Rocko’s reading with an animal communicator

Today we had a reading with Patty Summers, an animal communicator.  Patty was recommended by one of our friends who used her in the past to gain insight into her pets and animals she is fostering.

I’ve thought about doing this for a couple of years.  I do believe that certain people have an ability to communicate beyond traditional methods.  It was not skepticism that kept me from doing it, it was actually fear.  Rocko is a very old dog, he will be 18 in just a couple weeks.  My biggest fear was that I would find out he is in a lot of pain and has been hiding it from me.  If that happened, I would not only feel like I have failed in taking care of him, I would also be hit with having to make a decision that I don’t want to make for a while longer.

My fears were laid to rest.  My heart is happy at what I’ve learned.

First, let me say that between facebook, his blog and our website, Rocko’s life is an open book.  Anyone who wants to know about him can find out with a few clicks.  You, all of his fans, know a lot about him but it isn’t the same as being with him every day and knowing his personality as deeply as I do after all these years.

Now I will translate my scribbled notes and give you a recap of what I learned.  I did elect to get a recording of the session so I will have it to review later, but here are the high points.  My goal was to get insight into his general health and physical condition and I also had some specific questions I wanted answered.

To start, Patty introduced herself to Rocko (not on speaker phone, strictly through mental communication).  She let him know that she was there to talk to him but she was not coming into the house.  That’s pretty important because as you know, he hates everyone!  Consistently throughout the reading when she was talking to him he would raise his head and look around, not in a scared way but more of a curious manner.  And he smiled.

Patty confirmed some things I sensed about Rocko.  I believe he does not know he is a dog when compared to other animals.  He knows he is not a human, but does view himself as set apart from others of his kind.   To him, we are partners.  He acknowledged that he has been my anchor in the world.  And he said I was silly.  That’s very true, he is the one I laugh with and joke with.  Our days are full of “how’s my bubby bub” and “hey punkin pie, what’s up?”.  He said he likes the silly part.

Rocko is a stoic old guy.  He told Patty he has trouble getting up, but after he stands for a minute he is ok.  So very true.  He tires easily.  His kidneys are slow, something that happens with age.  She recommended adding probiotics to his diet (we’re going to see if yogurt will work).

Since Rocko’s latest illness, I have been adding warm chicken broth to his dry food.  This is something not many people know.  Patty asked me if I put warm water in his food.  She said he likes his food warm.  This explains the recent change in his eating habits.  He used to wander in and eat when he was hungry but now he turns down the food that is sitting in the bowl, I will start making it fresh as he is hungry.

I wanted definitive information on his eyesight and hearing.  I know both are going but couldn’t tell how much.

Rocko has had cataracts for many years.  His vet said he can’t drive at night any more.  To him sometimes things appear blurry but the change has been so gradual he adjusted to it.  The next part gave me an important answer to a big concern that I hadn’t voiced.  Sometimes he has a problem with depth perception that will make him walk into a corner or into a wall.  I’ve noticed this a number of times and I was afraid he had a stroke.  Now that I know what it is, I can let it go without worrying so much.

The hearing issue was more complex.  He can’t hear the doorbell any more and doesn’t always hear when someone knocks.  It bothers him that he can’t keep on top of things that are going on outside like he used to.  (Old family joke, Rocko would alert us of danger if a strange leaf fell in the yard.)  In his mind, he feels he is failing me because he isn’t warning me about impending danger.  Patty let him know that he has done his job well over the years and the world knows that he is on guard.  That’s good enough.

My fear was that he would go deaf and think I had just stopped talking to him.  Patty said that he knows I am talking to him even though he can’t hear much of it.  Imagine stereotypical the old man sitting in his chair, reading the paper and as his wife is talking he is just nodding and saying yes dear.  That’s Rocko.  He nods and smiles, but he really doesn’t care that much about what I’m saying.  Since most of it is silly anyway, he acknowledges me just enough to keep me happy.

He also sleeps sounder than he did when he was younger.  I need to give him more time to orient when he wakes up.  It would also help him if I massaged his back and hips as he is waking up in the morning to warm him up and help him get moving.  Overall he is not in pain, his main issue is arthritis limiting his movement and primarily affecting his back end.  I can deal with this.

Rocko also said that he misses hunting around the yard.  In the last video I posted, you can see him sniffing in the leaves at Dr Boswell’s office.  Patty suggested that he and I go into the yard with some biscuits and make a game of throwing out a couple to let him find them.  Make it easy but fun.  Another thing I can do to make his life happier.

Patty recommended some natural flower essences that I will look into.  I’m going to check Green Hope Essences for their Run and Play essence and the Senior Citizen mix.  There’s also a New Beginnings scent which leads to the next issue I wanted advice on.

Rocko hates for anything to change.  Absolutely hates it.  If I move furniture to vacuum he leaves the room.  When I painted the walls a different color, he wouldn’t look at them for a week.

Now we are preparing for the biggest change we can make – we are looking for a new home.  We have steps everywhere.  Two flights of steps to get from the sidewalk to the front door.  Steps to get down into the back yard.  Steps to get from the yard into the garage.  Every day we deal with steps down into the bedroom and back up in the morning.  If he was 25 pounds I could carry him, but he is around 65 pounds and I just can’t lift him.  Well, I can get him up into my arms if I have to but to try to navigate steps while carrying him would put our safety at risk.

I’ve made up a new word.  Other people are down-sizing, I am flat-sizing.  I am dreaming of a home where Rocko can move from room to room without dealing with steps.  I want a back yard where I can put in a small ramp and he can just walk out the door.  I want a garage for our biscuit operation that is close to the house so he can walk back and forth whenever he wants. (Side note:  our garage has been converted into a commercial kitchen with ovens and the other equipment to make Rocko’s Rewards.) More and more he is staying inside while I work on the biscuits because it is so hard to get him back and forth.  That is against everything I have built, my happy place is making biscuits with Rocko asleep at my feet.  I feel bad leaving him inside, it seems so close but so far away for him.

Patty gave me pointers on how to make the transition.  Sending Rocko mental images is very important.  When I find our perfect home, I should picture him moving freely through the house and how happy we are going to be.  She talked to him about the big change.  He expressed that if I was happy, he was going to be happy.

Now for the hard part of the reading.  I wanted to know if Rocko knew I was going to be ok when he had to leave me.  Patty’s insight into this was very comforting.

Dogs do not look at death the same way people do.  For them, it is just leaving the physical body.  His spirit will stay with me.  When Rocko came into my life, I felt safe.  He was there to protect me.  He was my anchor, my partner, my companion. He wanted me to know that he was proud of me, it was my own strength that overcame my fears and he wanted to reassure ME that I would be ok.

Rocko wants me to get another dog when he is gone.  His spirit will guide me to the right one.  On a funny note, my mother has wanted me to get another dog for years to make the transition easier for me.  Patty did not know this, but she did say Rocko was really clear that he does not want another dog in the house while he is still here.  I’ve said that it wouldn’t be fair, I was afraid that he would think I didn’t love him as much, but his answer is much simpler.  This is HIS house and it will stay his house until his body leaves.

As we were wrapping up the reading, I thought of one more thing I wanted Patty’s help with – the camera!  Rocko hates the camera.  I thought maybe Patty could help with that.  I asked her to explain to him that these were the memories I was going to be able to keep forever.  I told her to tell him that there were a lot of people out there who loved him and they liked it when they could see his picture.

Throughout the reading, each time Patty was talking to Rocko he would raise his head and smile.  This time he got his stubborn frown on his face and clenched his jaw.  He did not like the idea of the camera at all.  Patty did get a sense that Rocko may have been a Native American in a past life because he felt that when I took a picture I was taking something away from him.

Patty made some progress by explaining to him that he was my business partner and we needed the pictures for the business.  He liked that idea and suggested a compromise.  No more waiting with the camera and clicking away.  I could take ONE picture at a time.  That’s it.  And I couldn’t make a big deal about it, just pick it up and click.  No big fuss, no begging him to let me take his picture, just click and go on.

And even though Patty said I probably shouldn’t put this out there for everyone, I will anyway because it is so funny. Rocko said do you really think I care what all those other people think?  I do not want my picture taken and I am not going to do it just to make them happy.

That is exactly the attitude I expected.

I feel a great sense of peace knowing that Rocko is happy and comfortable. He knows how much I love him and that he will be a part of my heart and soul forever, even when I don’t have his physical body with me.  While I cherish every moment we have together, I know it isn’t going to last forever.  I know I will be able to let go when that time does come.

Instead of taking a picture to include with this post, I’ll add our favorite video – The Perfect Picture.  What happens when you want the perfect picture to put on a bag of dog biscuits but your dog hates the camera?  Watch it and see!

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I can breathe again

We haven’t updated our blog lately, been doing a lot of facebook posting, but this is a little longer and more to think about than a couple lines and a picture.

Everyone knows Rocko is old – really old for a big dog. Based on his estimated age when we found him, he is 17 years and 10 months old. Very old.

And I’m not anywhere near ready to do without him.

