Thursday, October 8, 2020

Senior Dog Preparation

We have been trying to write this post for quite sometime now, but things have always gotten in the way. Now that it has been several days since we said goodbye to our beloved Mr. B, we thought that these tips might help others with a geriatric dog.
It seems like it happened overnight. Mr. B was a young pup at the age of 17 and all of a sudden he aged to a 17 year old pooch. Here are some tips for those who have aging pups that we discovered along the way and wish we knew earlier.
As we have written before, gates are important, but especially to limit an older dog's access to stairs. Going up the stairs was a concern but not as much as the concern of Mr. B going down the stairs. We have had one too many close calls of hearing him crashing at the bottom landing after he slipped down the flight of stairs. Unfortunately, Mr. B still loved to follow us and if we had any gates open he would make the incredible effort to climb up all the stairs to be with us. We chose to live with our gates closed at all times and we would climb over them, just so we wouldn't make the mistake of keeping them open.
Mr. B with Danielle from Soap Distillery
Help 'Em Up Harness
We purchased this harness for Miss M when she was struggling with cancer and chemotherapy and it has been an immense help with her and especially with Mr. B. Unfortunately we have a decent flight of stairs out of our house and we could easily help the dogs down the stairs using the carrying straps on the harness above their back and above their hind legs. Mr. B loved going on walks and this made all of our walks manageable, especially winter walks with the icy sidewalks and mounds of snow. We eventually kept this on him at all times during the day to help him into and out of his bed and to help him walk on our wood floors.
The skin tag on his rear foot would be bleeding after our walks and it was only after a visit with an emergency vet that we learned that he knuckled his rear paws and that he was steadily losing the function of his rear legs. We also noticed that the nail on his rear paws have gotten really short and near the quick from him knuckling when he walked. After we started incorporating the boots on his rear paws, his skin tag stopped bleeding and his nails grew longer.
Orthopedic Bed
We purchased this bed from Orvis back when Miss M was first diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and it was the go-to bed for Mr. B. He was no longer interested in the plush beds we had around the house and liked the firmness of this bed. We recommend getting a dog bed specifically made for older dogs to help with their aching joints. Though this specific bed is not available, Orvis has other orthopedic beds and we love Orvis because they have an incredible warranty policy and they quickly addressed an issue we had with a zipper on one of their other beds.
Toddler Sheets and Waterproof Sheets
When Mr. B started having bowel accidents in the house, we just kept taking the dog bed apart and washing the dog bed cover and then this became a once a day to a twice a day occurrence. While we were washing his favorite bed, he would have to lay in any of our other dog beds which were not ideal for him until we were done washing and drying his dog bed cover. Lucky for us, Toddler A had extra sheets from his crib conversion bed that fit perfectly over Mr. B's favorite dog bed. Now we did not have to clean his entire dog bed and we also had a second set of sheets so we didn't have to do laundry every day.
Dog Diaper
Though Mr. B started having fecal incontinence at the end of winter, we were fortunate that it was more apparent during the spring and summer when we were all able to spend time outdoors and clean up was a lot easier. Despite the walks, Mr. B could not have a bowel movement unless his body was completely relaxed, which was either during his naps or asleep at night. To minimize clean up around the house, we used both a disposable human adult size small diaper with a hole cut out for Mr. B's tail and a large dog diaper. The disposable diaper helped prevent any leakage, this was really helpful at night when he would move a lot during his sleep. Clean up usually only consisted of cutting off the disposable diaper and washing just the rear and the tail and some of the dog diaper.
Spare Towels
We were fortunate to collect some towels from our gym before COVID. These towels came in handy cleaning up accidents, using as blankets when Mr. B got cold and when we had to wash Mr. B on a daily basis due to fecal incontinence overnight.
Schedule Change
The hardest thing would probably be the possible schedule change. Fortunately for us, when Toddler A was still a baby, we decided to change our sleeping schedule and become larks, getting up at 5am to start our day. Though Mr. B would stay in bed as we did our morning routine, as he aged, he would need to urinate around 5am and sometimes earlier. We changed our morning routine when we found Mr. B laying on the floor in a puddle of urine from an accident he had before 5am. Our routine became getting up at 4am and sitting in the chair next to his bed until he awoke with a sudden urge to urinate and then taking him to go out for the morning. Since we changed from an owl to a lark a few years back, getting up an hour earlier was not that drastic of a change. We were fortunate that most of our programs for the business were virtual and one of us was home throughout the day to help Mr. B. 
Optional Luxuries
To allow Miss M to visit her adoring fans, we bought a dog stroller that was easier to set up for shorter walks that could easily navigate our city sidewalks. It was very helpful for Mr. B. Since Mr. B loves laying out in the sun, we could take him to the park to sunbathe on the nice cool grass.
A cargo bike has been on our wishlist for years and when we had our own garage, one of our first large purchases was our beloved Nihola 4.0. In the summer, we were able to go all around the city, especially to different street festivals. It was even more helpful when the pooches had trouble walking, but still loved going around the city. Though all the festivals were closed this summer, Mr. B still made great use of his bike going around our neighborhood's beautiful park.
These are some of the things that made our life easier that we wish we knew sooner. If there are any tips you have, we would love to hear them, we know they will help others that are fortunate enough to have a dog or dogs that live to a grand old age.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Goodbye Mr. B

