This just came across my feed last week and it reminded me of Shiloh.
Rest in peace, little buddy.
This just came across my feed last week and it reminded me of Shiloh.
Rest in peace, little buddy.
This past week Shiloh passed away. It’s hard to know how, or to what extent, people grieve as the experience is an intensely personal one but I have always felt that I’ve had a particularly intense relationship with my dogs. I grew up without siblings, in a neighborhood bereft of children (or at least children within an age range for me to interact with) and was socially awkward among those in my age cohort 1 so dogs filled the roles of friend and sibling in my early years.
As I got older, human interactions became easier and more frequent but the die had been cast. Dogs would hold a cherished place in my life and be afforded consideration equal to that of my human companions. That certainly didn’t always make things easy, particularly with Shiloh who had some serious psychological problems but I simply had no other choice nor would want one.
I began thinking about the human-dog relationship 2 and it occurred to me that it 3 is the one personal relationship that we humans enter into knowing that we’ll be there for the entire duration. Human relationships don’t work that way. Parents may bring children into the world but the expectation is that those children will outlive them. Children will outlive their parents but have no choice in entering into that relationship. Friends and spouses enter into each others lives at some point after it’s begun and (probably) more frequently than not isn’t expected to last until the bitter end.
But when you adopt a dog into your household it is with the foreknowledge that you will see its entire life contained within yours. Perhaps in some ways this serves to remind us of our own mortality. I tend to think of it as the price one must pay. For years of happiness and unconditional acceptance and love, we must be the ones that provide comfort and care when our dogs are infirm and occasionally make the decision to say ‘Enough, it’s time.’
I have had pets for which I waited too long to make that decision. Either out of selfishness, fear or unfounded hope I allowed them to suffer beyond what they should have. I am convinced I made the decision at the right time with Shiloh.
On another note, I think it’s interesting to note what I think is an interesting cultural shift that I’ve observed through this process. As I spread the word about Shiloh through various virtual and actual social networks I’m connected to, the sympathy and support was both genuine and deeper than I think would have been the norm 20 or 30 years ago.
In any case, I lost a good friend last week. We had been together for 15 years and had seen me through a military deployment (never again will a dog cry when I take out my old uniforms), a divorce (where we started anew in a tiny, one-bedroom ‘bachelor pad’), run ins with a bear, a deer and countless smaller animals, a new marriage, a frantic 24 hours missing from home, countless hikes, drives and trips to the park.
If he was acting up I would order him to his bed and he’d growl and cast angry glances over his shoulder the whole way like a petulant child but he’d go. He would always obey which was critical given his temperament and beagle’s nose. Shiloh loved to run with me and for 11 years we would run the trails near whatever home we happened to be living at. He was a wonderful running partner, never straying from my side, even upon the appearance of a squirrel, deer or horse.
Shiloh was a lot of work and occasionally more than a bit of frustration and trouble. And I’d honestly give so much to have him back and go through it all again.
And so, I’ll return to my childhood and this clip from one of my favorite Twilight Zones which, I think encapsulates how I felt about Shiloh. Certainly, hell is any place without dogs. I’m not much of a believer in the hereafter but man, it’d sure be nice if it was like that…
So this is a post about my dog but, if you’d like to keep your reading confined to issues of intelligence analysis and critical thinking there’s plenty of hypothesis generation and testing in here to keep you satisfied. If canine medical mysteries aren’t your cup of tea, feel free to give this one a miss.
Having just turned 15, I am coming to the conclusion that Shiloh is approaching his end times [1.Just to be clear, Shiloh just turned 15, not me.] . While a lifetime of proper care and regular exercise had kept him in good shape, one can’t fight genetics.
Beginning approximately two weeks ago, Shiloh began to approach his food with less gusto than was his custom. It soon became so pronounced that it could take him hours to eat his food.
My initial hypothesis was that the food (being hard kibble) was causing discomfort while chewing. He had lyme disease several years ago and one of the symptoms was pain in joints (particularly the jaw) which resulted in a reluctance to eat. The behavior didn’t present in the same way 1 so I wasn’t totally convinced but it was the first thing that came to mind. So, I began adding some water to the food in order to soften it.
Things improved slightly but within a couple days we were back to the starting point. I began to go back through Shiloh’s medical history to see if there was another clue there.
A few months ago, he had some blood work done and his kidney levels were elevated. In short, it appears his kidneys are not able to filter his blood efficiently. While the problem isn’t yet severe, the vet recommended a special prescription diet. Shiloh, however, was having none of that and refused to eat the new food. So, I transitioned back to his old food figuring that, like that old stubborn octogenarian who refuses to give up his cigarettes or beer, this was a battle simply not worth fighting.
But…a quick search of symptoms of canine kidney problems reveals that a common symptom is nausea which can lead to a reluctance to eat.
Aha! So, question answered, right?
Not so fast. On Friday night while picking up Shiloh’s uneaten food, I accidentally spilled some of the kibble on the ground and he quickly ate them up. I put more of the food on the floor and, again, he ate it up without hesitation. Now, if it was nausea I would assume he wouldn’t be interested in food at all and it shouldn’t matter if it was in his bowl or on the floor.
I did consider the possibility that food on the floor might be triggering some other behavior that overrides the nausea 2 and sought to control for that by feeding him off of a plate (instead of his regular dog bowl) in his regular feeding place. Again, while not fully enthusiastic about eating, the food went down nonetheless. I began to consider that Shiloh was, for some reason, averse to eating out of his traditional bowls.