We had quite a scare this week. He was having trouble just standing up, his back legs were weak and wouldn’t hold him up. This happens every now and then usually when Rocko is overactive. He plays with the cats, he wants to be out in the yard with me when I am working. There are days when I am working in the shop baking and I have to make him stay in the house because it gets too hot. I know on those days he’ll stand at the window watching for me to come in. But it always gets better in a day or two. Ice always helps (that’s what is wrapped in the yellow blanket in the picture below).

Rocko has grown to love the ice packs. I think that we’re into the placebo effect now because he will tell me when he wants one and it instantly relaxes him. I learned this trick from Dr Boswell – where there’s heat apply ice. I feel around on his back and hips and the warm spots are the ones that hurt. When he goes to bed he likes one wrapped in a bathroom towel. On a side note, I am now down to one good bath towel. There’s the one Phoebe lays on in one of the bathroom sinks, the one Rocko has on the shelf where he likes to lay his head to sleep, and now another for the ice – leaving one for me. The sacrifices we make for our pets!

But back to Rocko. This was different. He was walking crooked. He was restless, he’d be laying on his blanket almost asleep and all of a sudden he’d jump up. It started Thursday afternoon and by Monday night he laid down at the top of the steps and didn’t want to come to bed. Bedtime is a whole different story, I’ll post that next week. Let’s just say we ended up getting down but it wasn’t easy or fast – he weighs 70 pounds so its not like I can just carry him.

And I could tell he was in pain, something I have vowed to not let happen. I will give him everything he needs as his time goes on but I will never let him live in pain because I can’t let go.  I look at him and I can’t breathe.  Is it time?

We already had an appointment with Dr Boswell for Tuesday. For those new to our adventures, Dr Elizabeth Boswell practices alternative veterinary medicine. Rocko sees her every three weeks and absolutely loves her. Through a combination of ultrasound, laser and other therapies she takes care of what hurts him.

After careful examination (all very magical), Dr Boswell concluded that Rocko must have slipped and fallen, injuring his left shoulder and right hip along with pulling a muscle in his groin.

Let the treatment begin. Sitting on the floor for an hour, her holding one piece of equipment, me holding other things in place, treating inch by inch of the places that hurt. Rocko is very cooperative, changing positions when needed, tolerating stuff stuck all over him. Smiling.

When it was all done she asked him to get up. He hopped up, walked around the room and up and down the hall like nothing at all had been wrong.

And finally I can breathe again.

Every time something happens I think is this going to be it? Is this the thing I can’t fix? Am I doing what is best for Rocko, not what is best for me? And how can I even begin to think about life without him? I want more time. A lot more time.

When I first started making dog biscuits, my dream was to do that all day long with Rocko by my side. We’re almost there. I kept thinking we’re so close, don’t leave me now.

And finally I can breathe again.

In the after thoughts, I think about all the people who don’t have someone like Dr Boswell to turn to. Maybe it’s a matter of money, I make a lot of sacrifices to do this for him. Most people don’t know that treatment like this is available. If I wasn’t able to do this for him, if I didn’t know, if it hadn’t helped, this may have been the time.

It isn’t time. I can breathe again.

We took a potty break while I was writing this. Rocko wandered around the back yard, chewing on some of the crabgrass that has sprung up after the rain. He’s back inside now, sitting on his blanket in front of the door enjoying a sweet potato biscuits (his new favorite).

He’s smiling and back to his old self.

I have more time. I can breathe again.

Rocko enjoying one of our new sweet potato biscuits
17 years and 10 months old

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Memories of Playing in the Snow

Rocko, January 2, 2012, 17 years old

Today we got our first snow that stuck to the ground bringing with it fond memories of how a senior dog once loved playing in the snow. 

Rocko has always loved snow and when he realized it was coming down he wanted to go outside.  He stood on the steps with the flakes piling up on him, looking off into the sky.

I wonder what memories were going through his mind.  Here are some of mine. 

We are in the city now, but when Rocko was young we lived in the suburbs with a driveway that had to be shoveled.  We both loved being outside in the cold and shoveling snow.  I would tie his leash to a rope around my waist so he could play while I worked.  He chased every shovel of snow that I tossed, thinking I was doing it just for his enjoyment.

Trying to find the snowball after I threw it was another fun pastime. He would dig his nose into the snow, looking up with a mound on his nose and a puzzled look on his face.

When Rocko was young, he would sit on the porch while it snowed until it was piled up on top of him.  It is obvious the years are passing.  To put his butt down on the cold porch would be more than his old bones could handle.  I know how he feels, my old bones don’t find the cold as much fun as it used to be either.

I think if he had his way he would have stayed outside and watched the snow all day but finally the flakes drifted away and it was time to come inside.

Rocko is an old dog now, gray on his chin and not as sure of foot in the slippery snow.  But in the memory of a senior dog is a time when he played in the snow and loved every minute of it.

A young Rocko playing in the snow, around 1998, 3 or 4 years old

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All is quiet on the home front – and that’s a good thing

Taking a short break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to let everyone know that Rocko is doing fine. 

Rocko is still seeing Dr Boswell for physical therapy.  We tried stretching it out to two weeks again with the Thanksgiving holiday and he didn’t quite make it.  Close, but as the time for next appointment neared there was a noticeable difference so we’re back to every week for a couple of weeks.

We ran out of one of the nutritional supplements he was taking and within three days he had quite a bit of weakness in his back legs.  It didn’t occur to me I could call and get some more before our appointment, but this also proved that it is part of what is making a positive difference in Rocko’s ability to get around.

Dr Boswell is trying something new, she calls it her pilates machine.  It is a more vigorous stimulation of his muscles.  He likes it.  He’s a little bit sore the next day but then really bounces back.  We’ve been using an ice pack on him that first day (new tip – if it’s warm, put ice on it).  After about a half hour of moving it around, Rocko is ready to go.

Right now he’s sleeping on his blankets in front of the door.  And snoring.  I like the snoring.  Rocko use to snore all the time and stopped for a while.  Once we started the new treatments, I can tell when he is feeling especially good because he sleeps so sound he snores.

Rocko is a little aggravated with me about all the mess in the house with gift baskets everywhere.  Phoebe, our young cat, takes spells where she must capture her food before she can eat it.  This involves getting the food out of the bowl, chasing it around the table and finally knocking it to the floor before eating.  Every now and then she misses one, Rocko will wander through the dining room and check the floor.  The other night he got tangled up in a sea of baskets and let me know he had enough of all this.

I was able to get a picture as we were staging the orders to go out the next morning – you can see he’s not too happy about the whole thing.

Rocko says keep your pets safe this holiday season, be aware of leaving things out that you don’t want your dog to eat.  With all the excitement, sometime they forget their manners. 

You keep safe too.

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Electric stair lift for a senior dog . . .

and why it didn’t work out.

Our followers know that I have been working on an idea to modify an electric stair lift to add a platform for Rocko to make it easy for him to get up and down the stairs. This was going to be the life-changing gift to him for his 17th birthday.

After a considerable (for me) investment in money and time, now I know why no one else has been able to do this.

When I found the lift mechanism, the lady who was selling it had taken it out of her mother’s home but the chair part was stolen out of their garage. All that was left was the rail and motor. I had planned to install it, build a box and attach it to the lift motor.

The track was 3’ too long but the price was right – 1/10th of what a used lift sells for.  And it was heavy, my guess would be the motor weighed 75 pounds if not more.  Even moving the light end was serious work.  To make sure I had all the correct measurements for the box we set it in the stairwell, then Grandpa and I built the box (he has all the good tools).  This was going to be temporary until Rocko was comfortable with the lift, then we would build something lighter and prettier.

My neighbor / handyman Matthew did the serious work, cutting off the track, reassembling the inner workings and connecting the electricity.  He finally got to a point where he needed some parts and since it was Thanksgiving we decided to put off finishing until after the weekend.  That gave me a couple days to really assess the situation.

By Monday I had decided to pull the whole thing out.  It was a hard decision to give up on this dream, but you’ll see why.

When you see these lifts on tv, they don’t look nearly as big as they are when you get them home.  I know there are some that hug the wall and only take up a few inches, but these are upwards of $10,000 new. 

before the rail was centered and bolted in place

Because this is an old house the stairs are an afterthought, worked into what once was a closet.  The total width is 28”.  The center of the track sat right at 14” from the wall. I thought great, this is dead center and it will be easier to support the box and Rocko, but then I realized that I had seriously restricted my own ability to use the stairs.  Forget about carrying anything down, that’s just asking for a fall trying to navigate with 14” to walk.

The box was going to have to sit on top of the motor.  Had this been a complete stair lift, the chair would have been mounted so the footrest was at the bottom of the motor.  This meant that there was going to be a pretty big gap between the bottom of the box and the floor.  I had expected a little bit, but at the top it was two feet, at the bottom – with the turn at the end – I would have had to add a ramp or more stairs because the end point for the box was almost four feet off the floor.

By the time I did that I would have restricted my own movement even more.  I had pictured a box close to the floor where I could put a brace underneath, then step on it and continue up the stairs myself. 

