Age is Just a Number
Old Dog Haven’s Walk for Old Dogs was held on July 17 and you’ll be able to read a full report of the Walk in our September newsletter as well as on our Facebook page, but in this blog I want to feature the two oldest dogs at the Walk—Oliver (20) and KayCee (18) because these two oldies but goodies are poster dogs that represent what Old Dog Haven is all about, and at ages 20 and 18 respectively, are living proof that age really is just a number.
As you’re reading about Oliver and KayCee I’d like you to think positive thoughts for these two little warriors that are having wonderful second chances at happiness thanks to Old Dog Haven and to Mary, John and Monica.
I could talk about Oliver and KayCee, but I’d really like you to hear what their human companions have to say about them so I’ll turn the blog over to the women who know them best. Here’s what Mary Schumacher has to say about Oliver:
“I first saw Oliver’s picture on the ODH Facebook page in 2011. He was scheduled to be euthanized if nobody would foster him. It was a pretty pathetic picture of this little face behind a chain link fence with super big ears and ‘Urgent’ in bold red letters across his face. When I contacted ODH about Oliver (at that time a pup with no name) I had lots of questions, but of course many could not be answered because you just don’t know until you get a dog home if there are behavioral issues. We were approved to foster and I made arrangements to pick up Oliver from the Tacoma Humane Society on 6/4. All we really knew was that he was 15 years old.
“I took Pickles, our five year old Chihuahua, with me so they could meet. Pickles and Oliver showed little interest in each other at the shelter and Oliver cried all the way home because I had put him in a crate for safekeeping during the drive. We found out later he really does not like being crated unless Pickles is with him. Once home, I put his new gear on him and let him out of the car and he was a different dog. Smile on his face and wagging tail. He was also very smitten with Pickles. So much she begged to be held to get away from him. This did not deter him and he jumped right up on John’s lap and started in licking her ears and eyeballs. To this day, Oliver keeps her well-groomed and Pickles lets him know, not always so nicely, when she has had enough. I was undecided on a name, but once I met the handsome old fellow I decided on Oliver, which turns out to be the perfect name—he is very sensitive fellow, which is exactly how I imagine someone named Oliver should be.
“Oliver had awful teeth and had 22 teeth pulled and was neutered at the same time on 6/14. I hate to say it but he lost his smile after the dental, which made me really sad. I determined that once his dental issues were taken care of that he would be a good candidate for adoption and Judith agreed. Mid July someone contacted ODH and Judith thought Oliver might be a good fit, but John and I had already been talking about adopting Oliver as we were in love and Oliver and Pickles were in love. Visitors to our home even noticed how much Oliver loved us. So, after the first “scare” of adoption I reached out to Judith and asked if we could adopt Oliver. He’s been with us for just over five years.
“We are so grateful to ODH for the investment in Oliver. ODH provides new dogs with fabulous medical and dental when required which, having dogs of my own, I know is very expensive. Oliver had to have the rest of his teeth removed a couple of years ago. He also requires periodic cardio ultrasounds, bloodwork and other testing based on his advanced years. We have been fortunate that for the most part Oliver has been a very healthy dog for his age.
“Over these past five years Oliver has attended Itsy Bitsy and Terrier Tactics training and small dog playtime at Great Dog for socialization with other dogs since we have often had fosters in and out of the house via ODH and Red Waggin Rescue. Oliver has been very tolerant of his siblings and foster siblings. Oliver is for the most part a quiet dog. He does like to sing for us when we come home, which is an interesting sound since he has no teeth. He does bark normally—usually taking a cue from Pickles as she usually notices someone is on the other side of the fence. Oliver loves road trips. We like to do day drives and the pups love to get out for walks throughout western Washington. The last big trip was over the North Cascade Highway.
“One thing all of my Chis have in common is that they love to eat whatever you are eating. I get asked a lot what Oliver can eat since he has no teeth. Well, he can eat just about anything. One of my friends educated me by telling me that dogs used to just use their teeth to tear the meat and they actually gulped their food (and many still do) to keep it from other prey. Their teeth really are not made to chew. So, a toothless dog can’t tear the food to a size they can swallow, and it has to be done for them. The only things that are difficult are larger sized hard or chewy items. We soften the small dog kibble with water or other liquid just to make it easier and he gobbles it right up.
“It has been over the last year that we have really noticed that Oliver is showing his age. We had at first not believed the age the shelter provided even though he had been surrendered. However, we now know that it was most likely pretty close to being correct. Oliver is becoming a bit senile, sometimes just staring out in space for minutes at a time. He has also become a little aloof at times, but at others he wants his loving like the other younger dogs. It is hard to watch him age and know that the end could be around the corner. One minute he is running in the yard and the next he is standing looking like he is lost in his own world. This is the sacrifice we have to make in loving old dogs—and all we can do is make sure they are well loved and have the best medical treatment available. Thankfully I have ODH to turn to for guidance so I can try to help Oliver age as gracefully as possible while maintaining his dignity. We are hopeful that Oliver will be in our lives for many more years.”
