Welcome to Schnauzerhaven Assisted Living
My house is now a Schnauzer geriatric ward. Like us, my boys are aging fast, but since dog years fly by faster than human ones, our house is in the full throes of canine old age. Paddy is 13 and Moxie is 14. I can hardly believe it. It seems like only yesterday they were gnawing the the furniture, teething. These days, they’re gumming.
Moxie’s deaf and Paddy’s blind, so between them they’re one guard dog. Both boys still eat like animals, can sniff a Thrasher’s fry at 90 yards, and enjoy a moderate amount of exercise. When they wake up and discover strangers in the house they still go into their vicious guard dog routine despite the fact our guests have been in the building for hours.
It’s also possible a little doggie dementia is going on, so they just as often bark hysterically in the middle of the night when absolutely nothing is happening. For a while we’d leap up, on full alert, ready to call 911, but now we just humor them, roll over, and try to sleep. Sometimes I think it’s merely Paddy hearing Moxie snore. That dog needs a sleep study and a breathing device.
And if a doorbell goes off on television, Paddy jumps straight up into the air, alerting Moxie with his movement and both of them knock themselves senseless with the furniture they’re under.
The Golden Years really began when Paddy couldn’t walk by the water bowl without filling up or get through the night without emptying out. He’s a full-on diabetic now, requiring us to administer two daily insulin injections.
There’s a reason I’m a writer and not a health care provider. Squeamish r us. Based on our abilities, I’d say that Bonnie is the one who gives the skilled care around here. I’m more like the janitor.
But given our crazy schedules, both doggie parents had to learn to give the injections. Bonnie was a natural. As for me, I’d close my eyes, steel myself, and stab the dog, who wouldn’t even notice. But, I really should get my own eyes checked, because more often than not, when putting the cap back on the needle I stab myself in the thumb and shriek in a decibel level even Moxie can hear.
One day, the phone rang as I prepared to inject the insulin and behind my back the dogs switched food bowls. Believe me, when I gave Moxie the booster shot in the butt he was one surprised little Schnauzer. I panicked, calling the vet, hollering about giving insulin to the wrong patient.
“Don’t worry,” said the doctor, “just give Moxie a little sugar.” I gave him a marshmallow Peep and he’s been a Peepoholic ever since.
And what do we do with all those used needles? You can’t just throw them in the trash. Between trips to the animal hospital to turn them in, we keep them in a big plastic pretzel jar. It looks like a candy dish for the Addams Family.
Setting a dog’s insulin level is harder than for a human. And, until we found the right dose, Paddy gave us quite a winter. At its worst, he was up every two hours to pee. For a while, Bonnie and I took turns getting up and neither of us had a decent night’s rest. Then we alternated for a whole night, making me a zombie only every other day. And it’s a good thing it was a mild winter. We spent most nights in the yard in our pajamas.
Finally, we tried cutting a tail hole in Depends and it worked pretty well. Vanity is me, I cannot go through the Food Lion checkout without saying, “They’re for my dog.”
As for Moxie, at first I accused him of being passive aggressive. He wouldn’t come when called but would respond instantly if I opened a bag of Utz. As an aside, Bonnie believes this about me, too, and she may be right. But for Moxie, I learned that voice pitch is the first to go, so I have cut him a break on responding to commands. If I need him in a hurry I’ll rip open Doritos.
Also, just like their human counterparts, if the dogs could talk, they’d sit around discussing their ailments. I can just imagine Moxie complaining about his hearing deficit, and saying, “Come again?” when Paddy asks him to be his seeing-eye dog. They are co-dependent in a good way.
It was clear the twilight years were upon us when last week, a bird flew into our sun room and neither dog noticed it. Up to that point it was Schnauzers 4, birds 0. Likewise, no bunnies were harmed in the making of this spring in Rehoboth.
Here at Schnauzerhaven Assisted Living, of course we offer free transportation within the area to doctor’s appointments and the local beauty salon. We provide assistance with bathing and dressing (“Does this collar make me look fat?”), plenty of recreation and exercise. Frankly, it’s 24-hour care.
Which all goes to say that I know we are on borrowed time here. I call Paddy my dog with nine lives. I think he’s on seven. In the past year he’s had several urinary infections, a variety of stomach ailments, and numerous glucose tests. By this time I could have paid for a new KIA.
And it’s a good thing this deadline is just days before publication, ‘cause between now and then anything can happen. So we’re trying to be good sports around here. We lament having two dogs of roughly the same old age, but we try to keep our senses of humor at our canine assisted living facility.
I want to know whether we’re eligible for respite care.
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Frying—a Rehoboth Beach Memoir; Fried & True—Tales from Rehoboth Beach; and For Frying Out Loud—Rehoboth Beach Diaries. Contact Fay Jacobs