If this was the only obstacle, I wouldn’t have given up, but there’s more.

The motor for the lift is chain operated, rated for 300 pounds and moves 18’ per minute.  That’s a pretty powerful motor moving covering the length of the stairs in around 30 seconds.  On a complete lift, there are all kinds of safety features including a sensor that will stop the motor if there is anything in the path of the chair and an emergency cutoff.    All of these features are a part of the electronics of the missing chair assembly.  Without the chair, I would have a switch mounted to the top and bottom walls.  Get Rocko in the box, hit the switch and move up the stairs with him.  Given the fact that I can trip over a piece of paper, this was carnage waiting to happen.  If my foot got caught between a step and the box, that motor was going to continue to run.  You get the picture. 

The last consideration in ending this plan was Rocko’s three cats.  We have racing cats pass us on the stairs all the time.  Phoebe, the youngest, does it every single time I go up or down.  There was a 10” gap between the wall and the track on the side where the brackets were mounted.  On that side of the track is the moving and exposed chain pulling the motor.  I can’t even think about the bad things that could happen.  Even without the cats, suppose somehow part of my clothing got caught in it.  Again, I get dragged into the motor.

Common sense ruled out and in the end, the dangers of using the stair lift without the appropriate safety features far outweighed our potential benefit.

I thought it could be done.  I tried.  It just didn’t work out. Frankly, Rocko is glad to see it out of here.  I tried to tell him it was going to be great, to him it was just in the way.

We’ll keep looking for a way to make things easier in the life of a senior dog – and after that gloomy post here’s a picture to make you smile . . .

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Catching Up – Alternative Treatments for the Senior Dog and more

Time for catching up on the life of a senior dog.

First, apologies for not posting last week.  I was in the middle of a baking marathon.  Wore me out.

Now it’s time to update you on how Rocko is feeling.  We’ve had another week of ups and downs.

Two weeks ago when I posted Rocko was doing so good we had extended the time between his appointments with Dr Boswell by an extra week.  I wish I could say all went well but at about 10 days he really started to feel bad.  Each time I think it gets a little worse.  We couldn’t get in for another appointment, so it was a matter of giving him extra pain medication and trying to keep him comfortable.  I couldn’t let him come out baking with me because the cold certainly wouldn’t help his old bones feel better plus he was back to following me every time I moved.  It was better that he had the house to himself to relax.

I counted down the days with him, Rocko, today is Friday, we only have three more days until we see Dr Boswell, Rocko, today is Saturday, we only have two more days . . . you get the picture.  We just focused on getting through the weekend until our appointment on Monday.

There was only one small problem with that.  When we walked into Dr Boswell’s office, she said “did you know your appointment is tomorrow?”.  Thankfully, more than you can possibly imagine, she moved a meeting to get us in. 

I had noticed that Rocko’s lower back was really warm and we were putting cold cloths on it.  Dr Boswell was surprised at the extent of the heat and said she believed he had hurt himself somehow.  That’s entirely possible, he still runs through the house barking if he sees another dog or if our not-too-smart neighbor cat Dimitri comes up on the porch.  After treatment he wasn’t back to 100% but there was a definite improvement.   She did say if it returned I should treat just that area with an ice pack but it hasn’t come back.

She and I noticed something strange.  Rocko’s lip seemed to be a little swollen on one side and his tongue was a darker color.  Weird.   I decided to start him on another round of antibiotics.  You’ll remember that Dr Habig did this a couple months ago and said we may have to just dose him on a regular basis.  I picked that up at Cherokee Animal Hospital on Tuesday and made Rocko an appointment for Thursday.

Dr Grace took care of us.  He clipped Rocko’s nails and shaved a little spot on his leg to draw blood.  We only do bloodwork when something is wrong but I thought it was time to get some backup on what is going on.  The last thing on the list was Rocko’s lip.  Remember the post where we worked on looking in his mouth?  I was quite proud of the old boy when he let me hold his open so Dr Grace could look in with a flashlight.  Wow.  Good news – no masses, lumps or broken teeth.  Even though this is not a good way to find out what is wrong, I also stopped giving Rocko the drops Dr Boswell had him taking.  I always give them to him on that same side of his mouth so maybe he is having a reaction to them.  Ack, as I was typing this I realized she told me in the beginning that if he wouldn’t take them to put them on his skin.  I’ll start doing that tonight and keep a close eye on the spot.

Dr Grace called me today with the results of the bloodwork.  That’s one of the things that gives me confidence in the quality of veterinary care Rocko is getting – Dr Grace always follows up.  GOOD NEWS!  For a dog who will be 17 next week, he is remarkably normal.  His liver enzymes were slightly elevated – always a concern with long term use of Rimadyl – but they were actually less elevated than the last time.  He is also slightly anemic so it’s time to pump up with the liver (see the post The Things You Do For Love).  We’ll check a stool sample soon to make sure he doesn’t have an ulcer or anything going on in his intestinal system, but it probably goes back to the benign fatty tumors he has.

In other news in the life of a senior dog, I think we’ve found the stair lift mechanism we were looking for.  I was supposed to see it yesterday but the seller was tied up so that will happen sometime this weekend.  This would be an answer to a dream.  MeMa asked if Rocko would actually ride on it – let me tell you, this will rock his world.  It will only take a couple of trips before he realizes how much easier his life has become.  We’ll get the process on video to share with everyone. 

Rocko is sleeping now, dreaming the dreams of a long life.  Thanksgiving day marks 16 years since we stopped on the side of the road and he chose to come home with me.  Who knew that day would change both of our lives forever.

I love being a part of the life of my senior dog.

Rocko sleeping, November 18, 2011

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Alternative Treatments for the Senior Dog – week three

Happy progress in the life of a senior dog!

Rocko made it through the entire week without going backwards.  No breakout pain, no bad days.  He’s a very happy boy.

Rocko with ultrasound gel all over his back, October 31, 2011

We had our fourth visit with Dr Boswell last Monday.  He was all amped up to go.  When we walked out the front door he just trotted down the steps like it was nothing.  It really caught me off guard, by the time I got ready to start helping him he had taken off.  Wow.

Rocko had a relaxing therapy session of ultrasound and tens-like treatment.  When he was through, I wanted Dr Boswell to advise me on some pictures of harnesses I had found on the internet (more on that in a second).

I let Rocko off his leash – remember, if he wanted to kill her he would have already done it so I felt pretty safe.  That boy walked all around the office, up and down the hallway, checking out each room.  Every few minutes he’d come back and check on us, then he was off again.  We had to laugh, this was the most Dr Boswell had seen him move around.  On the first visit it was straight in and straight out.  Now she sees the Rocko I remember.

I did ask Dr Boswell about how to deal with the bursts of energy that Rocko has now.  As I thought, we should keep that somewhat under control.  He might be ready to party but it is best to slowly increase his activity level so he doesn’t hurt himself.

We’ve graduated to a new level of treatment – Rocko doesn’t have to go back for two weeks.  Of course if he starts feeling bad he can go right away, but if things keep going like they have been the time between visits will increase to every 4-6 weeks or whatever is most comfortable for Rocko.

Total cost of treatment to date:  $488.00 Has it been worth it?  Absolutely.

On a side note, one of my original goals was to get Rocko off the pain medication (which only started around March).  I am now wavering on that goal.  I was talking about it to Me-Ma who is a very young 73 years old and she made an interesting point.  Rocko is old.  Just like when people get old, they start taking a prescription every day for their arthritis or other aches and pains.  It is just part of aging.  Instead of thinking about it like a bad thing, she said I should accept that he needs the medicine, the medicine is helping him, and let well enough be.  She has a good point – I wanted him off the pain medication for ME, not for him.  That way I could keep on believing everything was perfect.  It isn’t, I’m doing everything I can to help him, and sometimes that’s enough.

Back to the harness.  If anyone has any advice for me, please either post it here or on the facebook link to this post (to find us on facebook, click on Rocko’s World in the upper right corner of this screen, then scroll down the right side of that screen for the link.  It’s also a good time to Like us and check out the rest of Rocko’s World).

our steep stairs

We have to go down the stairs every night to go to bed and back up in the morning.  Up isn’t too bad (yet) – I lift his front feet up on the first step, he gets up to the landing, then I get behind him and hold up his butt as he climbs up.

Down is not so easy.  Rocko uses every excuse in the world to put off going down.  NOT going down is not an option for him, but he has to get three drinks of water, check a couple times to finish off any food left in his bowl, look out the window and so on.  When he’s ready he comes through the doorway in a straight shot to go down. 

It seems that recently he has gotten more hesitant about going down.  It might be his eyesight – that’s a pretty daunting drop if you can’t see the bottom.  I have to hold him up and keep him from just sliding or going down too fast.  Because one side of the wall is open we can only go down one way.  My fear is that one day both of us are going to take a tumble.

I tried something new last night on the spur of the moment and I’ll see if it helps.  I took blue painters tape and marked each step, then put a giant mark on the wall at the bottom of the stairs.  Maybe if he has something he can focus on instead of almost all the same color he will feel more confident.

