Old Zeke

On Wednesday the dogs and I took our first walk after I decided Zeke didn’t need to walk two miles in the Georgia July heat. We turned around at the halfway point. The dogs would have happily gone further, but they don’t ask questions, so they were happy enough to turn around.

Zeke had been walking pretty slowly on the way back up the mountain for some time. I noticed, but didn’t necessarily attribute it to old age. We have had Zeke for 11 years, and he was fully grown when we got him. He’s at least 12, maybe older, and that’s getting pretty old for a big dog like Zeke.

I think I see graying in his face, but it’s hard to tell. Here he is in December 2008.

And here he is on Wednesday.

I tried to get him to stand up so I could get a frontal shot of his face, but he was lying the floor, cooling off after our walk, and he didn’t want to get up.

I showed Leah these two shots without telling her which was which, and asked her which one she thought showed Zeke as older. She picked the one from 2008. I really can’t see much difference in the pictures, but when I look at him it seems like I should be able to.

He has always been an active dog, or at least as active as we can let him be. He still plays with Sam like a puppy, although he seems to prefer wrestling while lying on the street. The signs of aging are subtle so far, but I think I see them. Even so, once the damned heat retreats, I think we’ll be seeing what’s going on a little further down the road.


Lucy usually sleeps through the night, but she woke us up around 3 or 4 am Thursday morning with a weak, whimpering sort of bark. We thought maybe she needed to go out to relieve herself, so I got up and went to the living room, where we keep the crate she has to sleep in because of some inappropriate urination. I opened the door and called her, but she couldn’t get up. She struggled for a few moments, then I reached in and brought her out onto the floor. She couldn’t stand up. She normally has a kind of splayed stance because of her hips and knees that gives her trouble on the hardwood, but this was different. She would just topple over.

So I took her into the garage where we have a utility carpet strip leading to the outside door. She was still very uncertain on her feet. She continued to stagger around and fall over. I picked her up again and put her in the flower bed, where she often relieves herself, but she couldn’t stand up.

I brought her back inside and put her into her crate. She kind of half stood, and looked around like she was trying to figure out where she was. I thought maybe she would be more comfortable if she could lie down next to Sam and Zeke, and possibly even us, so I brought her crate into the bedroom. After I turned out the light, every time I checked, she was still looking around. After about an hour and a half, I finally heard her snoring.

Thursday morning she seemed much improved. I took her to the vet, who said she now has a heart murmur that she didn’t have a couple of weeks ago when she was in for her checkup. Although the symptoms aligned with the list for a stroke, the vet said Lucy had suffered a heart attack.

Now, Thursday afternoon, she’s barky and snippy when we give her a treat by hand, so pretty much back to normal, but she’s on a veterinary medication for congestive heart failure for the rest of her life. For some time she has been balking at taking the regular long dog walk every morning. From now on, she’s probably going to get a pass on that, unless she volunteers.

The Kings of Denmark

It has been seven years since my fourth and last Doberman Pinscher died. I have thought about, maybe, some day, getting another one. Someone I used to work with said you can’t be loyal to a dog, but you can be loyal to a breed. But for some reason, I have mixed feelings about getting another Doberman. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to be loyal to a dog.

So occasionally when I think about another dog, I think about a breed other than a Doberman. One day about a month ago I told Leah, “Hey, we should get a Great Dane!”

Imagine a dog bigger than Leah! Imagine him lying on the sofa with us, or pushing us off the bed at night, if we let him sleep in bed with us. Imagine how much dog food he would eat. Imagine walking him. I used to think a Doberman was a big dog until I saw one of mine standing next to a Great Dane.

Planning for a new dog is not an urgent problem. We have three dogs, which is, at a minimum, one too many. Two is a full house, three is a madhouse. Of course Zeke is getting old. We will have had him 11 years this summer, so he will be at least 12. He’s still healthy, but he’s a graybeard now. Lucy is also a graybeard. We don’t know how old she is, maybe 12, maybe 14. She, too, is old but showing no signs of declining health. Sam is a real youngster. So I doubt that our dog roster will get any shorter for a while. But isn’t it good to plan?

So I was thinking, if we get a Great Dane, what will we name him? I’m not great at choosing names. Not an urgent problem, but no harm in checking, right? So what about naming him (or her) after one of the kings of Denmark?

I Googled the kings of Denmark, searching for a good dog name. I was amazed to see that the list goes back more than 1000 years, to Gorm the Old, who reigned from around 940 to 958 AD. He died at about 58 years old. Gorm? I don’t think so.

Then there are Harald, Sweyn, Cnut and Harthacnut. Harald is a possibility, but I don’t think I like it. Sweyn is too hard to say. Cnut (even Cnut the Great) won’t work. For one thing, it violates my first rule for naming dogs: you must be able to visualize yourself shouting the name at the top of your lungs, and you cannot shout Cnut. No way. Harthacnut is ridiculously long for a dog’s name, plus there’s that “cnut” hiding at the end.

Magnus the Good might work. Magnus was a bastard child who died without children at age 23 on 25 October 1047. I wonder how true that date is, and if it has been adjusted for changes in the calendar.

Olaf, Eric and Niels don’t seem like dog names. Valdemar is too much like a fantasy villain. Abel might work, but Christopher doesn’t. There are a lot of Christians and Fredericks, definitely not dog names.

