I run a hospice for animals

I provide care for however long they have left, so they do not have to take their final steps alone

Old and sick animals need love and attention’: Alexis Fleming with Gimli the sheep.

By Alexis Fleming

The last day we had with Osha the bullmastiff was hard, although perfect for her. We took her for her favourite walk, gave her a meal of her favourite food (pasta) and then lay in the garden in the sun with her, feeding her fruit chews, which she loved. Then the vet came and sedated her and put her to sleep. I was so sad , but I knew it was the right time to say goodbye.

I had heard about Osha through the charity I run, Pounds For Poundies, which tries to stop abandoned dogs from being put down in pounds. When I learned Osha had been dumped in the pound with terminal cancer, I had to take her in. This was October 2015, the same time my dog Maggie died suddenly in a veterinary hospital, which left me devastated. Maggie and Osha inspired me to set up the Maggie Fleming animal hospice, offering end-of-life care for animals, in Dumfries in March 2016. At the hospice, I provide them with a home, friendship, love, comfort and tailored vet care for however long they have left, so they do not have to take their final steps alone. The hospice is funded by charitable donations and I run it with help from my partner Adam, friends, family and volunteers.

Osha’s favourite things were food and sleep, so she spent her last nine months being spoiled with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in bed. She loved to steal eggs from our rescued chickens; I would leave one on the doorstep so that when she went out for her late-night wees she would think she had found treasure.

The vet who put Osha to sleep helped me realise it was the right thing to do. She told me that she sees similar situations almost weekly, when owners are so desperate not to make that heartbreaking decision that they leave it too late and the animals die in pain. The point of the hospice is to avoid that scenario.

I look after a maximum of three animals at one time, so that I can provide the best care possible. It is very time-intensive. Some of the animals I have helped have lived all their lives in kennels, never been hugged or kissed and don’t know what to do when I cuddle them, although they are clearly desperate for affection. My day is busy in some ways – looking after the animals’ practical needs, feeding them and giving them medication or other required care – but it is peaceful in others. Old and sick animals need love and attention, so I spend a lot of time sitting with them, reading to them and cuddling them.

I also care for more than 80 animals at my sanctuary for farmed animals and rescue hens. Many have been worked to death, and they come here rather than the slaughterhouse.There is something so sad about animals that have never known life outside a pen or a cage.

We take animals from all over, but I cannot provide end-of-life care for all that need it, so I offer support to their owners instead. They can phone me 24/7 for advice. Often just talking to someone who understands their sorrow can help people through what can be one of the hardest decisions they ever have to make. Most importantly, it helps families to stay together until the end, which is the best outcome for everyone, especially the animal, which wants to be with the people it knows and loves. Knowing you have done right by your pet, giving back that love and loyalty as you see it safely to the end, is a huge responsibility and privilege.

I have just started an end-of-life care plan for Bran, another abandoned dog, as he is starting to slow down. He was abandoned on the street with a tumour on his spleen when he was about 17 years old. He was given six weeks to live when he came here; that was almost two and a half years ago. But his latest blood results show he is starting to slip into liver and kidney dysfunction. I sit with him for a couple of hours each day, washing his face with a warm cloth, which he loves, and giving him a massage to ease his muscles. I have promised him that when he tells me it is time to go I will listen. I will be there on his last day with all his favourite things and hold him as he slips away peacefully, knowing someone loved him to the last.

Complete Article HERE!

Why Do We Give Our Pets Death With Dignity but Not Ourselves?

My years as an emergency veterinarian have shown me the relief that assisted death can bring. Why are our pets the main recipients?

By Catherine Ashe

The room is dim and hushed. On the floor before me lies a shaggy bear of a dog. His name is Shep, and he’s some combination of Great Pyrenees and probably German shepherd. His owners, Anne and Rich, adopted him to guard their dairy goats from coyotes, but Shep wasn’t very good at his job and instead became a much loved house dog. I know this because I’ve been taking care of him, as his veterinarian, for his entire life. Now, as he is stretched out before me on the floor, I can see the effects of the cancer that is slowly ending his life.