My extreme dream is to put in a stair lift like senior citizens use and modify it with a walled platform to move Rocko up and down.  One side would have a high wall so he couldn’t jump out of the side of the stairs.  When we get to the bottom that side would drop down to make a ramp for Rocko to get down the last couple steps. 

I would be able to build the platform and have a friend who could help if I had to make any modifications to the switches that make it move.  I would hinge the platform walls so they would fold out of the way if I was going up and down the stairs.  This is a very narrow and steep staircase.  Our house was built in 1923 and like many old houses, they were an afterthought and would never pass code now.  The treads are narrow and there is no room for any kind of ramp or changes to make it easier.  A bonus would be that I wouldn’t have to carry anything up and down the stairs myself, I could just put it one the lift.  As it is if I’m carrying down a box I can’t see around it because they are so narrow, so I’d win too.

You can see I’ve given this a little thought.  The only thing I’m missing is the stair lift.  Old used ones sell for over $1,000 and no dealer will sell parts because of the liability.  If you ever hear of one about 10’ long that someone needs to get rid of, please let me know.

In the meantime, Dr Boswell recommended a harness to support him as we’re going down.  I would still have to put in a railing to stabilize myself but at least it will help right now.

If anyone has used a good harness for this (remember, he’s a big boy so I have to hold on to 70 pounds) please let me know.  I’ve checked a couple of websites but there is such a variety I’m not sure what to use.

I’m not the one who knows it all, I’m the one seeking answers and would love to hear from anyone who has any advice.

Gotta make it easy on the life of a senior dog!

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Alternative Treatments for a Senior Dog – week two

Our adventure in exploring alternative treatments for a senior dog continues to be exciting. When we posted last week, Rocko was at three good days after treatment, compared to two good days from his first visit. 

This week we made it to day four.  Saturday afternoon he started to go back down, but the outcome was different this time.  Last week I thought he had a stomach ache and didn’t treat his pain.  As soon as I saw him begin to exhibit the pain behaviors, wrinkling his forehead, I increased his pain medication (as always, under the supervision of our vet, Dr Habig).  This kept it from getting worse and held him stable until our appointment Monday.

I didn’t just increase his pain meds, I also tried a lot of things to make him feel better.  I have a small microwavable herbal pillow we call the “warmie”, he didn’t want that.  Different types of massage weren’t helping.  Through this process I have learned one very valuable tool in gauging how Rocko is feeling – by resting my fingers lightly on his forehead.  If he is uncomfortable, I can feel a twitching, if he’s happy his skin is still.  Much to my surprise, he wanted to be brushed.  Yes, the dog who hates to be brushed actually wanted me to brush him.  It started when I found a spot that needed brushing (he has a really thick undercoat), when I brushed it out he wagged his tail and smiled so I just kept going.  I brushed him for at least an hour and a half Saturday and Sunday.  Double bonus – it made him feel better and his coat looks beautiful.

Monday we were off to our next visit with Dr Boswell.   Another odd thing happened during the car trip.  When Rocko was young we had a mini-van so he never experienced the fun of the open window and wind.  By the time we got another vehicle, he just wasn’t into it.  This time he sat up in the seat looking out the window for at least half the trip.  He didn’t react to seeing dogs walking down the road or stopping at a light next to someone who was looking at him, but I can’t wait until we pull up next to a car with another dog in it. 

We took his blankie, Dr Boswell agreed that was a good idea to help him relax.  It took a couple minutes to get him to settle down, while we were doing that Dr Boswell took a look at his x-rays.  As expected, he has a lot of age-related spinal degeneration.  To explain it in layman’s terms, if you look at an x-ray of the spine you should see each of the vertebrae with a consistent equal space between each one.  As you age, the discs between the vertebrae wear out.  Those are the ones you see that look like they are touching each other.  All of the nerves in your body thread from your spinal cord out between those gaps, and when one closes up it pinches the nerves – causing pain.  Each space corresponds to an area of pain – for example, pinched nerves in your lower back could cause shooting pain down your leg.  To our surprise, along with his lower back Rocko also has some issues with his thoracic area between his shoulder blades.

Dr Boswell worked on Rocko’s back up through his neck, then down his back legs a little.  He was very comfortable while this was going on.  Every now and then we could tell when she hit a spot where he had issues because he’d just turn his head towards her just a little.

I swear, when we were done Rocko wanted to give her a kiss.  This is a pretty scary thought since his attitude runs more towards causing carnage and he has been known to fake a tail wag until his intended target was within reach.  I’m not sure how we’re going to handle this one.

I know the last couple of weeks our posts have been really long, but there’s a lot going on and while I’m keeping all of our friends up to date on how Rocko is doing, I also think of the person who lands here looking for answers on treating pain in their senior dog. 

Tuesday when I got home from work Rocko was waiting at the door, tail wagging and bouncing.  When he was younger he would jump up on me when I came home and he still has this kind-of-jump he tries when he’s feeling good.  This is where I slipped up.  I played with him for a minute, fixed his dinner and later in the evening I noticed he was a little bummed out that I wasn’t paying attention to him.   I’m not used to him having energy and he really could have used some more acknowledgement of how good he was doing.  I need to check with Dr Boswell to find out what is an appropriate level of activity.  I don’t want him getting a burst of energy and sliding backwards because he does too much, but he should be able to show off his new agility. 

Wednesday morning, I think Rocko and I both woke up with an attitude.  We got in an argument over taking his medicine.  He wanted his food so he kept spitting out his medicine.  I had to leave for work, I had dog food and slobber all over my hands, and I lost my temper and hollered at him.  Sure, he took it then, but I had to leave and I felt bad about it all day. 

Before I went home that afternoon I made a trip to Feeder’s Supply.  I’ve been adding Wellness 95% meat canned food to Rocko’s dry food and I also mix his pills in a teaspoon of it.  This time I got an entirely different kind, Wellness Core grain free canned food in turkey flavor.  I continued to mix the 95% meat in his food and used the turkey flavor just for his medicine so he knows the difference.  It seems to be working because we haven’t had a medicine stand-off since then.  Thank goodness.

I also made another change – this was a much bigger one for me.  I don’t wear makeup or fix my hair every day because that’s five or ten minutes of extra sleep I would miss, but it was time to start getting up earlier so we we’re not under a time crunch.  I started setting the alarm for a half hour earlier.

Dr Boswell had also recommended the use of a laser pointer to do therapy at home, five minutes twice a day.  I picked one up at Staples for around $22.  Now that I’ve tried it I still have a lot of questions to ask about how to do it right, so I’ll share more about that next week.  In an attempt to make mornings a little easier on Rocko, I started doing it before he has to make the big trip up the stairs, hoping it would ease some of the stiffness from just waking up.  I wish he’d sleep in a bed or on his blankets, but he likes to sleep on the floor.  I can only imagine what those first movements of the day feel like.

I’m not sure if it is helping, I can’t tell if Rocko likes it or if he’s just happy to have uninterrupted time with me.  I know that I’m more relaxed since I’m not rushing to get out the door and he can take an extra couple minutes to go upstairs, so either way we’re accomplishing the goal of happier mornings.

Right now we’re nearing the end of day four and still doing good.  The goal is to increase the length of time that Rocko feels good until we’re on a monthly maintenance schedule.  We go back Monday.

Here’s hoping we continue on the uphill climb to feeling good in the life of a senior dog.

Almost got a smile . . . Rocko, October 28, 2011

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Alternative Treatments for a Senior Dog – week one

Wow, it has been quite the week in the life of a senior dog.

When we last posted, Rocko had his first visit to Dr Boswell and was doing exceptionally well.  That lasted until late Friday night (a little over two days) and he took a really bad downhill turn.  We’re back on the good side, but it was rough.

It started with the sad eyes and warm nose. That can come and go over a matter of hours and that’s also how I learned that Rocko can’t eat anything even remotely spicy.  At first I wasn’t worried.

When he got up Saturday morning and still felt bad, I switched his food to rice / sweet potatoes / chicken to soothe his stomach.  It soon became obvious that this was more than just an upset tummy.  Rocko was nervous, wandering around the house, licking his lips and wrinkling his nose.  I could see how uncomfortable he was.

Here’s the hard part.  Although this was a little more extreme, it was the same behavior that brought us to Dr Boswell.  Things change little by little and you don’t really realize how much, especially when you really don’t want to see it.  I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way about my beloved companion.  In comparison, the two days I talked about last week when Rocko was relaxed, happy and feeling good were such a stark contrast that it forced me to see how uncomfortable he had been all along.  Oh my gosh, my heart hurt.  I’m all he has and I let him feel that bad.  It hurt to even have to let my heart go down that path, I am not ready for that.  Luckily it passed.  Rocko kind of bounced back although he was still behind where we were those two days. 

Our next appointment with Dr Boswell was on Tuesday.  When we finally got Rocko settled down she started his treatment.  First she used a small machine that was developed for Russian astronauts to use in space that helps re-energize the muscles.  He was iffy about that, it took some work to keep him down and relaxed.  Since he had those two exceptional days Dr Boswell decided to focus on the same therapy as last week.  That’s when he really relaxed and started smiling.  Every now and then he would turn his head and look at Dr Boswell, breaking his #1 rule – If I don’t see you, you don’t exist. 

