Living with an Old Dog

As of this month, I have had little Daner Butt in my life for 14 years. Dane is the first dog to ever bond with me. Instantly he was mine and I was his. What an adventure we have been on ever since! He has always had an old soul, not one for playing very often. He would clearly look down on the other dogs in the family for their more playful natures. Dane was all about observing and being served.

Now that he is actually an old dog, I have to serve him even more. In the past year, Dane has quit jumping on and off of furniture. At first it was a bit of an issue to remember to lift him down. I would leave a room as I normally would, Dane snuggled on the bed or couch, only to hear a sad little cry after a few minutes. Then I’d remember I needed to lift him down, he could no longer jump down to come follow me. I’d find him scooted all the way to the edge of the furniture, straining to see where I had gone. Talk about breaking one’s heart!

In the past eight months, Dane has been a major drain on my sleep habits which is not helping anything in my life. His entire life Dane has had the occasional night during which he gets up several times and likes to meander the yard, sniffing at god-knows-what. It started going from an occasional night of being woke up several times to nearly every night. It went from a few times a night to every hour to three hours at max. I was exhausted!

I’d go to bed only to have Dane wake me up after an hour, crying, laying at the edge of the bed. I’d lift him down and he would make a beeline for the water dish. I would block him because in my mind if he drank water he’d have to go out again and I wanted sleep. I’d put him outside, he’d do his thing and dutifully come back in. This process would happen over and over again throughout the night, for months. Wake up, block him from the water dish, put him out, let him in, block him from the water dish, back to bed, wake up…

Before anyone jumps to conclusions and think I am ignoring a medical condition with my dog, somewhere after 7 am he lets me sleep. He sleeps peacefully for hours after that point. If I have a lazy day off we’ll snuggle in bed for hours at a time, me watching tv, him sleeping happily. So I knew
that him going out was not a medical necessity, something else was going on.

The first plan of attack was the thought Dane needed more exercise/stimulation. Despite the fact it was winter, we started walking in the evenings, at least until the really cold weather hit. For a day or two it seemed to help but after that it was business as usual.

As the cold weather set in, Dane’s arthritis became more apparent and after talking with the vet we put him on a joint supplement. I thought, “Maybe now I’ll get some sleep. Maybe he was in discomfort from arthritis and now that he isn’t, he won’t get up as much.” No dice. He was still getting me up.

I tried diffusing lavender oil in my bedroom at night to help knock me out, but hopefully it would also relax the dogs. I considered drugging Dane with Benadryl. (I never did but the thoughts that go through a person’s sleep deprived mind at 3 am are not always pretty. I can’t tell you how many times I fantasized about putting him to sleep just so I could get some sleep).

A few weeks ago Dane woke up at night as he usually does. He immediately drank some water. I didn’t try to block him from the water dish as it didn’t seem to help either way. Then he looked at me to be lifted back into the bed. Confused but happy to try and sleep, I lifted him back into the bed and we both fell asleep. A lightbulb went off.

All the months of sleepless nights weren’t happening because he needed to go out, he was thirsty and I wasn’t letting the poor guy drink! Or at least I hoped that’s what it meant. The next night I made Dane sleep in the dog bed rather than my bed. This way he had access to water whenever he wanted it. IMG_0040Suddenly I was getting several hour stretches of sleep at a time. It was lovely!

After a few days of apparent success, I bought three orthopedic, memory foam dog beds. This way I wouldn’t have to worry about a dog not having a bed. Since then, it is usually only twice a night that the boys get me up, usually Dane is the one to wake me. They go out, do their thing, and we all go back to bed.

For anyone wondering, no Dane doesn’t drink every hour at night. I finally realized what was happening. He had been waking me up since he was thirsty. I wouldn’t let him drink, instead throwing him outside. Being the obedient little guy that he can be, he would go, come in and still be thirsty but I’d still deny him water. I’d lift him into bed and he’d settle into sleep for about an hour before his thirst was getting us up again. Poor, thirsty little dog! Now that I am sleeping at night (for the most part anyway) I’d hazard a guess that Dane drinks maybe twice to three times at night.

After all of this I have decided that in the future, no dogs in my bed at night! Right now Frankie still sleeps in my bed but the other two sleep in their dog beds. Any future dogs will be trained from the start to sleep in a dog bed at night. It makes for a much better night of sleep for me. The things I do for this old dog of mine!

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