Shep has osteosarcoma, an aggressive and destructive bone cancer. It starts somewhere in a long bone of the body, silently eating away at the leg until there is nothing left. The leg gives out in a painful and sudden fracture. The cancer then progresses slowly, eventually invading the lungs. Once the cancer is in the lungs, there is nothing left to be done. It is only a matter of days to weeks.

We discovered the cancer when Shep broke his leg. I had a long heart-to-heart with Anne and Rich. The typical treatment is amputation followed by chemotherapy. With that treatment, a good quality of life can be obtained for up to a year or more. There are no guarantees, of course—cancer will do what it wants. Anne and Rich spent two days deliberating the pros and cons, but since Shep was otherwise happy and healthy, they decided to amputate and pursue chemotherapy. He did great as a tripod. Often you had to look twice to notice that he was missing a leg.

That was nine months ago. Now, the chemo has stopped working, and Shep’s lungs are filled with cancer. As he lays on the floor before me, his breathing is labored. Thin, watery blood leaks from his nostrils, and he coughs occasionally. His eyes are dull, no longer the bright, shiny brown that I remember. He doesn’t enthusiastically investigate my hand for treats. His tail doesn’t thump when I softly murmur, “Shep’s a good boy.” The dog I knew isn’t here any longer. His body is a shell.

Anne and Rich are huddled on either side of him, weeping quietly. Anne runs his shaggy fur through her fingers over and over.

“It won’t hurt, right, Dr. Ashe?” she asks me again.

I shake my head gently. “No. I’m going to give him propofol to make him very sleepy, and then I am going to give him the blue injection. It will slowly stop his heart and breathing. He will drift off to sleep and then he will die. He will not feel anything,” I say. I show her the syringes again, even though we’ve already been over this. I use the word die because ambiguity is never good in these situations.

Anne takes a deep breath, looks at Rich, and then nods. It is time.

I place the Shep’s great paw in my lap, check the catheter, and slowly inject propofol. Shep’s breathing deepens, his eyes grow glassy, and his head falls to one side. I give the second injection. His breathing slows. Slows. Slows. And then it stops. Anne gives a strangled cry and lays across his still form. Rich is stoic but tears track slowly down his face. Both are focused on Shep’s body, so they miss what I see—the final gift my patients often give me. As the drugs take hold, I swear I glimpse relief in his brown eyes.

When I was a kid, I remember hearing my parents having whispered conversations about what I interpreted as “youth in Asia.” I’d be half dozing in the backseat of our car, driving through the night, the radio playing, and I would hear their low voices, the urgency with which they discussed it. At the time, I was uncertain why they were so concerned about the teen population of Japan. What did that have to do with death squads and socialized medicine? It wasn’t until years later that I realized what they were actually discussing—not “youth in Asia” but euthanasia. And it wasn’t until I became a veterinarian that I intimately understood euthanasia, the easy death.

Euthanasia was a hotly debated topic for those of us who grew up in the era of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. When I was 19, Kevorkian was convicted on charges of second-degree murder for assisting in the euthanasia of Thomas Youk. Youk was in the end stages of ALS, a disease that ravages the body but leaves the mind intact.

I paid little attention to these debates back then. I was bound for college, with the world unfurling before me. But these questions came back to haunt me almost 10 years later when I started my career as an emergency veterinarian. For what do veterinarians do besides vaccinate pets and treat diseases? We ease suffering. We help our animal companions to the threshold of death, and then we help them through that final, mysterious door. We euthanize sometimes on a daily basis. We do it for reasons of behavior, illness, injury.