That leads into a funny note.  We had a chance to talk about several things while she was doing his therapy.  She had talked to Dr Habig about Rocko, Dr Habig asked if Rocko had tried to bite her yet (those of you who know Rocko know that he is just mean).  Dr Boswell asked me how she could tell when he was getting ready to snap.  I did tell her that it was when his nose wrinkles up, but I also laughingly assured her that if he hadn’t tried to kill her by now I was pretty sure she was safe. 

Right now the treatment plan is to see Rocko for the next four to six weeks then he would be on a maintenance schedule of once a month or so.  She gave me the name of an all natural body building supplement to get at the health food store to work on strengthening the muscles in his back end. I do want to note that I am avoiding naming the specifics of what we’re using on purpose – if you want to try anything like this with your senior dog it really needs to be under the supervision of a vet.  Dr Boswell shares a lot of fascinating information, I couldn’t even begin to remember all of it but it gives me a lot of hope for how this is all going to come together.

Once we were through, we made the trip home and Rocko was worn out as usual.  Frankly so was I.  Now we’re at Friday night, three days after treatment.  While he isn’t (and hasn’t been) as great as he was those two days, he is doing good.  If those were tens I’d put him at a seven, but it is still an improvement over how he was before we started seeing Dr Boswell (let’s call that three).  So far so good – I will admit I was holding my breath yesterday at the two day mark.  We’re going back on Monday so I’ve got my fingers crossed until then. 

I followed up with Dr Habig to get the last set of spine x-rays that were done in 2009.  I thought that was going to be more complicated because I took Rocko to Audubon, Cherokee’s related clinic, to have them done, but then I found out they were on file at Cherokee – close to home.  I will bring them to the next visit and it will help Dr Boswell see what to focus on.  I also got a laser pointer, when we’re ready she will show me some things I can do at home.  I’ve started spending a half hour or so each night just sitting with Rocko practicing how to relax and getting him used to having his back legs touched (it doesn’t seem to bother him much as long as I don’t get near the FEET!).  I’m debating taking one of his quilts to his next appointment so he has something familiar to lay on.

I know this has been a long one, but one last note – sometimes money does matter.  Total investment to date:  $298.  I’ll try to keep everyone updated on this in case it is something you are considering.

Let’s hope we keep on the same path until Monday.  Rocko is snoring in his sleep now, and I can’t help but wonder if it is because he feels better.  I have to remember to ask Dr Boswell about that . . .

 Yes, it has been quite the week in the life of a senior dog.

Stop.Taking.My.Picture - October 21, 2011

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Alternative Treatments for a Senior Dog – Rocko’s first visit

This week we had our first appointment to explore what started out as acupuncture with Elizabeth Boswell, DVM.

Dr Boswell told me during our initial call that she practices a variety of additional treatments including laser, ultrasound and several more, along with natural remedies.  I am all for anything natural, especially if it reduces Rocko’s reliance on pain medicine. 

I have to digress for a minute.  Many of you reading this already know Rocko.  Some people might be landing here for the first time on their own journey through life with a senior dog.

The decision on how far to take treatment of the aches and pains of an old dog is one that only you can make.  I had a friend who laughed when I told her what we were doing.  Another wondered if she could have taken this step and gotten just a little more time. 

I don’t know how I got so lucky with Rocko.  At one month before he turns 17, he is alert and still active but I have watched him age before my eyes.  The last year has been especially hard (and of course, the next one will be even harder).  If I can do this for him and make him more comfortable then I want to give it a try. 

With that in mind, back to our adventure.

Rocko, October 12, 2011

The day before our appointment (rescheduled from Monday to Wednesday) I started telling Rocko that we were going to a new doctor to try to feel better so he could get used to the idea.  Dr Boswell was going to see him at his weakest stage.  For the past two days I had been outside doing yard work all day and he stayed out with me so he was worn out.  Of course, once we get out in the car his adrenaline kicked in, hiding some of his symptoms.  We got to our appointment about 15 minutes early and he refused to sit down in the waiting area.  You can see from the picture that he wasn’t stressed, he just didn’t want to sit down.

Once we entered the office the doctor and I went over his history, diet and current medications and supplements.  The three of us then sat on a mat on the floor and Dr Boswell began her examination.

She felt around his body, first commenting on his liver function.  Liver problems are a common side effect of long term use of Rimadyl and Rocko has been taking it for five years or more now, so that’s something we keep an eye on.  I wasn’t surprised to hear that it wasn’t quite up to par.  Dr Boswell then checked him for a variety of nutritional deficiencies, finding three areas he was lacking.  She ordered a general neurological supplement that should be here tomorrow, she mixed up another one and also said that he needed some extra vitamin C.  I had read about the use of esther-C in dogs but Rocko kept spitting it out so I gave up.  I still had it so we are going to work on getting him up to his maximum tolerance level.

Dr Boswell then performed a treatment on Rocko similar to using a tens unit for pain control.  I know a little bit about how irritated nerves give off signals and if you can interrupt or redirect those signals the pain will calm down.  Again, Rocko was quite calm during the treatment.  Most of the time he was smiling, occasionally he would look back over his shoulder at her (but in a nice way).  We completed the treatment and left with written instructions for the supplements.

After we got home, Rocko was exactly as I expected – worn out.  He could barely stand up.  Every time he tried to turn a corner his butt dropped to the ground.  He had just pushed himself to his limit.

I started him on the first supplement.  I have to note that this comes in an alcohol base but the dosage is only three drops twice a day.  Dr Boswell said that patients typically start to show improvement starting three days after treatment, but the next day I already noticed a difference. 

Rocko already seems calmer.  Over the past few months he had started walking aimlessly around the house.  I would get up to see if he needed to go out, if he needed water, anything, but he would just wander around.  He seems more content and focused.  I also have to admit that I have been making jokes about the alcohol in his supplement.  It could be that he has a little bit of a buzz and all is happy in his world.  I’m not ruling that out.  I also don’t have a problem with it because it seems to be helping.

As far as getting around easier, we’re still not to the third day and sometimes I see what I want to see.  I do think he seems a bit more limber as he is moving but that could be wishful thinking.  By next week we’ll know more.

Rocko has another appointment Tuesday.  I have to get his old x-rays from Dr Habbig – this will help Dr Boswell see what areas she need to focus on.  I also need to order a laser pointer so she can teach me some therapy to do at home.

This is going to be an interesting path and I’m curious to see what happens.  We’ll keep you updated right here on Rocko’s blog – the life of a senior dog.

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The Night Rocko Tried to Save Our Lives

Rocko is doing fairly well, he’s got the appointment Monday with the acupuncturist.  We’ve had a busy week baking, so here’s one of Our Favorite Memories to share.

Every now and then you read a story about a hero dog, one who woke up his family and got them out of the house just in time to escape a fire.

Rocko would do that if we would let him.

We had a semi-finished basement and that’s where Rocko’s people-brother had his room (teenagers, they just want to get away).  Rocko had no interest whatsoever in going down there.  The steps were open treads with nothing on the back and he was afraid of them.  His people-brother had taken him down a few times and had to carry him back up.  Eventually he just refused to go down and there never was any reason to make him do it.

One night Rocko’s people-brother woke up to a wet tongue licking his face.  90% still asleep, he just picked Rocko up and carried him back upstairs.  Just about the time he laid his head back down, there was Rocko again.  Once again, carried him upstairs, this time shutting the door so he couldn’t get back down.

I’m sure at some point Rocko came into my room and jumped on the bed, to which I would have responded by putting the pillow over my head and going back to sleep.

The next morning we all got up at the same time.  Entering the kitchen, we heard the beeping.

The battery was going dead in the smoke detector and it was sending out a warning.  Had this been a real fire, Rocko’s people-brother and I would have been in big trouble for not listening to him. 

Ever since then whenever we heard about a dog who rescued his family, we would say “Rocko would do that if we would let him”. 

In our minds, he was a hero for trying.

Just one of our favorite memories in the life of a senior dog.

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Update on how Rocko is feeling

We had a lot of worries last week about Rocko’s health, here’s the update -

Feeling Better Rocko - September 29, 2011

Rocko started an antibiotic on Thursday night and by Sunday he was full of fire.  He hung out in the yard while I did a little work.  Even in the house he was following me everywhere.

We went for a short walk in the morning and again in the afternoon.  I don’t have much choice when I go out the back gate, he expects to go with me.  Sometimes he just stands there and looks up and down the alley, sometimes we walk up a couple houses and then back the other way, sniffing all the while to find out who has been through (him, not me).

All this activity wore him out.  When that happens, he doesn’t seem to be in pain but his back legs just kind of give out.  He’ll stop for a minute and his butt plops down or he’ll try to get up and it takes him more than one try.  I do have a way of helping him stand that works well for both of us.  I kneel next to him and slide both arms under his stomach then pull him towards me.  The extra support helps him stand up and I hold him close until I’m sure he’s steady.

