Accommodations for Old Dogs: Dog Ramps and Coping Strategies

Up until this time last year, my old Bouvier was still working cattle—though she was definitely slowing down. I knew she was having second thoughts about this work when she hesitated to move the young calves. She advanced on them cautiously. Her vision was failing and I think at that point it was reduced to shades and shapes.

Alice watching Wil and me work cattle

Alice began to consider cattle herding a spectator sport

Not long after that she made the transition from “getting up there” to “up there.” Climbing stairs was a labor to be endured only when going to bed at night. Walks around the ranch became an observer’s sport where she watched Wil and me head out and just “tuned in” to us. Last summer, even her “tuner” was getting old and we’d often surprise her when we got back to the house.

I have had to make accommodations for her lack of mobility, sight and more recently hearing:

When we walk together, I must slow my steps as though walking with an old lady using a walker.

Before touching her I clap my hands – lightly, then a little louder and louder until she hears the sound. When she knows I’m there, I touch her cheeks – one of her “sweet spots.”

To wake her from a deep sleep I might get a tasty snack and hold it in front of her nose until the scent wakes her.

Echo was Alice's mentor

Alice was around 7 or 8 months in this picture

She’s had periods on incontinence since she was 5 and lost her best friend, and mentor, Echo. I stuffed the innards of her dog beds into huge plastic bags then stuffed them back into their cloth duvets. Even still, I have had to take the beds and wash them at the Laundromat (removing the innards from the duvets first, of course.) Last time I washed them was when the dogs spend a week away from me—one in a kennel, and the other at a DogVacay location—which I’ll discuss in another post. I used Arm & Hammer for sensitive skin + a whole quart of vinegar per load. The beds came out smelling a little like vinegar, but once tumbled in the dryer, they lost that vinegar oder and smelled quite lovely!

And we found other things that have made this transition less ugly:

For example, Nature’s Miracle is our friend!

   So is our leash! Alice is now very close to blind. Her vision, even when she was young was not very good. I used to say that the bit E on the ophthalmologist’s was a light smudge, but any more I don’t think the chart itself is visible. So even going from the house to the car, I put her on a leash.

To get in and out of the car or truck, she walks up her ramp. At 62 pounds, I can pick her up, but I really prefer to lift the 18 pound telescoping ramp. It fits behind the seat of my little Prius and in the bed of my pick up truck. If I did not have 2 dogs filling the back of the truck, it would fit easily behind one of the front seats.

This ramp works best on the hatch door of my Prius.

This ramp works best on the hatch door of my Prius.

Alice likes her Solvit ramp

Without the Solvit Ramp I would have to lift Alice in and out of the truck!

It took a little time to teach Alice to use her Solvit Deluxe Telescoping Pet Ramp

Alice has no trouble coming back down theSolvit Deluxe Telescoping Pet Ramp

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