We’ve joked that we’re simply building a very expensive dog house. And maybe we’re not joking. After spending many years doing animal rescue work (specifically Cocker Spaniels- but we’ve had a Chow here and a pitbull there….) you realize that how a dog ages provides a micro level view on how WE age. The only thing that is different, is that dog’s just “get on with it” and don’t go through the whiny stage.
We’ve had dogs with all sorts of infirmities – deaf dogs, blind dogs, dogs with heart problems, joint problems, skin issues, etc. They all adapted. They just go about their day to day routines and adapt. No complaining, no feeling sorry for themselves – just “being”. And one particular little dog was extra special.
Alex came into our lives when a client of our veterinarian could no longer care for him. He was VERY thin, and blind from cataracts. At only 6 years old – he was far too young to be in such rough shape. Her office called and said “Dr Grant has a dog for you”… And so it was. Alex joined the family.
Turns out he was thin only because the other dog in the house was bullying him for food. And – one cataract was operable. The other was not – his retina was shot and it was starting to cause him pain as it developed glaucoma. So – we did surgery in 2005, restored his sight in one eye, and installed a prosthesis in the other eye. Alex was visual again. Sadly, it didn’t last. After developing glaucoma (more surgery, more meds), detaching a retina (laser retinal reattachment surgery, more meds) we finally lost the battle and he was blind. Permanently.
Honestly- he didn’t care. He used his other senses to get around, and when he bumped into things, he just readjusted and moved on. We called him our little Roomba. Everywhere around the house, we had / have nose prints about a foot off the floor. Stainless steel and scrubbable flat latex paint are our friends.
Alex died 2 weeks ago. Suddenly, and really without warning. He looked “off” Friday night, I took him to NCSU’s Vet School ER, and he was dead within an hour and a half.
We never anticipated it – he was “only” 13. We designed the house for our older dogs with various infirmities. What we found out, is that in doing that – we were using many of the principles of universal design. THEY taught US. One level, low maintenance, self cleaning roof, wide hallways, no curb on the shower, zero thresholds at the doorways – all things that would help our little blind dog. We knew he’d love wandering around in the safe, level, fenced back yard. And now he won’t.
We’re still shophouse, but we’re just as much Alexhouse. Rest in Peace little buddy…