Now that he’s taken the last dose of antibiotic we should be through with the new battle to take his medicine.  How can he eat a mouthful of dog food and spit out that tablet?  Not once but over and over?  I did switch the Zuke’s supplement around to after dinner, it’s not as important that he take it at a certain time.  After all, you do have to pick some battles.  We did give up the peanut butter routine and I’ve cut back on the green beans to just one meal but I’ve added the canned food.  I’m trying to spread it out to two cans per week, but then he gives me those sad feed-me-more looks.

I was able to cut back on his pain medication to where it was before this incident, but I was really hoping that magically he wouldn’t need it any more.  He seems to have a little more trouble in the evening when I’m home and he’s up and around – like tonight when he decided to chase a cat out of the yard.  They had an encounter last night too, Dmitri (the cat) must be a slow learner.  Rocko can’t move that fast or do any real harm unless the cat walked into his mouth but he does put on quite the show. 

We have our appointment with the accupuncturist on October 10th.  She utilizes a lot of different techniques including herbal supplements which I am all for.  I’d like to say money is no object but in reality it is so I need to see how this all comes together.  Having a senior dog is not cheap (next week I’ll tell you my pet care budget).

I just want my old boy to feel better.  It shouldn’t be so painful to have the life of a senior dog.

Mom, I told you to stop taking my picture!

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A tough week in the life of a senior dog

This is a long post but it’s been a long week . . .

Rocko, September 22, 2011

Saturday morning when Rocko woke up it was obvious he wasn’t feeling well.  When he snapped at Phoebe I knew something was really wrong.  I gave him some extra pain medicine (his vet has ok’d this for those times when it is obvious something is hurting him).  Saturday afternoon he didn’t seem to be doing much better.

 He takes his pain medicine in peanut butter and every now and then I find it where he didn’t swallow it.  It’s a wicked cycle because once he starts hurting he has a pain reflex and you have to break it or he just keeps getting worse.  I had just bought a can of Wellness 95% meat canned dog food, they email coupons every month and I thought it might come in handy.  I thought it would be a good idea to give him his medicine in a spoonful of that to make sure he at it, and at the same time I mixed some with his food to keep him eating.  Now I’ve backed myself into another corner when it comes to Rocko’s meals because he loves it.  I can’t figure out if this is grain free and 95% meat, why does it still smell like dog food?  To make matters worse, I am only giving him a big spoonful mixed with his dry food.  That means keeping the rest of it in the refrigerator and heating it up at meal time.  I thought I’d pushed the limit with cooking liver, now I’m microwaving dog food.

By Monday night he was feeling a little better although not quite up to his usual happy self.  I sat down and very gently ran my fingers in small circles into his fur to see if any certain spot gave a twitch or any other indication of pain, but I couldn’t find anything.  One thing has worried me for a while, I believe he either gets headaches or has a tooth ache.  At his age he can’t have his teeth cleaned any more because he can’t be put under anesthetic, it’s just too risky.  It doesn’t help that there is no way Rocko was ever going to let anyone look in his mouth.  That’s akin to touching his feet, it just isn’t done.

This is where we get into the part about the relationship between Rocko and me.  To say it isn’t normal would be an understatement.  I talked to him about how I needed to look at his teeth to see if there was anything wrong.  I told him if I could figure out what was wrong I would do my best to fix it.  After about 10 minutes, he relaxed his jaw and started smiling.  For the first time he let me look into his mouth, moving his lips and shining a little flashlight.  Nothing jumped out but I didn’t want to stress him too much, I’ll do it a couple more times and look closer as he gets used to it.  As only a dog lover would know, he does understand what I’m saying and he does understand that I love him.

Back to the medicine.  Rocko is pretty good about making sure I remember.  Monday night I gave him his bedtime pills in the dog food.    Time to go to bed and he wouldn’t go, he stood in the kitchen looking at the island.  I had to give him some peanut butter because he thinks that’s his medicine.  I wonder how long I’m going to have to keep this up.  Probably forever.

Tuesday night we had the standoff.  I was fixing his 7:30 dinner (with the canned food mixed in), this is when he usually takes his anti-inflammatory and a Zuke’s Hip Action nutritional supplement.  He came into the kitchen, tail wagging, and refused to take his medicine.  Absolutely refused.  When I made him take it he spit it out with a pfffttt attitude.  OK, enough is enough and he was going to take his medicine before he got his food bowl.  It took five minutes before I won but I wasn’t going to give in on this one.  It is important to keep his medicine consistent and if I waited until he was done eating the odds that I would forget go up considerably.  I do have my moments, that’s why I have one of those daily pill containers – so I’m not worrying an hour later that I forgot to give it to him.

By Wednesday Rocko still wasn’t feeling better.  The extra pain medicine has its own side effects and I didn’t like it, plus while it made a difference it wasn’t fixing thing.  I made an appointment to take Rocko to see Dr Habig over at Audubon Animal Hospital, the partner to Cherokee Animal Hospital.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Dr Grace at Cherokee and he’s a great doctor, but Rocko likes Dr Habig more.  When he’s already stressed every little thing counts.  Dr Habig fills in at Cherokee on a regular basis but wasn’t scheduled to be back until October 1st.

Thursday MeMa came to give us a ride to our appointment.  Update of the visit – Rocko has lost another two pounds which is great.  That means his weight loss has stabilized and is only from the change in food.  For the first time he let Dr Habig look at his mouth.  Not up close, but he let me pull up his lips to show her.  Dr Habig agreed that he might have some infection in his gums and he is now started on an antibiotic.  If this works I can dose him one week a month and keep it at bay or maybe this will just knock it out.

Mom, step away from the camera please!

I’m going to give the antibiotic 48 hours and then try cutting back on Rocko’s pain medicine.  If I start Saturday afternoon I will be with him continuously through Monday morning and can keep a close eye on him.

Next we’re going to check into acupuncture.  That will be a whole different adventure.

I’ll have an update in Sunday’s newsletter (you can sign up by clicking on Rocko’s World above).    

 It’s been a tough week in the life of a senior dog.

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Does a Dog Mom Ever Stop Worrying?

In this week’s post I’m just going to share some of my feelings on life with Rocko.

I worry.  All the time.  I worry that he’s not feeling well, that I’m not paying enough attention to him, everything.  When I leave in the morning I worry that I forgot to put the gate up and he might fall down the stairs. Some days I come home and he’s sound asleep on the floor and doesn’t hear my key in the door.  Some mornings I get up and he doesn’t hear me.  In those moments my heart stops beating until I see his chest moving.

Now I’m not obsessive or really overboard, although I have the number to our vet, Cherokee Animal Hospital, memorized and in speed dial on both phones.  I just want to believe he is going to be with me forever but every now and then reality peeks in.

A chubby Rocko, 2007

A few weeks ago I wrote that I had switched Rocko over to grain free weight control food.  Finally, after being overweight since his early years and being on the green bean diet forever, he started losing weight – 6 pounds.  He’s lost a couple more since then but it’s not worth the stress of taking him to the vet just to get on the scale.

I tried to find a good “before” picture so you can see he was pretty round.  I really didn’t worry about it until he got older and I finally figured out that the extra weight would be even harder on his old bones.  On one hand I’m very happy he has slimmed down.  But in the back of my mind the worry is still there.  Is everything OK?  Is he losing weight because of the new diet or could there be something else wrong? Why can’t I read his mind ??????

A slimmer Rocko, September 15, 2011

I had to buy another bag of food yesterday and debated on switching to the grain free that isn’t low calorie.  I fought my urge to fatten him back up and stayed with weight control.  Sometime in the next month we’ll have to go have his nails clipped and we’ll check his weight again.  If he’s gotten down to the upper 60s that will be enough and I’ll ask the vet what she recommends.  Hopefully his body will plateau at his optimal weight and stay there (fingers crossed). 

I know it’s better for him, I know he gets around easier with fewer pounds.  He’s a happy old boy.  If only his mom didn’t worry all the time.

It’s all part of loving a senior dog. .

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In The Beginning – part V (when Rocko turned mean)

When we left off this series, Rocko was getting settled into his new home.  He was skinny and scared but improving.

For the first few weeks we had a spare bedroom where Rocko would sleep at night.  He was a puppy and did like to chew things up when he got bored.  I went to work every day, his people-brother went to school, and things were going along fine until I got sick.

I had strep throat combined with an allergic reaction to my medicine.  Since our routine was already disrupted I stopped putting Rocko in his room at night and started letting him sleep in my room.  He never had much interest in getting on the bed except when it was storming, my later efforts to get him to warm a spot for my feet were a failure, but he did like being on the floor next to the bed.

I was home in bed for a week and was really sick.  When I tried to sleep my throat would close and I would sit up in bed gasping.  Rocko was right there, jumping up and licking me on the face until he was sure I was ok.

The only way to describe what happened during that week is that the balance of power in our household changed.  Rocko went from being protected by me to being my protector. 

