Thursday, March 12, 2009

miracle cure

My sweet dog Malcolm is only a month short of his 13th birthday. If you calculate a dog's age with the old 7 dog years for every calendar year formula (which isn't necessarily the most accurate), that puts him over 90 years old. And for context, my best guess is that Malcolm is part black laborador retriever and most likely part Great Dane.

As a slight aside, all I really know is he was born in Leeds, Utah at a house backed up against I-15 in mid-April 1996 to two lanky too-tall black labs. Out of his 10 clamboring siblings who crawled all over me and chewed on my Teva straps one May day, Malcolm was the one to rest his head on my thigh and lock eyes with me as he said "I'm yours, take me home." The lab portion is pretty obvious but the Great Dane was a guess after seeing him meet and greet a couple of true Danes at a dog walk when he was still a puppy. Closing in on 90 pounds his shape and form looked like a miniature of these giants so we've incorporated them into his geneology ever since. Besides, he definitely has the speedy metabolism of a Dane and has remained lean and lanky throughout his life.

Labs are expected to live 12-13 years or a few years longer with good medical care and proper feeding. With a few minor exceptions, Malcolm has lived a healthy life and without exception he has been well fed. Great Danes generally only live 8-10 years, but again with the caveat of hitting 14 if they are well cared for. All of this meaning, whatever his pedigree, he is nearing the end of his life. Which makes me incredibly sad. And reminds me of a fantastic line I recently read in the book (excellent book) Merle's Door recently - and this is not an exact quote: why do parrots and turtles live so long when dogs have such a short life? It really is unfair.

Although Malcolm picked me all those years ago, he moved in with my parents when I started law school and never followed me to New York. Which is a good thing, he is definitely not a city dog. He is too nervous and neurotic and enjoys sniffing the air too much. I make it home fairly often and spending time with Malcolm is always a priority. Most recently our time is spent primarily cuddling as it is more and more difficult for him to move around.

Last summer when his stiffness became fairly acute - including a couple of tumbles down the stairs - my dad started Malcolm on a daily asprin regimin. An asprin hidden in a hot dog I should add. The hot dog being entirely unnecessary since Malcolm has always eagerly gulped down all forms of medications and pills. Heart worm pills? No biggie. Antibiotics for that time he tore open his paw? "Bring it on. But please give me some extra scraps for sympathy." The asprin has helped but he no longer sits easily and he thinks long and hard about heading down the stairs since he knows he will only have to climb back up again.

He has other signs of old age including slight dimensia, selective hearing and limited sight as well as a general reversion to naughtiness not unlike old people. Ok, so maybe all old people don't revert to naughtiness but if my grandma is an accurate representation I can say that at least some do - she throws out pills and claims ignorance and deliberately breaks rules about venturing outside on her own!

Anyway, on Saturday I was at REI returning a few items (that had been lying around my apartment waiting for me to get around to printing a return label since December!) and while I was in line I spied this in a nearby aisle:Curious, but not wanting to lose my spot in line, I asked my sister to hand me the bag when she wandered back my way. I occasionally (when I think of it) take glucosamine for my knee so it made sense that this could help my dog's joints so I bought the bag.

When we got home that evening I gave Malcolm the recommended two for his 90-pound size. He gobbled them up and looked up at me with expectant eyes and perky puppy ears pleading for more. Within the hour he was nearly bouncing off the wall. At 10 o'clock at night. Normally, at that time, he is ready to retire to his cozy bed in the dog house out back. Instead, he was pacing up and down the hall and even did a couple of laps up and down the stairs. As we settled into the couches in the basement my sister and I tried to coax him into resting on his downstairs dog bed - no go. While he did not gallop up the stairs as he was wont to do in younger days - pushing anyone aside who might be sharing the ascent - he moved faster than I have seen him go in quite some time.

The next morning it was more of the same. As much as I would like to take credit for inspiring such youthful energy and exuberance, the only variable that can be credited are these Hip Action treats that come in both peanut butter and "real beef" flavors. Malcolm loved the peanut butter flavor but he really loves most anything (except lettuce), especially when it is presented as a treat and dangled in the air in front of him.

If you have an aging, aching, arthritic dog, I highly recommend picking up a bag. It costs about $15 for a 1 pound bag of about 60 which we figure will last Malcolm about a month. Hopefully the improvement continues!

1 comment:

Misty Fowler said...

That is so cool! I'm happy for Malcolm!

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