Background Switcher (Hidden)

The Way It Is

Sunday, May 21, 2017

You getting up? Because I'm getting up. Yup. We're up.

Chet Baker, on second wakeup at 7 AM. He gets up at about 5:40 AM to pee, then we come back and he goes back to sleep for an hour, and I don't. Pills (=treats) at 7. No ifs, ands or buts. Good thing he's so cute. I did not know when I started him on his first thing in the morning pill routine about 15 months ago that I was in fact creating a monster. This dog, who would sleep in with me as long as I wanted on the rare mornings I did that, now has timers on his bladder and stomach that ring loud and clear. And it doesn't matter if you were up until 1 AM. You're going to get up with him. So between Chet and the dawn chorus, we're up with the birds.

The good part of that is that after losing prodigious amounts of hair to thyroid issues and a tenacious skin infection for more than a year, he's finally growing shiny black hair back. You wouldn't believe how that helps my spirits, to see his hair fill in again, even though I'm not sure, after having had him on antibiotics since September, that we have the skin infection licked. I had become convinced he was simply going to be naked for good. He's on two heart meds for a murmur that cropped up 15 months ago, and one (Vetmedin) seems to be helping quite a bit. Though he still moves beautifully, in early May he finally started  hesitating at stairs and even small jumps. I feared it was his heart, going south, but his wise veterinarian suggested a painkiller. Two hours after taking it, he was a different dog. Deramaxx is an NSAID that has made a huge difference in his mobility and attitude. It really gave us some essential Chet back. The other big difference has been feeding him twice a day. His hardworking heart was burning up all his energy just pumping, and he dropped weight steadily. And almost doubling his food intake in two medium-sized meals daily has made a huge difference. He's finally gaining it back! That little pot belly is a welcome sight. I really like Fromm Family kibble, my third and final food choice for Chet Baker. Good food, it is.

This senior dog stuff ain't for sissies. It's been a long year plus of worry and vet visits and hair and little shoes dropping one after another. We seem to have struck a balance of sorts with a skillfully orchestrated medication regime. I'll never give another dog the systemic tick medication called NexGard, that I know for sure, for it was that folly on my part that seems to me to have kicked off all the rest of the cascading issues back in late winter of 2016, starting with the ear infection and the sudden deafness, proceeding to the heart murmur and a suddenly done-for thyroid. Some veterinarians tell me the tick poison had nothing to do with it; that Boston terriers are prone to heart murmurs and bad thyroids. And some veterinarians I've talked with say that systemic tick medications have become dangerously toxic as the ticks build up resistance to the more innocuous ones we used to administer. I wonder if it's true that Boston terriers are prone to these issues. Maybe they are simply the kinds of dogs we love so much we over-medicate them in trying to protect them. It's worth thinking about. And I do.

Chet used to sit and stare at me, hoping I'd ask him if he wants to go for a walk. Now, in a sweet reversion to puppy days, I carry little cubes of freeze-dried beef liver in my pocket, little bribes to keep him following along. Any route we take that starts at the house invariably ends in his pretending to find something interesting in the grass, slowly turning, and then laying back his ears and trotting with increasing speed and determination back home, liver treats or not. I have become used to the sight of my dog's rapidly receding back end, to leaving a sliding door a little open so he can let himself in and flop down in his bed until my return.

Now, to get Chet Baker to go for a walk or run with me, I have to put him in the car, to remove that "turn for home" option he seizes first. We drive to one of our distant routes. And then things go fine. In fact, we've both accommodated to his deafness and his tendency to lose sight of me so beautifully that I've ditched the leash and the obnoxious sheep bell I used to put on his collar. We keep each other in sight. Period. If I stop to look at something and he loses me, he stops, thinks, and looks back over his shoulder instead of panicking and bolting for home like he used to. He sticks to me like a tick. 