And as we do it, we hold the hands of distraught owners and help them make that last painful decision. We offer words of comfort and listen to sacred stories. And we meet each pet’s eyes in those last moments, and what we see again and again is not fear but relief. Relaxation. The end of suffering has come at last. I have seen it firsthand, time and time again. The wordless thank you, as a beloved pet slips into whatever awaits us in the next life. The light dims and then is extinguished. As animal physicians, we are not afraid to acknowledge that death comes for us all and that we possess the ability to ease its final agonies.

Complete Article HERE!

Orca who carried her dead infant is not alone – many animals grieve

The orca has been seen carrying the dead infant since July

By Michael Marshall

Over the last few weeks, many people have been deeply moved by the story of a female orca who spent over a fortnight swimming with the dead body of her calf, apparently grieving. The story is a dramatic illustration of something that has become increasingly clear in recent years: many animals grieve for their dead.

The orca is called Tahlequah and belongs to a pod known as J, which roams the north-east Pacific Ocean. Her baby died shortly after it was born on 24 July, according to the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, Washington.

Tahlequah proceeded to carry the body for at least 17 days, during which time she covered 1600 kilometres. On Saturday 11 August, the Center reported that she was no longer carrying the body. Instead she joined her fellow pod members in chasing a school of salmon, and seemed “remarkably frisky”.

Among certain kinds of animal, such grieving behaviours appear to be quite common.

Living together

Grief seems to be most common in highly social animals that live in tight-knit groups. This makes sense: social animals would come to value their friends and family, and accordingly would feel a loss when they die. In contrast, animals that live solitary lives and do not care for their offspring would have nobody to grieve.

Orcas fit the bill: being a kind of dolphin, they are highly intelligent and live in groups. Indeed, there have been previous instances where orca mothers were seen carrying the bodies of their dead infants. The same is true of many other cetaceans, the group to which orcas belong and which also includes other dolphins and whales. Bottlenose dolphins have been seen lifting the corpses of their fellows above water, as if trying to help them breathe.

There is also growing evidence that African elephants grieve. They pay particular attention to the bones of elephants, compared to bones of other species, and become agitated if they come across an elephant’s corpse.

Perhaps more surprisingly, pig-like animals called peccaries have also been observed seemingly grieving for a dead group member. A 2017 study tracked a herd of peccaries after one of their number died and found that they visited her body repeatedly, generally either alone or in pairs. The peccaries sometimes simply stood nearby, and at other times they nuzzled the body, tried to pick it up and even slept next to it.

Monkeys like us

Some of the most extensive evidence for animal grief comes from primates like monkeys and apes: our closest living relatives.

In one remarkable incident, a female snub-nosed monkey fell from a tree and cracked her head on a rock. Her partner, the alpha male of the group, sat with her and gently touched her. After she died he spent a further five minutes with her, pulling gently at her hand as if trying to revive her, before leaving. His behaviour suggests that he understood something of the finality of death.

Chimpanzees have been seen carrying the corpses of dead infants, often for weeks. In one instance, a captive chimp called Pansy died, after which her fellow troupe members first cleaned her corpse, and then avoided the place where it lay. This behaviour resembles a funeral ritual.

Grieving does not seem to be universal among primates, but this may have to do with the environments in which they live. In hot and wet regions, corpses decay and become unpleasant very quickly, forcing the animals to abandon them. In contrast, monkeys called geladas live in cold places where decay is slow, and have been observed carrying corpses for up to 48 days.

And animal grief can take surprising turns. In some instances, apes have stopped carrying the corpses of dead infants – and eaten them instead. Such cannibalism seems to be moderately common in chimpanzees, but rare in bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans.

Complete Article HERE!

A mother grieves: Orca whale continues to carry her dead calf into a second day

“It reflects the very strong bonds these animals have, and as a parent, you can only imagine what kinds of emotional stress these animals must be under, having these events happen,” says one researcher.

Biologists say orcas mourn the loss of newborns as any family would. On Wednesday, J35 was still carrying her dead calf for the second day straight. In 2010, L20, photographed in Haro Strait, did the same thing with her dead newborn in a behavior biologists say is a common expression of grief.