You may have read about KayCee in my book about Old Dog Haven, but the short version of her back story is that she ended up at a shelter as a stray six years ago when she was 12. Her eyes were so painful and badly damaged they had to be removed and when she was about to be spayed the vet discovered she was pregnant. Ten days later she delivered two healthy puppies. That’s all in the past, and now here’s what KayCee’s foster mom, Monica Harle, has to say about KayCee:
“KayCee is a very quiet dog; I have never heard her bark once. She is never demanding at all, just very mellow. She likes to lie quietly next to me, on my lap, or in her bed. She doesn’t like to get up normally, so I generally pick her up and put her on feet, snap on the collar, and then she enjoys her walk up the path and out the cul de sac. We have an outdoor kitty that spends lots of time on the deck and follows us around, and KayCee and this cat have a ‘relationship’ I would say. The cat is tough on KayCee, but I think they really love each other, actually.
“KayCee has two modes … very quiet, relax and sleep and the other one. The ‘other one’ happens when I start the twice daily feeding ritual for the two cats and her. She is highly animated; she can do a 360. She jumps in the air and flips entirely around landing back on her feet! I tell her, ‘Wow! Impressive, but calm down … that’s good enough!’ Her other animated times are when I come home and she is at the inside door doing the high jump and a welcoming on her back legs. Also, each and every time I leave the car, even if it’s to hop into the post office to grab mail, when I open the door to come back in, it’s like I’ve been gone a year! Giant welcome. When the weather is appropriate she comes with me when I go to Edmonds and Shoreline for rehearsals or piano lessons, or my music work. She likes her car bed, and is genuinely disappointed when I tell her the weather isn’t good enough for her to come along. When she’s not in the car when I travel, it’s very empty there. No major greetings and when I rest my hand over on her dog bed, it’s very weird to not have a warm dog there to stroke and talk to.
“Our lives have a lot of ritual and routine. She thrives on this. We stay with cousins in Kenmore and they love her, as do all of their teenage friends. They all come up from their video games in the basement as a group to pet and adore her and take her photo. None of my other dogs got that kind of attention from them. When I go away my sister, who works at Clearbrook Inn (a senior care community) in Silverdale as assistant activities director, takes her. KayCee is well known there and the residents take turns holding her. She will go to work with my sister each day all day and she has a dog bed in the office. (I also play piano there every other month).
“When KayCee first came to me her stomach was extremely delicate and it took a few months for it to calm down. I had to weed out certain foods that caused a lot of upset such as duck, beef, sweet potato, liver, etc. I found that keeping a very strict diet of certain foods only and at certain times with only certain treats solved the problem. For her, it’s either canned food of turkey (or maybe chicken) and brown rice, but mainly dry food of the same recipe. I add water and mix in a tiny bit of cat food for flavored gravy. Her treats are officially ‘Zukes,’ but I give her three cat kernels as a treat for any reason and she’s into it! Now she’s content, even if I’m eating.
“Even though she thrives on routine, she enjoys a good social atmosphere that she ‘knows’. She knows exactly where she is when we go to any Old Dog Haven function … she has a lot of energy for this type of thing. It’s amazing.
“She is highly sensitive to loud sounds and she will close down then. We made it through 4th of July this time because I put her in my leather chair with a heavy blanket surrounding her with only her nose sticking out. This is the first time I tried this and it worked super well. There are times she stops, freezes and will not go on. When this happens I just pick her up, walk fast, put her down somewhere else. Then she’s fine and just trots off. Like a ‘reset.’
“I don’t think much about the no sight part of things. When we go for a walk I walk slowly, and look backward a lot. She is very aware of her surroundings and this is sometimes part of the reason she will ‘freeze’ … to assess. She comes along easily when I just reset the scene and we move on with ease. I move my furniture around often and she figures it out once she noses her way around to find her dinner. She has learned to walk at a pace that allows her to bump her nose gently around in the house. Outside is the place where it’s a lot more dangerous walking a blind dog. Many times she’ll bump into things because she has a hard time tracking directly behind me and will walk to the right or left. I’ve told Judith, we need a leash like a fishing pole … then the dog is directly behind you and won’t stray left or right.
“KayCee is the first dog I have had who does not weigh over 90 pounds. I think KayCee is around only 13 pounds. But I have learned that small dogs are very much ‘dogs’ too and can be wonderful companions. The energy is nearly the opposite of the lab I had: an Old Dog Haven dog (Charlie) that I adopted. Charlie was a water dog, but KayCee doesn’t care about the lake; she seems to just prefer hanging out in the chair next to me, or anywhere around me and the cat. Wherever I put a blanket or towel down, she will stay on it.
“She has a very soft, beautiful personality and instantly mesmerizes everyone she meets. It’s pretty amazing to watch.”