By the time I recovered, Rocko had changed drastically.  Now instead of hiding behind my legs when someone came in he would stand in front of me barking.  The change was so extreme a friend asked if it was even the same dog.

No one could get in the house or anywhere near me.  I’ve seen the same behavior since then on Animal Planet, when a badly abused dog finally finds a home where it is loved its job becomes to protect that home.  Rocko’s people-brother could come and go but if his friends came over Rocko had to be put up.  The only other person he let walk into the house was MeMa.  Even though he only knew her from the first days when we found him and she only visited two or three times a year, he never batted an eye when she came in the door.  Go figure.

In hindsight I should have had this trained out of him but I have to be completely honest - having Rocko as a protector made me feel really really safe.  Nothing was going to happen to me as long as Rocko was around. 

Rocko, September 9, 2011

He has mellowed out as he’s gotten older.  Whoever says dogs can’t reason is absolutely wrong.  Rocko understands that if someone comes over he has to go into the bedroom and does so willingly once I’ve told him it’s OK, but he also knows that if someone is going to be here on a regular basis he can stay out if he behaves.  He will sit on his end of the couch and ignore you, you can’t make eye contact or talk directly to him, but he will allow you to live.

And that’s saying something for a mean old dog!

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Rocko’s Nightly Patrol

Rocko sleeping, September 1, 2011

Rocko is still vigilant in his advanced age and likes to make sure everything is safe before he goes to bed.  Most nights he just stands on the porch for a few minutes making sure all is well, but every now and then he goes back to the habits of his youth to what we called “patrolling the perimeter”.

On the cooler nights he still likes to get out and walk around the edge of the yard, sniffing where wildlife has passed through during the day.  Although we live in the city we still get all kinds of visitors from the nearby park.  Squirrels and possums of course, rabbits who see the “Come Live Here” sign in the back yard, but also raccoons, birds, some lizards with blue tails and who knows what else.  Rocko checks out every footprint.

There is a motion sensor light on the back porch that comes on when Rocko goes down the stairs (hopefully you saw our early post about Rocko’s really cool stairs).  The white fence reflects the light, giving the back yard a soft glow at night. 

There are three exit points so no animal accidentally gets cornered by an overly curious Rocko.  His days of chasing squirrels are long over but there could be a problem if something got backed into a corner.  The most-used exit is behind a giant hosta where the fence meets the garage, leading into the neighbor’s yard.  That’s where we got a little bit of video this week as he was coming back up the sidewalk – it’s posted on Rocko’s youtube channel.

You can see that for a senior dog (16 years and  9 months) he still gets around pretty good.   We left the natural sound so you can see how peaceful it is.  Rocko still doesn’t know that he can walk slowly up the stairs – when the time comes he’ll figure it out.

It was a nice night in the life of a senior dog.

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Rocko and Plato – Best Friends

Of Rocko’s three kitties, Plato and Socrates are siblings with entirely different personalities.  I call Socrates my pocket cat, you could put him in your pocket and walk around with him and he would be happy.  He’s just a very mellow cat.

Plato is a polar opposite.  Her territory is the bedroom level and you almost never see her out of the room, at least while I’m awake.  At night all three of them are running around the house but never while humans are present.  Plato will run away at the slightest sound and not be seen for two days.  Socrates is the first to greet a visitor, most people have never seen Plato. 

Her timidness does not apply to Rocko.  She loves him and he loves her – when she walks in his face lights up.  Every night when he goes to bed, she has to come give him his goodnight kisses.

I was lucky enough to get some love on video – and we’ve got Best Friends posted on Rocko’s youtube channel.  This is the chance for all of Rocko’s fans to see what he’s really like, the Rocko I love.

Rocko 08/23/11

If you’ve signed up for our newsletter on the Rocko’s World page, you can see that Rocko’s people brother was here this week taking special effects pictures on his phone – and Rocko didn’t even know it was a camera!  The newsletter comes out every Sunday with even more Rocko’s news.  You can check out back issues on Rocko’s World.

We also put up a couple of fun videos of Rocko’s kitties Plato and Phoebe – I’m still learning and having fun.  Cartoon Phoebe will show you what a black cat with BIG eyes looks like in cartoon mode.  Phoebe’s New Toys came from the Kentucky State Fair this week (33rd year in a row for Rocko’s people-brother and me) – she loves her new tube and fuzzy fake mice.  Click here to go to Rocko’s Rewards youtube channel.  We’ll have more soon of the kitties and the tube, she and Plato have made quite the game of it.

Just another day in the life of a senior dog – with a houseful of kitties

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Rocko’s Corner

Last week you watched a video about Rocko and his fur.  This week we’ll tell you about Rocko’s corner of the living room that you saw in the video.

August 11, 2011

Rocko likes to lay in front of the glass storm door and survey his domain.  Our house sits up from the street giving him a clear view of everything going on around us.  The door has a deadbolt that’s always locked for his safety – well, his and the mailman’s.

He’s got an assortment of quilts and cushions to make him comfortable.  If the door is open, that’s where you’ll find him, awake or asleep. 

Rocko also has his end of the couch, next to a sidelight that lets him see most of the street.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in the past, but Rocko does not like change at all.  We’ve had the same furniture for over ten years and will have it as long as we have Rocko.  Lucky it was good furniture.  The couch is about twelve feet long so there’s plenty of room for both of us to stretch out.  And five or six other people if needed. 

About two years ago I noticed it was getting harder for Rocko to jump up on the couch.  His people brother built him the platform you saw in the video.  We covered it with the same carpet that Rocko has as a runner in the kitchen and also covering the back step. 

He’s using it a little less, the video was taken last fall and time is marching on.  There are still days I get home and he has made his way down to my end of the couch and is sleeping on my blanket (more on that in another post).  More often than not he is sleeping on the floor.

Oh, and the pillowcase on his end of the couch?  The same one for at least the last 14 years. 

I told you he doesn’t like change.

Here’s a link to Rocko’s Rewards youtube channel if you missed last week’s video – One Big Pile of Fur.

On a side note, we took a trip to the vet today for some routine stuff.  It takes three of us to clip Rocko’s nails – he hates to have his feet touched, had a mole checked and he’s had a little weakness in one leg, his tendons are just loosening up a little.  The good news is that he is thriving on his new diet of Wellness Core grain free healthy weight and has lost six pounds.  He’s been at 77 for years now and it would be easier on his old bones if he had another five or so off.  Everything looks good.

 See you next week!

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One Big Pile of Fur

Now that we’re posting videos of Rocko on the new Rocko’s Rewards youtube channel, I’ve noticed that in some of them he looks a little scruffy.

I want everyone to know that I am NOT a bad dog mommy. 

August 10, 2011

Keeping up with Rocko’s brushing is a never ending job.  To the best we’ve guessed, he is a mix of golden retriever and chow and he has the combined coats of both.  The golden retriever part gives him his beautiful red fur, but the chow part provides a thick undercoat. 

I wish there was a magic brush but if there is I’ve never found it – and I’ve tried them all.  I still have to go through his fur inch by inch to comb it all out.   On a good night I can get at the most a half hour of brushing done, then he’s had enough.  Some spots like under his neck or his legs are completely off limits, so it’s a real battle to get them done.  That’s when I carry the brush around with me and get in two swipes whenever he stands still.

Last year I finally gave him a really aggressive trim, taking most of his fur down to about three inches long.  We had an extremely hot summer and I wanted him to be more comfortable outside (note that a shaved dog can get sunburned so don’t cut too short).  Surprisingly Rocko doesn’t mind the electric clippers at all.  Since he was young I’ve shaved his back end, I swear the fur there just comes in matted.  I think he enjoyed losing the extra fur and it probably took five pounds off him.

But it didn’t put an end to the loose fur!  This time of year it’s worse than ever and I work on him every day until he makes me stop. 

So if you see a picture or video of Rocko and it looks like he’s not properly groomed, rest assured, he does get brushed.  A lot.  All the time.

Here’s a link Rocko’s Rewards youtube channel and a short video from last year of the aftermath of brushing Rocko – One Big Pile of Fur.  I was using the flip camera so it took him a minute to catch on to what I was doing, as soon as he figured it out he jumped up on the couch to ignore me.

I’m posting random videos of the rest of our furry family so check them out while you’re there and we’ve got a really good one in the works.  We’ll keep you posted!

Sign up for our email newsletter so you don’t miss anything and please vote for us in StartupNation’s Home Based 100 Competition.  The links are on Rocko’s World page. 

 See you next week!

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Rocko’s Neighbor Rhett

Last week we talked about taking a walk and visiting with our neighbors.  This week we want to tell you about our neighbor dog, Rhett – with a special treat included in this post.

Before Rhett’s parents took him in, he was crated most of the time.  He’s a high energy dog and needed someone to play with him, but being alone so much made him very shy.

I first met Rhett when I was working on getting our production facility ready.  He would bark at me when I came out of the gate – really just doing his job because to him I was a stranger in the alley.  I would talk to him and leave him one of Rocko’s Rewards All Natural Dog Biscuits inside the fence where he could get it after I was gone. 