Another control that I used (making a virtue out of necessity) was that I was able to test this hypothesis by feeding him both at home at at the TwShiloh Fortress of Solitude ™. He has regular bowls and feeding locations in both places and in both places he expressed a real resistance to eating out of bowls and less resistance to eating off of a plate.
So, I think I’m looking at nausea combined with some of aversion to eating out of a bowl 3. The question now is where this new behavior is coming from. For that I have two hypotheses:
We shall see.
The TwShiloh Fortress of Solitude, while quite green this time of year is notoriously hostile to any sort of harvestable agriculture. Between the nutrient poor soil, the birds, moles, squirrels, insects, fungi, etc. most fruit and vegetable plants barely live a few weeks before succumbing to the hostile environs.
Two exceptions to that are currants and raspberries which I have begun planting over the past few years. This growing bounty of berries has revealed something very interesting about Shiloh. The dog loves berries. When he sees me picking some of the berries he inserts himself between myself and the berry bush trying to intercept each berry between the plant (for some reason he won’t eat right off the plant, only considering it ‘food’ after it’s been picked) and the container I’m putting them in. I submit the following as evidence:
A dog playing with a ball…
Well, since it’s been awhile AND this is our new location I figured I’d give you an update about this blog’s namesake.
For five or so years now, Shiloh has had a ball toy. The hollow ball is a tough but pliant rubber with holes of various sizes cut into it. Within the ball is a smaller, orange ball that squeaks. This allows Shiloh to view the smaller ball rolling around within the larger one, just out of reach. He’s able only to get his lower jaw in the largest of the holes, touching but never able to grab or extract the squeaky ball.
Occasionally, I will heighten his frustration by removing the smaller ball, squeaking it repeatedly and then returning it to its rightful place.
Now, when I first gave him the toy he spent an amazing amount of time playing with it and trying to figure out how to get the squeaky goodness outside (Hey, not having opposable thumbs is a bitch!) but in the intervening years, the toy was relegated to the dustbin of toys not worth his time. Skinner would probably say the reinforcement wasn’t intermittent enough to justify the effort. Shiloh would probably say he was tired of being played for a sucker.
In any case, out of nowhere, he picked up the danged thing and has been relentless with it. Growls, barks, and howls now fill the house for much of the day as he has apparently decided that he is finally going to defeat this thing.
Several days of almost constant work has yielded precisely no results so far but who knows, he might be on the verge of a breakthrough.
I know I just linked to Cracked’s website yesterday and I don’t want this to become a habit but, they had a most excellent suggestion. In about 5 minutes and at NO COST, you can become an ordained minister. You can marry people (well, if you want the proper documentation to do all that it might cost you $30 – but you can pass the cost on to your first group of suckers blissful couple) and get to add ‘Rev.’ to your name which is so totally cool I can barely contain myself.
And so, dear reader, in my attempts to make this blog your ‘one stop shop’ for all your life needs, I am pleased to announce that Shiloh is now a minister in the Open Ministry and available to perform weddings. While I haven’t discussed this in detail with him I imagine the recommended ‘donation’ would be something like a wubba squeak toy (and not one of those sissy ones either).
This is quite an accomplishment for a 20 pound creature without opposable thumbs. Long time readers will recall that he was singled out for his contribution to the War on Terror. Perhaps now he can chair some inter-faith outreach initiatives to bring peace to the Middle-East…or mid-town.
More in the continuing saga of Shiloh’s attempt to catch a chipmunk that insists on setting up shop among two old dog houses I have…
I think he was off his game here…he wasn’t even close.
Last night, I was cleaning up in the kitchen and Shiloh was lying in his bed in the adjacent dining room. The room was deserted and the light was off and as I was banging around he started growling intensely. I hadn’t heard him growl like that for awhile and so went into the room and he began growling more and barking…at me. Very strange behavior, even for him. I considered and discarded a number of theories (injured? startled from a deep sleep and disoriented? scared?) and couldn’t figure it out. I sat beside him for a while (not wanting to reinforce the behavior that if he growled I’d abandon the bottom floor of the house) and he eventually calmed down but was clearly agitated.
When I woke up this morning and went into the dining room to give him his customary morning scratch and pet session he was as if nothing had happened. Affectionate, tail wagging and ready to start the day.
I, unfortunately, had woken up with a feeling of pressure behind my left eye which steadily grew into a painful migraine.
Shortly after getting to work, we had some fairly serious thunderstorms and I was reminded that occasionally my migraines are triggered by thunderstorms, I suspect linked in some way to changes in barometric pressure (It must be a fairly specific set of circumstance since most thunderstorms produce no headache. Under some circumstances, in fact, upcoming thunderstorms can produce something similar to a sense of euphoria but I always assumed that was more psychological than physiological. As I think about it now, it’s a feeling very similar to how I feel after a migraine passes…hmmm…interesting).
Anyway, it occurred to me that perhaps Shiloh’s reaction last night was one similar to what I experienced just a few hours later. I did a google search for dog migraines and the results are paltry to say the least. I suppose there’s no reason to believe that animals would be immune to migraines and certainly some believe that animals are sensitive enough to atmospheric and geological changes to anticipate earthquakes, weather,etc.
I know people are eventually supposed to resemble their pets but sharing medical conditions is going a bit far…