Recently, we said goodbye to our beloved Mr. B. Even though he was 17.5 years old, he had the mind and soul of a young pup, unfortunately his body could not keep up.
In 2008, A and I were looking for an older companion to Miss M. We spent months looking for an older pit bull, visiting Animal Care and Control and other rescue organizations in the city of Chicago and we just couldn't find one. Then one day while browsing through, I see a profile for a 5 year old pit bull in Kalamazoo, Michigan with the Kalamazoo Animal Rescue. After a few email exchanges, I recorded a video of our condo using a Flip camera to show Mr. B's amazing foster mom, Joanne, Mr. B's future home. While recording, A asks me, what am I recording our place all of my excitement, I guess I forgot to mention my find and the back and forth emails. Before A knows it, we pack up our small 2 door coupe with Miss M, a tent and camping gear and all of Miss M's essentials including a bed, a pillow for her head, a blanket in case she gets cold in the middle of summer. Before Miss M knows it, we are camping in Kalamazoo, sharing a tent with her two servants and her new dog, Mr. B.
Even though Mr. B came from a quiet wooded area, in Mr. B fashion, he quickly became accustomed to city life and like all Chicago transplants, he quickly considered himself a native Chicagoan. He loved being outside, exploring the city with his owner Miss M and her two human companion. Mr. B and Miss M were able to show countless others the truth about pit bulls and we met so many different and interesting people. Our walks would have so many breaks, because people would rush up to meet the dogs, especially Mr. B or Miss M would pull us to rush up to meet people.
Mr. B quickly became an integral part of our family, that we have no recollection of our life with only Miss M. Mr. B was the perfect complement to Miss M. Miss M couldn't remember a life where she didn't have her own dog to boss around and to use as a pillow.
Though Mr. B was shy and perhaps an introvert, he would wear a costume without fuss and get showered with attention, knowing that it pleased Miss M and us.
Mr. B was the perfect companion to Little Boy K, he was loving and gentle to Baby K. Giving Baby K the right amount of smooches and he would lay by Baby K's crib as he napped during the day. Mr. B was patient and kind dealing with Toddler K and his antics. We could not think of a more perfect dog to watch over Little Boy K as he grew up.
Mr. B was the perfect dog to help us cope with the loss of Miss M. He would gladly go on adventures around the city, exploring different sights and sounds and the occasional festival with his sidekick, Little Boy K.
Mr. B was the perfect best friend to me. He demonstrated what it means to be patient, loving and kind. Though his body ached despite the pain medication, he maintained his sweet demeanor and his patient attitude. He continued to give Little Boy K kisses and he would move as much as he could to watch over me as I worked.
At a festival once, someone that just met Mr. B and was petting him looked up to us and stated that Mr. B was her perfect dog. That pretty much sums up Mr. B. We could not have asked for a better complement to Miss M, a better companion to Little Boy K, a better city dog other than Miss M to A, and a better best friend to me.
We are grateful to everyone that loved Mr. B and Miss M as much as we did.
Goodbye our beloved Bruno.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Pooches: On Sibling Rivalry

Sometimes photos only tell part of the story.
Like this photo. You would think Toddler K and Mr. B were best friends.
But really, it's more like a sibling rivalry.
Right after this photo was taken, Toddler K decided to shriek really loud declaring "That hurt Mr. B's ears."
Toddler K doesn't have siblings. So, he has his rivalry with Mr. B.
When we want Toddler K to finish eating, sometimes we bribe him with dessert.
He doesn't care.
But if we tell him we are going to give the rest to Mr. B, he suddenly gobbles it all up just so Mr B can't have any.
When Toddler K thinks a book is too scary, he gets very excited and says we should go read it to Mr. B.
And when we are petting Mr. B, Toddler K will walk up and demand "Pet me too".
Though the funny thing about it all, is that it is all one-sided. Poor Mr. B remains bewildered and he has no idea there is even a rivalry.