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For two days she has grieved, carrying her dead calf on her head, unwilling to let it go.

J35, a member of the critically endangered southern resident family of orcas, gave birth to her calf Tuesday only to watch it die within half an hour.

All day, and through the night, she carried the calf. She was seen still carrying the calf on Wednesday by Ken Balcomb, founder and principal investigator of the Center for Whale Research.

“It is unbelievably sad,” said Brad Hanson, wildlife biologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, who has witnessed other mother orcas do the same thing with calves that did not survive.

Robin Baird, research biologist with the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, in 2010 watched L72, another of the southern residents, carry her dead newborn in 2010.

“It reflects the very strong bonds these animals have, and as a parent, you can only imagine what kinds of emotional stress these animals must be under, having these events happen,” Baird said.

“You could see the calf had not been dead very long, the umbilical cord was visible. When we were watching, all the rest of the whales were separated by a distance, and they were just moving very slowly. She would drop the calf every once in a while, and go back and retrieve it.”

J35 is doing the same thing, carrying her calf by balancing it on her rostrum, just over her nose. She dives to pick it back up every time it slides off.

Scientists have documented grieving behavior in other animals with close social bonds in small, tightly knit groups, observed carrying newborns that did not survive.

Seven species in seven geographic regions covering three oceans have been documented carrying the body of their deceased young, including Risso’s dolphin in the Indian Ocean; the Indo-Pacific bottle-nosed dolphin and the spinner dolphin in the Red Sea; and pilot whales in the North Atlantic.

In one instance, a researcher attached a rope to the carcass of a bottlenose dolphin and towed it to shore and buried it — with the mother following, touching the carcass until she could no longer follow into water too shallow to swim in. There she remained, watching.

Some carried their young in their mouths, some on their backs.

Deborah Giles, research scientist for University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and research director for the nonprofit Wild Orca, also watched L72 carry her dead calf, following her at a distance in her research boat until the light faded and it was too dark to see.

“Same thing, it was hours and hours,” she said of that whale. “But I have never heard of this,” she said of J35. “More than 24 hours.

“It is horrible. This is an animal that is a sentient being. It understands the social bonds that it has with the rest of its family members. She carried the calf in her womb from 17 to 18 months, she is bonded to it and she doesn’t want to let it go. It is that simple. She is grieving.”

The news of the grieving mother came even as researchers are also tracking a 4-year-old in the endangered orca clan that is emaciated. Hanson photographed J50 on Saturday and documented the classic “peanut head” — a misshapen head due to loss of body fat. Her survival is in doubt.

The southern residents face at least three known challenges to their survival as a species: toxins, vessel traffic and lack of adequate food, particularly chinook salmon. When they are hungry, it makes their other problems worse, research has shown.

Gov. Jay Inslee has appointed a task force on orca whale recovery.

Jaime Smith, spokeswoman for Inslee, said the task force is looking at a range of solutions, both short and long term.

“The loss of this calf is a sobering reminder of what’s at stake,” Smith said. “And it’s why we’ve convened partners who we believe can and will be best able to identify what we need to do in the upcoming weeks, months and years to save these animals.”

For researchers who work closely with the southern residents, their continued decline is painfully apparent.

“I am on the water collecting poop from animals that are not getting enough to eat,” Giles said. “ I don’t know if people understand the magnitude of what we are talking about here. We don’t have five years to wait, we really don’t.”

She said other members of the whale’s family knew J35 was pregnant, because of their echolocation ability, which they use to find food.

“So they must be grieving, too.”

Complete Article HERE!

How do you handle the grief that comes with the death a pet?

Pet urns memorialize our beloved animal friends.

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Cinnamon, Mary Kunkel’s little white terrier — like a surprising number of adorable dogs these days — has her own Facebook page. “Squirrel Chasing Inc” is listed as her occupation.

