of 2016 or possibly earlier; before he showed overt signs of blindness. Frequent vet visits and repeated tests brought us no closer to a firm diagnosis, while gradually eliminating possibilities that promised...
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Day 30: Safe Spaces

It is important that your dog have a safe place in your house to go when necessary. This could be a crate, dog-safe room, or other location. For Sirius, he goes in his crate when we leave the house, because it is the safest place for him to avoid dangers such as stairs while unsupervised. Safe spaces may also be used when contractors are in your house, when your dog needs a quiet area, or for other reasons. Your dog's safe space should be just that—a safe space and not a punishment. Ideally, your dog would know how to go to his or her safe space on a cue. ...
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Day 23: Take Your Medicine

As much as we all hope our dogs will stay forever young and healthy, the truth is that sooner or later most will need some type of medication, whether painkillers after surgery or topical medicine to treat an injury or infection. Administering these medications can be difficult, especially if your dog is not used to this type of handling. Start adjusting your dog to potential handling of this type in advance can be helpful. If your dog's breed is prone to certain illnesses, that may also give you an idea what to prepare for....
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Day 18: ID Please

I mentioned wearing an appropriate collar or harness a few days ago, but no matter what your dog wears for walks, proper ID is also necessary. Your dog should have an ID tag with the best contact information. Be sure to update this if it changes. I have found multiple dogs wearing tags with outdated information. You may also choose to include information about medical concerns, as I have. Even if your dog has a microchip, an ID tag is the best way to get them home quickly in any incident. Think of the microchip as insurance if the tag gets lost rather than a primary form of ID....
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Day 14: Equip Yourself

You need to have the right equipment for what you want to do. I don't recommend trail hiking in dress shoes, and I don't recommend walking your dog without the appropriate gear. We used to use a harness for Sirius Black, but after he lost his sight, he found the harness stressful, so we switched to a wide martingale collar that he seems to find easier but doesn’t put too much pressure on his throat. ...
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Awareness

The way you see the world changes when you have a dog. Suddenly, you are aware of the movement of squirrels, the presence of rabbits, and deposits of trash and litter in a way you haven't been before. Many people find this startling the first time they get a dog. Of course, even experienced dog owners can be surprised by how interested their new hound is in scents or their new greyhound in quick-moving animals. Getting a new pet is not the only time we can have to make these types of adjustments. Changes in the family situation can require similar adjustments. Introducing a new cat or small animal into the family? You will need to be aware of it's location relative to your dogs. Having a baby or have a small child visiting? You need to arrange for constant supervision. Changes in your pet's health can also require adjustments. Currently, we are learning to be aware of potential dangers we've always...
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Something Unseen

Something Unseen

Sorry that I haven't written in a while. It has been a bit of a rough period. As you're about to read. I have discussed before what happens when we change the rules for our dogs, but the truth is, we don't have to change anything: life is always changing. A few months ago, we started noticing some changes in Sirius Black’s behavior. He was no longer reacting to, or even seeming to notice, wildlife along our walks, unless it crossed directly in front of us. He also showed some hesitancy on walks, above what could be expected from the hot weather. He also had accidents in the house at times when he never would have normally. We had no reason to particularly link these behavior changes, and, at first, we didn't. Then, about two weeks ago, he started walking into things. This wasn't just an enthusiastic dog who wasn't watching where he was going. He was walking straight into trees. He...
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