It's good to see the native intelligence of this little animal kick in, to see him compensate for his disabilities, even as I, too, have become hypervigilant to his whereabouts at all times. If he's unaware that he's deaf, at least he knows he isn't able to monitor me with his ears any more. So instead of striking out yards ahead, he follows behind or right beside me. If he goes ahead, he looks back over his shoulder every 20 seconds or so. It makes my throat catch to see him checking so frequently, to think that he's always worrying a little about losing me.

I know the feeling. 

What is this pact we make with our dogs, that binds our hearts so tightly together? By the time you realize that living with a senior dog isn't nearly so much fun as, say, romping around with a sleek and shiny five-year-old over hill and dale, it's too late. We're in the chute, me and Chet, and it's going to play out the way it's going to play out. Suddenly you've got the equivalent of a car payment going out each month, and you look out in the driveway,  expecting a shiny new Subaru, but all that you see is the same little black and white cruiser you've always had, and he's headed home, and it's time for his pills again. And you adjust. You simply adjust. You love him for the magnificent dog he was, and for the dear little gent he is, and for whomever it is he becomes, because a love like this takes a love like that.


Umm - Sorry, Julie. Just where is the video? Doesn't show up for me or my husband.

Um... what recording? I don't see anything to click on.

As to the medication being partly responsible for Chet's infirmities, it may be possible. A local restauranteur recently took out an ad in our paper because of giving small dogs too many vaccinations for too many things in too brief a period of time. His little dog sickened and died slowly over the course of a year. Apparently, they give dogs the same dose, no matter their size. I think that people should develop a more questioning attitude toward doctors. They are not perfect. They make mistakes. They sometimes are relying on faulty data. It is up to us, ultimately, to ask whether something feels right to us... whether it rings true.

Posted by Anonymous May 21, 2017 at 4:46 PM


My mom is on her second Boston and has had nothing but trouble with both medically. She loves them, they *are* such great dogs---oh the licks!----but boy my parents have dropped a pretty penny on them at the vet. Both have had particular food allergies and various eye and heart issues, among the list of issues that have cropped up.

I'm kind of glad I don't know the bird songs because that sounds like it is one part fabulous and one part torture!

Julie, I share the same concern about the tick medications. For 2 years, prior to my Bostons passing away, I stopped applying flea and tick medications. Instead, we did frequent baths and daily inspections. Chet is an amazing companion and thanks for sharing the photos and stories.

Our Boston boy will be 12 this September. He has had Cushings and developed diabetes three years ago. The day he was diagnosed with diabetes,the vet recommended putting him down. Needless to say, we found another vet. Three years later and minus a fair amount of money, two insulin shots a day and a pill for Cushings keep him in relatively good health. He has lost the site in one eye and the site he has in the other isn't great. He still makes several inspections of our lawn every day, still barks at strange noises, loves a chew toy and still loves to sleep with my wife and I. With his diabetes and Cushings,he too awakens at 4:30 AM every morning ready to eat. I've had people ask me if it has been worth all the time and money, and the answer is always yes. I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat an animal. Like Chet, he has loved us without even thinking about it all of his life. There is a bond between us that, although you understand, it is unexplainable.Thanks for keeping us up to date on Chet-at the very least, it lets some of us know we are not alone in caring for aging companions.

So touching Julie! Thank you.
I've gone through similarities with four Great Danes.
The pain, the joy, the love the balance ... so beautifully described.
Thank you.

Vetmedin is an amazing drug with few side effects. Duramaxx however has some significant ones for long term use. Tramadol may not be quite as effective but it also isn't as damaging to the kidneys, or Cosequin or some other joint supplement and weaning him off pain killers all together.

I only do heart worm meds, the old fashioned Heartguard, no flea or tick stuff, ever. I can't imagine that taking a pesticide that slow releases into an animals system can be deemed safe.

We do certainly love them so much! Here's to many more years for handsome dapper Chet!

Sweet love for your beautiful Chet. You take such incredibly good care of him. He is surrounded by all the cheering fans who have fallen in love with him here on this blog. He may not be able to hear us, but love has a way of making itself known.

