Monday, April 30, 2012

Albi in Spring

We're nearing the ninth anniversary of our "gotcha" day with Albi, the day we adopted her from a dog / animal shelter in Bonn, Germany. She's more than 15 years old (we mark her birthday at Christmas) and doing amazingly well.

I really don't understand why people are so adverse to adopting mature dogs. Albi was 6 1/2 when we got her, and though there were some rough patches at first, she's been about as low-maintenance of a dog as they come, even now.

Albi went blind a few months ago. But we still walk every morning and every evening. She still sometimes picks up a toy and wants to play for just a few, brief minutes (a very gentle form of tug-o-war). I'm stunned at how easy having a blind dog has been for us. I credit some of that to us being very in tune with what she needs - we know our dog, and that knowledge is paying off now that she needs us to be her seeing-eyed-people.

Her day goes like this: she wakes up anytime between 7 and 9 a.m., though sometimes I have to go back to our bedroom and wake her up. When I hear her in the hallway, I walk back to her and guide her to the back door of our house and then out into the backyard, and then watch her while she empties her bladder and does a bit of exploring. Then I guide her back inside, usually to her water bowl. And from there, I leave her alone - she can wander around well enough to decide what she where she wants to go - which is usually the living room, to sleep for a while more until I'm ready to take her for a morning walk.

Albi's not that interested in other dogs that approach her. She knows all the dogs in the neighborhood from her seeing days, and is her usual, patient/uninterested self around them. She still doesn't tolerate dogs in her house - she snapped at sweet Brandy, the boxer from across the street I dog sat one weekend, when I dared to let her in the house with us. Brandy, being such a sweetie, still greets Albi when we're out and about like it's the greatest thing EVER that she's meeting up with us.

After about half a mile of walking, where I steer her away from stop sign poles and other hazards, we head back home, where Albi is in such a rush to get to the kitchen to eat that she'll bang into everything on the way if I don't hold her back. You know that scene from The Miracle Worker when Annie Sullivan puts the plate of food under Helen's nose and Helen becomes totally focused on such? That's what meal time is like with Albi - very intense, with a nose in the air that shall NOT be denied.

After she finishes her meal, I drop three or four dog treat pieces around the kitchen, and Albi spends a few minutes desperately trying to find them. I know that sounds cruel, but it's actually fabulous mental stimulation for her. She's soooo food focused now, something she's never ever been, and when I'm cooking in the kitchen, she channels Buster and is continually underfoot, trying to find anything that might drop. She's never been this way! The upside is that I no longer have to mix anything in with her dry food, and I don't have to buy her the ultra expensive special order dog food she ate exclusively for so long - she devours each meal regardless of what it is.

During the day, she sleeps in different places in the house. We keep all the bedroom and bathroom doors closed, because she has gotten lost a few times. Sometimes I have to lead her to her day bed here in the living room, because she can't find it. I turn the radio on before I leave to go anywhere - sometimes, it keeps her from knowing I've left, but mostly, I've noticed she really does prefer some noise happening somewhere.

At around 8 p.m., she stands up and... just stands there. It's the take-me-to-bed-now stand. So Stefan or I lead her to her water bowl, swishing the water around so she can hear it, and saying, "Wasser, wasser" (German word for water). And after about 100 laps (not kidding), one of us walks her to our bedroom, to her bed there. And she pretty much sleeps through the night, though sometimes, she wakes up and pants for a bit. If she doesn't do the take-me-to-bed stand, then we go to bed without her, and almost always, I get woken up by the sound of clickity-clack on the floors - she knows her walking will wake me up and I'll come get her.

We've had four bathroom incidents in the last four months - I won't get into details, but all were my fault because I wasn't paying attention well enough during our walks and to the schedule she needs. That's been remedied, and there's been no problems since I started being more mindful.

Yes, we leave her alone for the day. She seems to be just fine with that. We have a motorcycle camping trip planned for May, and it's going to require three visits from a dog sitter each day, rather than two - but the visits will be MUCH shorter, since the walks are so much shorter, and she doesn't have to have her food prepared in any special way anymore. I worry only about the night - I know she likes hearing us and smelling us, and I wonder what that will be like for two nights without us. I'm just glad I have a really great neighbor across the street that I know will check on her each night. 

Soooo glad we don't have stairs....

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