And on Feb. 28, Cinnamon’s page was exuberant.

“One year ago today, I had a grapefruit-sized tumor removed from my liver and a recent ultrasound was clear,” Cinnamon’s page said. “Celebrating!”

The celebration didn’t last. Two months later, the Kunkels had to make the heart-wrenching decision to euthanize Cinnamon. The loss was devastating.

“If I had talked to you a few days after she died, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without breaking down,” Kunkel says.

But now more than ever, numerous resources have cropped up to assist pet owners left reeling from their loss. There are entire hotlines, online support groups, trained veterinarians and therapists dedicated to helping bereaved pet owners who are struggling with grief.

At Washington State University, veterinary students get specific training for how to console grieving patients. Charlie Powell, spokesman for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, says that veterinary students staff a hotline that those mourning a lost pet can call.

“The bond between humans and animals has become greater over time,” Powell says. At one time, we saw pets as a tool — a horse to pull a cart, a dog to hunt with, a cat to catch mice. Today, they’re our best friends.

“We’ve had a few people threaten suicide over the loss of their animal,” Powell continues, “It’s very common for people to lock themselves in their exam room after euthanasia and grieve with their pets for hours at a time.”

One big message that the pet-loss hotline assures callers: It’s natural to be heartbroken.

“There’s nothing wrong with grieving,” Powell says. “It’s perfectly OK for the big burly 300-pound cop whose canine companion has died to bawl his eyes out and miss work.”

In Spokane, Bob Brandkamp used to have a professional therapy practice focused entirely on helping people through the grief of a loss of a pet. After his license expired, he stopped charging money for it, but still meets with people to help them through the process.

“Grief is grief,” Brandkamp says. “You go through the same stages if you lose a human that you know.”

He assures people they needn’t feel guilty about their pet’s death.

“It’s nothing that they’ve done,” he says. “They’ve done everything within their power to give them the most amount of care.”

For Cinnamon’s owner Kunkel, a crucial part of the healing process was helped along by the veterinarian who euthanized the dog. Kunkel didn’t bring Cinnamon to a veterinary clinic. She called up Spokane veterinarian Lacey Rasmussen and asked her to come to the Kunkels’ house.

In her last moments, Kunkel says, “Cinnamon got to be at home and lay in her favorite spot.”

Veterinary clinics or hospitals can be stressful places for pets, Rasmussen says. So she drives out to the place of a pet owner’s choosing, conducting the euthanizations in living rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms and backyards.

The pets, she says, “fall asleep like they’ve fallen asleep a hundred times before.” It’s a peaceful moment, and a chance for the whole family to say goodbye to their pet. One kid, she remembers, played a song for his dog over his Bluetooth speakers as the dog was falling asleep.

Sometimes, Rasmussen will take a piece of soft clay and press pets’ paws into it, to create a permanent momento.

“We can leave something with them,” Rasmussen says. “It’s hard when you take the pet away and they’re left with the empty spot.”

Similarly, Family Pet Memorial in Spokane offers ornate pet urns, necklaces and keychains that a cremated pet’s ashes can be placed in.

Kunkel says that Rasmussen’s presence was helpful. But the loss, months later, still lingers.

“I still have a hard time looking at pictures,” Kunkel says. “When Cinnamon died, there was this big void. We have a cat. The cat tries, but it’s not the same.”

Complete Article HERE!

The mourning after: dolphins grieve for their dead

It looks like cetaceans grieve – but interpretation remains contested. Tanya Loos reports.

Cared for in life and mourned in death: dolphin behaviour suggests three phases of grief.

By Tanya Loos

A female dolphin may carry its deceased calf around for days, until the body is in such a state of decomposition that only the head or part of the body remains. New research published in the journal Zoology suggests that this behaviour is evidence that dolphins grieve for their dead.

The scientific discipline known as comparative thanology examines how animals respond behaviourally, physiologically and psychologically to dead members of their own species.

