It's difficult to face our beloved pet's age - here's part of how Cassie and I are getting on.
by Maile Hulihan
You may remember my vet’s theory that my, uh, ‘mature’ puppy is nearly blind & deaf and suffering from Lyme disease hit me pretty hard. Her 14 years are showing, he said. Harrumph, I cannot fathom that Cassie is 78 in human years.
I’m happy to report that Cassie doesn’t have Lyme. But she did need three teeth pulled and received a course of antibiotics that has gloriously rejuvenated her.
I wanted to know what I was dealing with (okay, yes, I am trying to prove the vet wrong) so I tested her eyesight. I tapped her back to get her attention, put my palm 18 inches away from her face and quickly moved it towards her. She blinked, as sighted dogs do, but I tried it several times just to be sure. After a while, she gave me a dirty look that said, “You woke me up for this?”
Before she could slide back into her nap, I threw cotton balls into the air on each side of her to check her peripheral vision. She tracked with both eyes and then tried to eat the cotton balls (a clear sign of puppyhood!). I’ve no doubt the glaucoma is impacting her eyesight, but she can still see plenty.
Next, I tested her hearing. “Cassie,” I whispered. No response. “Cassie,” I said in a normal tone. Nothing. “CASSIE!” She jumped straight up onto all fours in a rigid, emergency stance like I’d yelled “Fire!” That’s when I realized she’d been asleep.
Another test is to sneak up behind her (no clomping or standing so close she can feel the air move) and make a noise. I clapped, once. She looked up with a withering glance: You, again, with the weird games?
While I do think Cassie’s hearing is selective—she never responds to “Time to leave the dog park”—I will concede her auditory skills aren’t as sharp as they once were. Yet how is that from across the house she can hear the suction seal break when the refrigerator door is opened or the oven temperature beep when my son starts to cook? Are those appliances specially tuned to a dog-sensitive frequency?
After the antibiotics, she’s back winning at chase (she grabs a toy, I chase her around the house to try to get it away). She’s up for a five-mile hike, or longer if I didn’t start whining around mile six. But then she’ll sleep for hours. Of course, I notice she’s sleeping more. I envy her slumber habits. But you see, that’s more proof of her youth. She sleeps like a baby.
(Photo of Cassie taken last week)