I just love how you describe your adventures either with Chet or the other animals you care for and mention. We love our little companions and cannot imagine life without.

I have been through a similar journey with my precious Bishon Frosty; you share it so perfectly. It's not easy having your best friend deal with effects of aging....but I consider it a small price to pay for all the love he gave me. You have allowed all of us to share Chet; thank you. He is so dear. Give him a liver treat and a good scratch from me! (((HUGS)))

Senior dogs are my thing. So many are dumped, especially right before Christmas, due to age and anticipated medical issues ($$$$). Your post confirms those concerns, and it is true that senior dogs often need special care, especially flat-faced breeds. However, many seniors (such as my own, 10 and 14 years old) continue to thrive and play with abandon. Adopting a senior means knowing the animal's adult size and personality, avoiding the trials of raising a puppy, and receiving love from a grateful new friend. Adopt, Don't Shop. Senior Dogs Rule!
With much love for Chet who is so handsome and smart and who brings smiles to many, many people.

So good to hear that Chet is doing better-I had noticed the hair loss in an older picture and hoped it was just a temporary thing. Older dogs are sweethearts and in our house they get extra privileges. Enjoy every day with Chet.

Beautiful and touching post, Julie. I agree with Jim Barbour's comment--especially:
"I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat an animal." So true. I loved & was loved by all my four-legged family members, from my first cat love, Puppy (there's a story with that name) to my last cat love, Lily, who left me in January due to advanced ear cancer. Three family cats, one foster cat (Lenny--a neighborhood cat that kept getting left behind when his owner-at-the-time moved--I kept him and loved him until his passing. He was a dear Persian--aged and had a mind of his own, but needed care & he got it!) and one pup, Precious.

Anyway, thanks for the post on Mr. Chet Baker. Such a dear soul. Onward by all means.

I found your wonderful blog through a friend that was a fan of Chet Baker. I enjoy your posts so much. This one touches my heart though. I have a 12 yoa BT that since last fall has been diagnosed with Cushings as well as heart failure after years of great health. We enjoy every single day with her, knowing that the days are not a given anymore. They are such a piece of our hearts. Day by day...and thank you.

In sickness and in health. Elderly animals suffer the same slow fall that humans do. Animals handle it all so well, but I'm glad that now we have medicines and treatments that help ease the fall in the same way we can for humans, and see those bright eyes and eagerness to walk maybe not as far, but definitely give it a try. I have walked the path with many cats. It will be a moment when you stand in the quiet of an evening and think that he's in the house when he used to be out with you. Sending purrs to Chet Baker.

The really scary part of my reaction to your wonderful post about Chet was "She could be talking about my husband, not just her dog." These issues aren't unique to our relationships with animals.

I've missed reading your posts regularly since work blocked your site (I used to read them when I was on eternal phone hold). I'm so sorry to read about little man Chet although it seems like he is still loving life with his family. I adopted an older dog with a heart murmur and allergies and can't stand giving him the flea drops. It seems to knock him off his game for a few days. Hang in there, he needs you more than ever now!

The bleeding heart speaks volumes. Love you, Julie.

"What is this pact we make with our dogs, that binds our hearts so tightly together?" A poignant question that brings tears to my eyes, especially when I read this with my own senior girl curled up at my feet.

My little Cavalier has been on a journey much like your sweet Chet Bakers. Julie, I'd love to send you some things to help him with the skin issues.and help support his immune system and appetite. (I don't know if you remember me, I have a small Ohio company that focuses on natural supplements for pets, I wrote you a few years ago about the Indigo Buntings) Watch for my email and let me know your address & I'll send off a care package from Agatha's Apothecary, probiotics would be a great place to start just to add good bacteria to his system. We love them so much, I felt helpless when Agatha got sick but there are ways to help them that can be used in conjunction with the medications they sometimes have to take.

[Back to Top]