It is a somewhat tricky field, for the experience of grief and its expression varies widely even between the cultures of our own species, and for many cognitive scientists the jury is still out regarding whether animals have a concrete understanding of death and its finality. Still, the use of the word “grieving” in an animal context has been increasingly accepted since Jane Goodall’s landmark study of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in 1986.

Accounts of whales and dolphins caring for or attending dead or dying individuals have been reported since the 1950s, and are observed by cetacean watchers and researchers worldwide. Lead author Giovanni Bearzi from the Dolphin Biology and Conservation Group, based in Italy, along with an international team of colleagues, decided to conduct a comprehensive literature review to investigate patterns and variation in this behaviour in cetaceans.

The team analysed 78 records reported between 1970 and 2016, and adopted a weighted comparative approach to take observation effort into account – mainly because dolphins are much more readily observed than large whale species which tend to be out in deep water and submerged for longer.

Toothed whales were much more likely than baleen whales to attend to their dead. In fact, dolphins accounted for 92.3% of 78 records, and baleen whales only 1.3%. An analysis of relative brain size across the cetaceans found that the taxa with larger relative brain sizes are more likely to interact with their dead. This finding is consistent with the concept that sociality in mammals is closely associated with encephalisation, also known as the “social brain” hypothesis.

While dolphins had many records, killer whales or orcas (Orcinas orca), which are also highly social, had surprisingly low incidences of attending the dead. More systematic reporting may reveal this behaviour in orcas and sperm whales (Physeter microcephalus), but the study suggests it may be less prevalent in species which move in fast swimming pods, or are deep divers.

So what is going on with the dolphins and their behaviour towards dead members of their species? Are they grieving? The majority of sightings were of an adult female carrying a dead calf, presumably her own. In some cases, the behaviour was observed between mothers and other females in the group.

“If one accepts that at some point cetaceans do ‘recognise’ death – an aspect that is still controversial among cetacean scientists including co-authors of this study,” says lead author Bearzi, “then three phases of post-mortem attentive behaviour may be considered.”

In the first of these phases, the female attempts to revive or protect the calf or stricken adult. There is adaptive value in this action as it may result in the recovery of the individual.

In the second, the dead individual is carried around for days, even to the point of putrefaction and the “finality of death is cognitively recognised but possibly not emotionally accepted”.

The study posits that the strong attachment between mother and calf, or between closely knit members of the group, results in “a difficulty of ‘letting go’—possibly related to grieving, or perhaps individuals failing to recognise or accept that an offspring or companion has died”.

In the final stage, the dolphin loses interest in the carcass, and returns to its normal behaviour.

Grieving behaviour in our close relatives the chimpanzees and other large-brained, highly social primates is largely accepted in the scientific world. This research suggests that even mammals evolutionarily distant from Homo sapiens may also mourn.

Complete Article HERE!

Out with the Dogs: Yes, dogs grieve

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Most of the time I am confident I know what is going on in my dog’s head; it’s not hard to figure out. Researchers believe that dogs think on the same level as a human toddler; about two and half years old. Having raised kids and dogs, both, I concur with that belief. But I admit to being surprised by Topper’s reaction to Chili’s death, now 10 days ago.

It has been a conscious plan on my part to always have multiple dogs, usually four, separated in age by about four years. I have done that to insure I am never left dog-less as the older ones pass away. By keeping about four years between the puppies that come to live with me, I have never had to worry that the dogs would become so attached to one another they would end up being companions for each other and not me. It is something that I often give advice and write about; for most families it is not good to take two puppies from the same litter and raise them together. For very active dog owners; those who play dog sports and show their dogs, the inherent problems of raising two puppies together can be circumvented, but for “average family dog owners” it is a huge mistake to raise litter mates together. New puppy owners often think raising two together would be great, so the puppies are not alone. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Two puppies raised together in a backyard develop astonishing behavior problems. Anytime one dog is taken for a walk or a trip to the vet; the one left behind usually goes crazy; vocalizing and often displaying destructive behavior in their frustration, because they’ve never been alone before. I have been told by many owners of a “pair of dogs” how difficult it is for the survivor when one dog dies, but I have never experienced that kind of behavior myself, with my own dogs, probably because of the number and ages of my dogs.