I can remember the day he finally came up and took the biscuit from me, it really touched my heart and made me feel good that he finally trusted me.  Now we’re great friends – he has a special bark that lets his parents know when I am outside so they will let him out in the yard and he can get his treat. 

But one thing went wrong with this whole plan – Rhett didn’t know about Rocko.  He thinks of me as “his” person and when he sees me with Rocko, he definitely lets everyone know that something is wrong.  Rocko hasn’t been around another dog in a long time, he just stands at the fence wagging his tail at Rhett.

Last fall I borrowed a flip camera from a friend and while I had it I got some shots of us taking a walk, including an encounter with Rhett.  I found the clips and put together a short video – it’s my first attempt at this so I hope I’ll improve as we go along. 

Comparing the video from almost a year ago to today, I can see how much Rocko is aging.  I don’t want to see it, I want to think he’s going to be with me forever, but the difference is definitely there.  For now it’s my job to keep him healthy and happy for as long as possible.

Here’s the link to Rocko’s Rewards new youtube channel and our first video – Rocko and Rhett.  Now that we’ve got everything set up, there will be plenty more to come!

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Just Another Day, July 29, 2011

Today was just another day in the life of Rocko.    

Rocko waiting by the gate


We’ve been in the middle of a heat wave and it has been too hot to go for our walk in the evening.   Today was biscuit baking day so we got to go out early in the morning.   

This is the view of Rocko’s territory.  While the mixer is running, we walk very slowly along the alley so Rocko can make sure everything is OK.  There’s one particular spot where he always stops to sniff under the plants,  some other animal travels through there frequently.   

Our neighbors were having a yard sale and the friend helping was the winning bidder on the gift basket we donated to the Floyd County Animal Care Society.  She really wanted to give Rocko a hug but you know he’s not going to stand for that, so she was happy to say that she met the real Rocko from ten feet away.   

We enjoyed our time making all

Let’s make some biscuits!

 natural dog biscuits and our special batch of grain free biscuits for next week’s Blackberry Festival at the Douglass Loop Farmers Market.  As you can see, Rocko is happy to help! 

Next week we’ll tell you about Rhett, our neighbor dog, and if all goes well we’ll have a video to show you.  Until then, Rocko says stay cool.

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In The Beginning – part IV

Rocko’s transition into being part of our family was a fairly uneventful process.  We got home from Mema’s house on Sunday, Monday we had our first vet appointment.

 It’s hard to imagine what he looked like at 35 pounds – a skeleton with fur.  His back end was so thin it seemed like if you put your fingers on each side of his spine and pressed in they would touch.  The picture here from Rocko’s Story  was a couple weeks after he came home and he had started to pick up some weight, but it gives you an idea of how bad it was.  I wish we had more pictures from that time, unfortunately I gave the best ones to my former web developer who lost them. 

As I mentioned in a previous chapter, Rocko didn’t have any health problems other than being underweight.  We made an appointment to have him neutered over Christmas vacation, he could be boarded at the same time. 

At home, Big Kitty and Baby Kitty were pretty tolerant of their new family member.  It helped that they had each other to gang up on him.  He was docile and afraid of a lot of things so it didn’t take much for them to put him in his place.  If we had a visitor he hid behind my legs the whole time.   He was just a scared puppy.

We had a spare bedroom and that became Rocko’s room.  He was shut in there at night to keep him out of trouble and to give the kitties free run of the house.

The only real problem we had was Rocko’s fear of tile floors.  He had a tendency to slip and once that happened he wouldn’t try again.  He’s still that way although now he will listen to reason, but back then he was stubborn.  The back door leading to our fenced yard was through the kitchen so that presented a problem when he needed to go out.  He would stay by my side as we went out the front door, around the side of the house and through the gate.  When he wanted to come back inside, he’d bark at the back door and wait at the gate for me to come get him.  I should have fixed the floor for him, nothing good comes of having your dog outside off leash, that was a hard lesson I learned shortly after and a topic for another post.

December quickly passed as Rocko continued to improve and gain weight.  We went back to Mema’s house for Christmas weekend and Rocko stayed at the vet.  His surgery went fine and he was happy to see us return.

In our next installment, you’ll learn how everything changed.

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The Things You Do For Love, continued

Last week you got a peek at cooking liver for Rocko’s meals, this week you’ll see the rest of the process to get his food ready.

Rocko has had a few extra pounds on him for a long time now.  I realize the error of my ways years ago but they just aren’t going anywhere. 

When I discussed his weight with the vet, Dr Grace said to put him on the green bean diet.  Not wanting to appear too much of an idiot, I didn’t ask him for details but googled it when I got home.  The green bean diet involves replacing half of Rocko’s regular food with green beans, they fill him up without adding calories.  I use the frozen green beans because they have no added sodium like canned and keep a bag on the shelf in the refrigerator.  Rocko goes through a two pound bag every four days.  I am probably Value Market’s biggest frozen green bean customer.

At meal time I pour one cup of green beans into a small bowl, top it with a heaping tablespoon of liver and microwave it for 25 seconds.  This goes into his bowl and is topped with a cup of Wellness Healthy Weight dry food.  He has a full meal in the morning, in the evening we split it between 4:30 and 7:30 meals. 

There’s only one problem with this process – once you start it you can’t ever stop.  Rocko has been eating green beans with every meal for at least five years now even though he’s not shedding a pound.  It doesn’t matter any more if he is anemic, if his bowl doesn’t have liver in it he’ll turn it down.

He does take a multi-vitamin to supplement any nutrition lost with the green beans, but his daily vitamin and medicine schedule are a topic for another post.

We are now in the process of transitioning to Wellness Core food which is grain free.  It will be a slow process, starting with a tablespoon of the new food mixed in with the old for a couple weeks.  I’ve heard many people talk about how a low grain diet added extra years to their dog’s life.  There is a logic that a dog in the wild would not choose to eat corn so their metabolism is not made to eat it every day.  Now would be a good time to take a look at your dog’s food.  If corn is listed as the first ingredient, at least compare prices next time you’re at the store and see if you can move it down a couple spaces on the list. 

We get to choose what we eat, our dogs rely on us for what they eat.  Let’s do what we can to make it a healthy choice.

On a side note, we’re going to bake a small batch of grain free biscuits.  The cost will be slightly higher, if you are interested in ordering email us at

Until next week . . . happy eating !

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The Things You Do For Love

As many of you know, I am not much of a cook – except when it comes to Rocko’s food.  This week it was time to restock our supply of liver.  Ugh.

Last year Rocko wasn’t feeling well.  He wasn’t acting different, he just had a look in his eyes that said something was off and he smelled different.  That’s the best way I can describe it, there was just something different about the way he smelled when I would hug him. Something only a dog-mommy would notice.

Bloodwork at the vet showed he was anemic.  It was very slight, he had just fallen under the line but it really shows how you have to be aware of every little thing before it gets worse.  He has some fatty tumors that can’t be removed because he is too old to be put under anesthetic but the tumors can draw a disproportionate amount of blood. The vet advised adding liver to his food to bring him back up to normal. 

Thus began the ritual of cooking liver.  The first day I gave him about two ounces and within an hour he was running around like his old self so the benefit is worth the effort but yuck – cooking liver?  I can think of a million other things I’d rather do.  After a lot of trial and error I finally came up with a system.

Beef liver comes frozen in eight ounce packages. I make two pounds at a time which will last us about ten weeks.

The process begins with putting the thawed liver in the blender and turning it into puree.  The puree is poured into the frying pan with three cups of water.  Just in  case you ever have to do this, let me tell you one thing – once you cook liver in your favorite frying pan you can never use it for anything else ever again.  Liver flavor fried pita chips were gross. 

As is cooks up it turns to a consistency similar to ground beef.  I keep stirring and breaking it up until it is just barely done.   

Once it cools I spoon it into small plastic bowls and store them in the freezer, adding plenty of the remaining liquid to keep it from drying out.

But that’s not all Rocko gets with his dinner -

Next week you’ll hear about the rest of the process . . .

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In the Beginning – part III

We were almost 700 miles from home when Rocko found us.  Seven hours of the ride was from the bottom to the top of Alabama followed by quick passes through Tennessee and Kentucky.  Thanksgiving vacation was over, it was time to hit the road.

Rocko had no problem jumping in the car as long as he was with us.  His people-brother sat in the back with him but he didn’t mind the ride at all.  What he minded was stopping.

Time to go out

He was housebroken, we knew that from the short time we had been together.  When he needed to stop along the road, he jumped off the seat and stood by the door.  He still stands in front of the door when he wants to go out. 

Sounds easy enough – just pull off the next exit and stop by the side of the road – except Rocko was terrified of the sound of cars.  We would stop and open the door and he would refuse to get out.  A couple more miles away from the expressway we’d try again.  Finally when he couldn’t hear any traffic at all he would get out.  By then we were in the middle of nowhere – in that pre-GPS time we joked about not being able to find our way back to the expressway.  But we did and a couple hours later we would repeat the process until finally . . .

 Home at last.  That’s where we’ll pick up our next installment.

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