It is still just March and although the outside temperature is not all that hot or humid, inside I have the air conditioner running. Normally this event does not happen until May. Okay, sometimes April, but really it is sort of a badge of honor between my husband and I that we hold out as long as possible before turning on the AC. No, I don't know why except that being tough and frugal is sort of a thing in our household.
Not this year though. This year the AC is running cold at least in one room (window units for this old house). The fans in the room circulate this cold air and an essential oil diffuser is providing a light scent of rosemary. It almost feels like a little bit of winter, or at least early spring in here while outside Houston is showing its humid, 82 degree plus, dark underbelly of impending horrible summer.
Have we come to our senses and opted for a more comfortable existence for the humans in this house. No. Although this human is enjoying the 'room of comfort', this is all being done for a very special family member. The Westie.
Just this last December his royal highness (see Westie Rules) turned 15. We have never had a dog this old before, but it isn't just age that is the issue. It turns out that the Westie breed comes from Scotland originally. The Scottish isles are known for things like sheep and green and above all a maximum temperature of 63 degrees. They probably also don't have daily humidity ranging near the 90 percent range and I am guessing not as much mosquito, flea and other irritating pests that plague our sweet Westie.
|Border collies also come from Scotland |
so these two were destined to be together.
Summers have always been tough on him. His pretty white fur us accompanied by tender pink skin. Somehow this combination makes it possible for a type of fungus to grow on him. It is called Malassezia Dermatitis and according to one website "Some conditions which could lead to a yeast proliferation include: high environmental humidity, an increase in skin oils (from an allergic flare up), an immune deficiency, flea, airborne and/or food allergies, or seborrhea (excessive oil production of the skin). Some Westies are actually allergic to the yeasts themselves."
|Well, we at least have |
the 'green' of Scotland
Gosh, can we check just about all of the above for our dear little guy. So, every year of his life has been a battle to keep his skin under control and give him some peace from his excessive itchiness. Thus he has on average had 1 to 7 baths per week for his entire life (less in the winter and more in the summer). Our go to shampoo is a tea tree oil human shampoo followed by a tea tree oil conditioner. We also make many of his meals using this recipe guide and when we give him kibble it is grain free.
|He also gets bathed for other reasons...|
|He is also intolerant of photo shoots, proclaiming "You ain't the boss of me!"|
Only one of us thought getting a photo with the pretty flowers was a good idea.
|Best one after about 50 attempts|
|Second favorite of photo shoot|
He has in the last 12 months had the following:
- Vertigo after rolling on his back in the yard. This at first looked like he was having a stroke, but his stumbling about eventually lessened and he is basically normal now, but prone to repeated attacks. This is a common occurrence in older dogs.
- A broken tooth caused by falling off the bed when he was dizzy. I didn't know he had broken the tooth and we spent a very, very disturbing Sunday night with him pawing at his mouth in a way that made me think he was having a seizure. It was the most awful couple of hours late at night until it resolved. He would have his 'seizure' and I would hold him and stroke his throat and it would stop. Then he would do it again. I was sure he was about to die each time and was looking up the emergency vet in a panic when he did it again and I heard a click. Out comes his tooth, broken off at near the gum line. That tough boy pulled out his own broken tooth.
- An ear hematoma, which is basically a swelling in the skin of the ear. It can be caused by excessive head shaking or rubbing the ear, things he does a lot. It was relatively small and since ultimately treating it would not prevent recurrence and would require surgery we opted to let it heal naturally. Now he has a little cauliflower deformity causing this ear to bend in a most endearing way.
- A dog fight in the middle of the night. Somehow he pissed off his sister the Border Collie who proceeded to thrash him in a loud screaming battle that caused me to fall out of bed in an attempt to pull them apart. My husband's loud booming voice broke them up. The Westie ended up with ear nips which bled, but he also started shaking which made me fear he might have had a heart attack. It was Sunday 2am (always it is Sunday when my animals need medical care...) so I just put him in the middle of the bed and stroked him for a couple of hours. It was just adrenaline. He eventually calmed down and fell asleep.
|At least his ear thing is cute...|
|Better days at age 13|
I have taken those words to heart and last year after the 'pulling his own tooth incident' put forward a Best Days plan for my little guy. Each day my husband and I will strive to make sure our little Westie is having a Best Day. This means things like frequent snacks. It means things like seldom leaving him alone. It means being proactive in treating the yard and other animals for fleas. It means brushing him and flea combing him multiple times a day to make sure nothing is biting him. It means making one room in our house as much like Scotland as we can. It means doing things his way unless it would be harmful.
We are living in his Best Days which hopefully will be many more days to come. But when the Best Days are over we are not going to be selfish. If we cannot make him comfortable we will help him in the best way possible. No one wants to make an end of life choice for their pet. Everyone hopes that when the end comes the furry little love will just pass peacefully in their sleep. That may or may not be the way he goes. Considering how he 'is', he will probably make it very hard on us. We have made our choice not to wait for the bitter end in order to forestall our grief but until that day we will do everything in our power to make his life the best it can be.
All the best to you and your little furry children.