It was (and still is) hard on me losing my beloved Chili, at only 10 years of age. In fact, at this moment, I’m in an angry stage of grief; pissed off at the universe that Chili was taken so young; we should have had five more years together, but I never anticipated how hard losing Chili would be for Topper. A couple of years ago my Schipperke, Bigfoot Bob, died at a young age for a Schip; 13 years old, of cancer.

I started looking for a new puppy last year, but after a “dog deal” going bad with a miserable, dishonest breeder and costing me over $400. I gave up trying to get another pup, leaving me with three dogs. Several months ago, Sweet Little Annie, my Chihuahua, went to live with a good friend in Corning. It was a better home for Annie, with another small dog in the household. That left me with the two Toller boys; Chili and Topper. With Chili’s sudden death, I’m down to one dog and poor Topper has never been an “only dog” before. For the first time in my life, I am now experiencing a grieving dog.

A couple of years ago Chili and Topper were separated for a few days when my friends took Chili off to a flyball tournament. The team needed him, but I couldn’t attend, so Maureen took him. Topper didn’t act any differently, certainly didn’t appear to miss Chili so I guess that’s the other reason I have been so surprised by his behavior now.

Topper was present when Chili died, which raises more questions for me, about how cognizant dogs actually are. Could Topper tell the difference between Chili simply being away from home and dying, knowing he’d never see him again? After my friend picked up Chili for burial that night, Topper was in my room with me.

He was unsettled; wouldn’t lie down and relax and kept glancing at my bed, where Chili normally laid. I stripped the blankets and cover off the bed so there would be no remaining scent of Chili. I didn’t sleep that first night and neither did Topper. Instead of just flopping down and snoring, like usual, he propped himself up against the dresser and kept his head up, resisting sleep the way a kid does; head bobbing as sleep overtook him. His overall demeanor was depressed; he didn’t prick his ears or looked interested in anything. He also clung to me, following my every move. I took him outside and threw a bumper. For the first time in his life, he did not want to retrieve or play at all. We went to the farm and Tops still looked depressed. He finally retrieved a couple of times when we were playing on the pool cover, but his heart was not in it. I borrowed one of my friend’s young female dogs to bring home for Topper, thinking a new playful dog might cheer him up. Nope, didn’t help. For a couple of days, Topper went into the yard, did his business quickly, then lay under my bedroom window whining until I brought him back in the house and wouldn’t give the visiting dog the time of day. Last weekend we went to the farm again, to take my visitor home and Tops still acted depressed. He played and retrieved only a little bit while we were there.

Topper had a favorite flappy toy that he played with like crazy, by himself. That toy was completely destroyed a couple of weeks ago by a visiting German Shepherd. I asked my friends to keep an eye out for a replacement. Maureen found one and brought it over. It was brand new, still attached to the cardboard packaging when I called Topper outside and showed him the new toy. He went crazy, doing a happy dance! I’ve never seen such a reaction to a toy. He grabbed it and immediately did several laps around the yard before trying to get me to throw it for him. Playing with his new favorite toy, Topper appears to be feeling much better about being the only dog. He is still very clingy, not wanting to be away from me, but at least he perks right up when we go out to play retrieve with his new toy. I can’t help but wonder if he would have reacted the same way, if I had given him the new toy, the night Chili died. I don’t have nearly enough dogs now! After this incident, I clearly need at least three at a time. I’ve got a new Schipperke puppy coming in just a few more weeks, but after that, I think I still will need another dog before the year is out.

Complete Article HERE!