As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently bumped up Leah’s annual vet exam because she was having difficulty getting up from a down, and also because we thought we may have gotten to the bottom of “the noise” issue she’s been having. Our vet wanted to address her mobility issues first, and even though Leah’s blood work came back with flying colors, he put her on a very mild supplement, (Duralactin), with relatively few side effects, due to her age.

Leah’s hip and leg bones are starting to protrude from under the skin on her hindquarters, and she is definitely thinning in that area, but she is not underweight anywhere else. It saddens me, as I believe it is muscle wasting from age, and if that is the reason she is having a hard time standing, I don’t see how supplements (or even pain killers) are going to do much good. But we’re trying them anyway, just in case her arthritis is to blame.

And now, for the past few days, Leah has not been wanting to eat in the mornings. Before you go assuming it’s the new supplement, I should mention, Leah has never been a great eater in the mornings, and sometimes she refuses to eat entirely. But lately, (even before the Duralactin), it seems to be occurring more frequently. We will of course bring it up to my vet on Monday, but my heart tells me it’s not the meds.

Leah’s “Grandma” sent home a care package of some roasted turkey and white rice for Leah last night when I mentioned she wasn’t eating well, and Leah scoffed that up this morning, so I will probably be putting healthy add-ins into her morning meals if the problem continues. At least she is still eating the “good” stuff.

Besides the standing and eating issues, Leah has developed a new nocturnal behavior that puzzles me. For the past eight and a half years, she has always slept in her bed on the floor right beside me, with the exception of during thunder storms, during which she lays on the far side of the room against the closet (and away from the window). But for the past few weeks, not long after we douse the lights, I hear her get up out of her bed and head over to the closet to curl up on the bare floor.

There have been no storms.

It’s disheartening, and feels almost foreboding, to wake in the middle of the night and have my eyes fall upon her empty bed…

Yet I keep putting these issues out of mind, trying to remain in denial, and I’d practically succeeded – because NONE of these things affected me like what happened TODAY.

Today, I entered the house after a day of running errands with my mom, and for the first time – EVER – Leah DID NOT GET UP to greet me when I came in the door. Normally, Leah races to me as if she hasn’t seen me in weeks, bouncing around, wooing at me, sometimes grabbing my entire arm in her mouth, even if, like today, its only been five hours…

Today, although she wagged her tail when I said “Hello” to her and each time I reached down to pet her…Leah never stood. Not even when I brought in three armloads full of meat from Costco…

Today, Leah remained lying there on the cold hard kitchen tiles while I unpacked everything and even returned an important phone call. She just lay there, silently watching me with her big brown eyes, and my heart sunk a little further each time I walked past her.

Today, Leah did not bother to get up at all, not until after I let Meadow out of her crate – most likely to prevent herself from getting run over. (Meadow exits her crate by bounding about the house like a character out of Bambi).

Today, there are tears in my eyes as I write this.

This is my sweet senior, after she finally stood, flashing me my favorite doggie grin.

Today, my heart is breaking.

20 Responses so far.

  1. Kristine says:

    *hugs* I’m sorry. It’s so tough. Remember though that tomorrow may be completely different. She may have some days when getting up just seems like too much work, but I am sure she’ll also have others where you’ll wonder if she isn’t just a like a puppy. It’s not easy, though, and I know there is nothing I can say to make it better. I hope the vet appointment gives you some more information.

    PS. That photo of Leah is lovely. What a happy girl

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Kristine…and she is looking a bit better today, and so I’m feeling a bit better. She had a physical already about two weeks ago, so we only need to give him an update tomorrow. She does have to go back in soon though, because I also found a little lump, very lipoma like, so not very worried about that at least, but she’ll be going in shortly to have him aspirate it, just in case. (I have lump phobia)

  2. Cindy Brucksch says:

    Thinking of you today and hope for an improved outcome. Good luck. Keep the faith!

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Cindy. Like everyone is saying, she is entitled to her bad days, its just very hard to watch. (as I know, you know.)

  3. Ritsa says:

    It’s so hard watching them get old. My 12 1/2 year old Kensi still gets very excited when I come home, but can’t always get up to say hello. I do hope Leah gets better.

    • Donna says:

      I keep forgetting Kensi and Leah are the same exact age…it is so hard, isn’t it? All of my previous animals have gone unexpectedly, I’m not sure which is worse. At least, then, you aren’t constantly thinking about it, no matter how hard you try not to.

  4. Daria says:

    It’s so hard to have the senior dogs. Having the 2 older greys and hearing their panting when we go out for a walk I can empathize. Like someone else said remember tomorrow could be completely different. Mars is being his normal grumpy, but lovable self this evening. I’m planning on taking him to the Mattituck Strawberry Festival tomorrow to help at the GG table – and remember I posted that I’m hoping to get another 25 visits as therapy dog out of him. Downy pees like a racehorse now, and has the lump on his tail that the vet said to leave there and is down to only 26 teeth. But he eats his kibble and gets around. Thanks heavens for Trea being here. BTW – there are times I come home and Mars doesn’t bother greeting me anymore – usually when he has the bed upstairs to himself. Sending hugs and hope for the best.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks so much Daria. I know Mars will get those 25 visits too! I worry about Toby aging too, but not as much as Leah lately. Like you said about Trea, it is nice to have young Meadow around….although she’s had her own fair share of health scares too!.