This was how it started.
When Mr. B loved Baby K too much.
The bike they share.
This sums it all up.
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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Miss M's Not-Bucket List: Part II

In 2010, I wrote about Miss M being 100% mutt (it is nice to see Miss M's face show up as a web search result for 100% mutt).
Now that we have Little K, the post has a lot more meaning for us. It is interesting to us that when Little K was a baby, he would wave hi to everyone we passed by on our daily walks with both pooches and now that he is verbal, he says hi to everyone on our daily walk with Mr. B. He must have developed this habit from Miss M.

Our daily walks would often be a slow affair because it was an imperative to Miss M to say to everyone, she would either pull to someone or stop completely just to say hi. She was such an outgoing pooch and we love how Little K emulates Miss M and will say hi to everyone we pass by on our walks. Much like Mr. B, A and I are rather shy, so we are grateful that Miss M showed Little K how to be more outgoing.
Much like Miss M, Little K is a mutt aka Hapa Haole, but he knows his mixed heritage. As a not-bucket list item, we thought it would be interesting to Miss M and more so to us, if we got to know Miss M's background, so we did a DNA test for her back in December of 2016.
And the results are:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Pooches: The Family Bike

While we love to get out and around the city, most of the places we can go with the pups are limited to places we can walk or drive and easily find parking.
For years we dreamed about getting a cargo bike. We loved the idea of all of us being able to bike around the city and the ease of popping the pups in the front. But we never really had a reason to get one or a place to store it.
Last year, with the demands of The Laboratory, we realized that we needed more than one car. Instead of buying a second car, we decided this was the perfect time to invest in the Nihola 4.0 so we could transport cargo to and from The Laboratory. Also, with the ailing Miss M and the aging Mr. B, our Nihola quickly became our family transport of choice.
Though we loved visiting our usual stomping grounds, since our pups were getting older it was getting harder for them to walk those few miles. Driving was not a convenient option due to the hassle of getting the pooches and Baby K into the car and reaching our destination to find that the closest parking spot is only blocks from our home.
The Nihola, with its 264 lb load capacity, gave us the option to safely, with its closed double tube frame, and efficiently go around the city, with a few modifications.
At first we tried to fit, everyone, including A, into the front cargo area, but it was very cramped. So our first modification was to fit a heavy duty bike rack in the rear that can hold A's weight safely. I added a padded seat with a backrest, flip up footrests and a small handlebar to make A's ride as safe and comfortable as possible.
For Baby K, we added the Babboe cargobike toddler seat shell, which is made of the same hard foam used in bicycle helmets.
Finally for the pooches, we have tie downs in the front that clip onto their car seat belts or harnesses and we tighten the tie down as much as possible to limit the possibility of an escape from a moving bike. We added padded floor mats cut to fit the floor of the bike so the pooches can comfortably sit and sometimes lay. The low entrance on the side makes it easy for our pooches to hop in and out with some assistance.
One major issue is that we did not opt for the e-assist and it is not a tandem, so moving is all based on pedal power from me. This makes going up hill and long rides really difficult. Luckily all of our usual stomping grounds are only 1-4 miles away, so once we reach our destination, we take nice long walks and breaks before we all head back home.
Even as Miss M was tired and slowing down, the Nihola allowed Miss M to continue her life of grand adventures.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Obligation vs Opportunity

Though I am fully aware that my time with Mr. B is very limited, especially since the passing of Miss M, I have always considered my routine with Mr. B, taking him for a walk, letting him out for a potty break, as an obligation.
I would tell A that I have to take Mr. B for a walk when we get home, I have to let Mr. B out at night. It was not until we had a recent scare with Mr. B's blood work that I truly wanted to change my life with Mr. B and continue to live every moment as a grand adventure. I had to shift my thinking from things I have to do with Mr. B to things I get to do with Mr. B.
A daily walk, taking him out for a potty break, taking him to the vet should no longer be an obligation but an opportunity to spend more time with him and ensure that he is healthy and happy and we are still creating amazing memories.
Though I do slip up and say I have to do something, I try to remain mindful of my language and correctly restate it as I get to do something.
I hope to always remember not only with Mr. B, but with all aspects of my life that instead of having to do all of these obligations, I get to have all of these opportunities.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pooches: What We've Learned about Pet Insurance

One of the first pieces of unsolicited advice I always give to new pet owners is to apply for Pet Insurance.
Before you can develop any pre-existing conditions.
And with everything we went through with Miss M this past year, we have learned a lot about pet medical bills.
Though the biggest thing we found out:
It's not enough to just have Pet Insurance. You have to choose the right Pet Insurance.