The one thing the kings of Denmark seem to have in common, along with names unsuitable for a dog, was that most of them died young. Most of those who did not die in their 20’s or 30’s died before 60. A very few of the ancient kings of Denmark lived into their 70’s. The oldest I could find was Christian IX, who died in 1906 at age 87, a remarkable outlier. Of course the more recent kings or queens generally lived somewhat longer than the ancient kings of Denmark. But most of the kings of Denmark were younger than I am when they died.

I did not find a good king’s name for a Great Dane, except for possibly Magnus, but looking at their ages at death made me think about something else. When we humans get a pet dog or cat, we have to prepare ourselves for the fact that that dog or cat is almost certainly going to die before we do. That’s true for most of our lives, but at some point, at some age, we have to understand that a new dog or cat could well outlive us.

Leah would like to have a Siamese cat, like she used to have, one that might provide some of the emotional interaction that none of our current cats does. I would like to have another Doberman, or maybe a Great Dane. Neither of us is morbidly waiting around for our current cats and dogs to die, but, realistically, they probably will all die before we do. And at that point we have to think about how we will ensure that our responsibilities to any new cat or dog are carried out if our pets outlive us. Neither of us expects to die any time soon, but both of us are at an age that, if a 30-year-old read the obituary, they wouldn’t say, “They died so young!”

Maybe we should consider adopting senior pets, if we live long enough.

Dogs in panic

I tried to do a little more work on the trim in the house on Saturday. Zeke and Sam objected. Strenuously.

I had put up the vertical casing on three doors a few days earlier and the dogs acted spooked, as they had in the past when I was using the pneumatic nailer. But this time was different.

The dogs were in the bedroom, where I wanted to install the baseboard behind the bed, so we could push the bed up against the wall. I didn’t realize they were there when I put two nails into a loose piece of flooring. They ran out of the room and pushed through the door into the garage. I had already lowered the garage doors because I figured they would want to be out there, so I wasn’t worried about that. But when I started moving the baseboard around — not even nailing yet, just moving — they freaked. Zeke started trying to rip the rubber gasket off the bottom of the garage door. It literally scared the crap out of Sam.

So this is the progress I made on the bedroom baseboards.

Loose baseboard and quarter round, plus abandoned nail gun.

On Tuesday I stopped at the vet’s office to ask their advice. They didn’t think sedatives were the answer. I didn’t either. I have a lot of trim left to do, and I didn’t want two doped-up dogs around for days on end. The vet suggested boarding them, but I don’t think that’s going to be practical. I guess I’ll try to fix up a hidey-hole for them in the garage.

Here’s Zeke in calmer times.


Notice that there are no baseboards on the wall behind him.

Sam is not a driving dog

Sam continues to have issues. He is still very skittish; any unexpected sound startles him. Sometimes even expected noises startle him. He spends almost all his time indoors back in our bedroom alone. During the day Zeke joins him to lie in the sun, but in the evening he’s back there by himself. We are now starting to close the bedroom door so he has to stay with us.

He’s at his best on our walks. I took all three dogs for a walk into the woods on Tuesday for the first time in a long, long time.

This is the remnant of an old road leading from Fouche Gap down into Texas Valley. This road has probably not been used in 50 years. I used to take Zeke on this walk back when he was our only dog. I would let him off the leash sometimes and he would usually come back. OK, eventually he always came back, but sometimes after a long delay.

When he’s on a walk, Sam is outgoing and playful. He wrestles with Zeke and barely notices when I pull on his leash.

Leah and I keep hoping he will get used to riding in the truck. We have taken him two places in the truck, the vet and a dog wash. Both experiences were not particularly positive, although he didn’t seem to mind the bath. Both times he vomited while riding, on the way there, and on the way back.

Both times he rode in the back seat. Leah thought maybe if he rode in the front seat he would do better.

On Tuesday I decided to try to take him on another ride, this time making it more positive. Or at least not negative. I had to take our trash and recycling to the transfer station, and then stop by the grocery store and a home center. I planned to stop and let all the dogs out every chance I had. So I put Zeke and Lucy in the back and Sam up front.

At first Sam seemed to be OK.

The transfer station is only a few miles away, so the first leg was short. I let them out there and walked them around. Sam was still OK. He jumped right back up into the truck.

Then I drove to the grocery store, about five miles further, and walked them again.  So far, so good. Next was the home center, about a block away. This time Sam jumped into the back before I could stop him. Still, no problems. Then came the ride back home, about 10 miles in all. I put him in the front seat again for this segment.

Sam seemed to be OK most of the way, but as we drove up the mountain I noticed him pulling the corners of his mouth back, almost like a smile. But in dogs, it is not a smile, it is a sign that they getting nauseated. And sure enough, he vomited.

We aren’t sure what the cause it. It could be motion sickness or nervousness. I suspect nervousness, which is unfortunate since dogs often outgrow motion sickness but nervousness is a bigger problem. I have read a number of recommendations for handling this issue. It would certainly be convenient if one of them worked. It would make all of our lives better, including Sam’s. Maybe if we can make the destination a positive experience it will help. The city and county have opened a large tract of land not too far away for walking and biking. That might be a good place for the next trial.