  5. Jodi says:

    Oh Donna, I have tears in my eyes as I type this. I’m sorry. Kristine is right though, tomorrow is another day. You know perhaps they are like us, as I’ve aged sleep has become a limited commodity. There are many nights I’ve gotten up to go lie in the other room, Sampson will now lay in the dog bed at the end of our bed when before he always laid right beside me. Give the medicine a bit of time to work. I am sending you big hugs. :-)

    • Donna says:

      Yeah, I guess she could just be restless. One part of me wants to block off the area by the closet, but I know that would be just selfish of course, so I won’t. I just hate looking at that empty bed!

  6. Pamela says:

    I think you’ll find many of us can relate to your worry and heartbreak. I hope Leah has good days to look forward to with you.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Pamela. This is the first time I’ve watched one of my own dogs go through this…of course I grew up with dogs that aged, but those were my mom’s dogs. The only other dog that I lost, died quite unexpectedly at a young age, and while the two cats and the ferret I lost lived to be older, they all left me in a blink. It really is tough to experience this for the first time, and I hate to think of her body giving up before her mind.

  7. Kelly says:

    It’s hard when they aren’t as mobile and stop greeting you at the door. With Tuck, that happened at age 9, and he’s now 13 1/2, so with management, you can have many more years ahead. Tuck has nights when he is restless, and he chooses to sleep in the office, or at the foot of the bed, instead of right next to me in bed (yeah, he’s spoiled!).

    Tuck takes daily Metacam for pain relief. As long as he gets it daily, he can take a smaller amount than if he goes without for a few days. Tuck also has acid reflux. We started on Pepcid, and that worked great for a year, then we had to move to Prilosec when he needed something stronger. He also gets a bit of distilled aloe in his meals, to help with digestion. Tucker also has what we call the “old man’s hack” when he coughs.

    It’s disheartening to see the changes as they age, but with some extra care, there will be more years of mischief and love ahead.

    Kelly (and Dennis)

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Kelly (and Dennis) – it’s nice to hear with so many similar problems hanging around for so long, Tuck is now 13 1/2 and is still going strong – so he can demolish every pizza box in his path! :-)

  8. Teri says:


    I’ve been there and it isn’t fun but I also wouldn’t trade those “old dog” memories for anything. My old girl taught me so much in her last years and I am forever grateful for those lessons. Do you sleep with a night light? I found that was key for my Lucy as she seemed to be disoriented and scared at night when she woke and couldn’t see properly. Perhaps that is the same with Leah and she feels safer in the closet?

    • Donna says:

      I do have a nightlight Teri, but you never know…lying near the closet door is where she goes when she is afraid of storms, so I do wonder if it is some kind of anxiety thing. Just another one of those examples of times I really, really wish my dogs could talk.

  9. It sounds like she likes the coolness of the floor. Sorry to hear that she is not feeling well. It is hard when our pets age.

  10. Leslie says:

    Oh Donna, I’m so sorry for your heart-ache. It really is hard to watch our dogs age. Remembering when they were so small and energetic, makes it all the more bittersweet. But these are the days to cherish. Spoil that beautiful girl rotten (give her rice and turkey as often as you can if that’s what makes her tail wag. ;)

    That said, a few more practical thoughts: are you familiar with any of the mobility assistance tools? (See for ideas.) We used a variety of harnesses for Beau when he started having trouble standing in his old age. Sometimes they just need a little lift to help them up. I’d be more than happy to talk to you about what products we found useful and what we found lacking.

    Lastly, Bella has recently started having issues sleeping through the night. And we almost know for certain it has been anxiety (as most things are with Bella.) I wonder if there’s something in the phase of the moon or the season that is affecting more sensitive dogs? Like your Leah, Bella has slept by my side for the last 3 years so it’s really unusual for her to sleep somewhere else. I just thought it was really strange when you said Leah was doing the same thing as I have no explanation as to why Bella started doing it… Recently we’ve been giving her something to help her sleep (Benadryl or Melatonin would work if it’s compatible with any other meds you have her on) and it’s actually worked for the last 3 nights in a row… Just an idea to discuss with your vets. You never know…

    Thinking of you and your Leah.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks for your sympathy Leslie, I guess everyone goes through this with their seniors, but its a first for me. I have not looked at mobility devices yet, although I know in a pinch I can wrap a towel under her to help lift her…and since she runs around pounds, I’d probably need it. If it comes to that, I will email you for some advice on which ones you used, and I appreciate the offer to help.

      That said, it is so weird that Bella is displaying a similar nighttime routine. Other than loud noises, Leah is not a stressy/anxious dog like Bella and my Meadow, which makes it an even odder behavior for Leah. Maybe you’re right about something in the air…it is 2012 after all! Once Leah is comfy by the closet, she does sleep, so no need for sleep aids – I think the behavior troubles me more than her. But we do use Melatonin for fireworks and storms…and it does calm her a lot, so it was a good thought to suggest. :-)

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