Just from our experiences, this is a tale of 2 Pet Insurance plans: Miss M was on 24PetWatch and Mr. B has Trupanion. And seeing how making the right choice in the beginning can make a huge difference as your dog gets older.

NOTE (12.3.19): We no longer recommend Trupanion. They raised our monthly premium 40% without telling us. They claim that the increase is not due to age, but that they can increase the percentage given the types of claims for other pitbulls in our zip code, so they can never know how dramatically it can increase in a year.

Pre-existing Conditions
I enrolled Miss M in her Pet Insurance plan way back in 2007 when there weren't as many options out there.
To put this in perspective: The final Harry Potter books was just published. Britney Spears was still considered a positive role-model. And they just invented the i-Phone.
Simpler times.
When I was looking at plans, the biggest thing was checking the pre-existing conditions. Some plans won't cover conditions for certain breeds of dogs. You want to make sure to sign up before your pup has any major health problems.
But, it makes it really hard to switch insurance if you are diagnosed with anything.
At one point I had asked the vet about a urination issue--which we later learned was behavioral--and after that the insurance used that one question as a pre-existing condition where they would not cover illnesses involving her kidneys.
With that one strike against us, we always thought that we were stuck and we had to stick with her plan.

Your Policy Changes as They Age 
When you enroll in pet insurance with your young pup, it's so easy to skip the parts that talk about how your policy will change as they get older.

Most of the policies will have dramatic annual premium changes when they turn a certain age. We originally had Mr. B on Embrace Pet Insurance, which we liked a lot, but when he turned 6 years-old his annual premiums increased 40%! He didn't have any pre-existing conditions, so he wasn't tied to the plan and we were able to switch him over to Trupanion. Though as a 14 year-old dog, his current premiums are extremely high.

In our case, Miss M's total coverage drastically drops. Originally we could insure her up to $20,000, but once she turned 10 they would only reimburse up to $5,000. Given the costs of the co-pays and the annual premium, we only received about $3,000 back from her insurance.
You don't get any benefits for being a loyal customer.

Consider Total Coverage
I always thought it was enough that we were insured, and I never considered we would reach a point where our medical bills would exceed our insurance.
To put it all into perspective (and we know all costs differ depending on location, specific condition, and type of dog):
A visit and stay at the Pet ER can be $2,000+
It depends on a lot of factors, but in our situation a round of chemotherapy can be $5,000+ and an additional radiation dose is $2,500+. But the testing and procedures between and after testing can be as much as $600-1,500+ each time.
We had several rounds of testing.
Since she was older than 10, Miss M's coverage dropped to only covering $5,000, which is really $3,000 after co-pays and the annual premium.
Unbelievably, Mr B's plan with Trupanion has unlimited coverage. We met someone at the vet's office with the plan who told us they spent about $40,000 and they were still getting reimbursed.

Getting Reimbursed
I never thought about it when I signed up, circa 2007, but knowing when you're being reimbursed is a huge deal. 
Especially when you're dealing with thousands of dollars.
It took 2 months for Miss M's insurance to reimburse us. 

Ask About Add-on's
It turns out that Mr. B's insurance does cover some non-traditional therapy. If we had known this, we would have signed up long ago as we've had too many friends whose pups have ACL injuries and we would have wanted to prepare.
We unfortunately couldn't take advantage of it because we asked our vet if he seemed arthritic, and it was noted in our file as a pre-existing condition.

Pet Insurance vs. Just Saving Money for Emergencies
We have paid for Mr. B's plan for years and he has only turned in small bills a few times. 
So yes, we have lost money on his coverage.
At the same time, you never know what can happen, and I'd rather be prepared.
Despite all my years of saving, and being financially responsible, this past year was the most financially unlucky year of our lives. 
Baby K needed an emergency surgery on his large intestine and was hospitalized for 7 days. Our Developer decided not to honor contracts and has left us with a college-tuition's worth of needed repairs. Even our 3 year-old water heater gave out. All in addition to Miss M's illness.
It's a terrible feeling to have a sick pet and to be worrying about financial decisions.

These are just our experiences with the few Pet Insurance companies that we've worked with.
What are other people's experiences or things that we're leaving out?

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