Curb Your Enthusiasm

It’s our job to prevent overexertion          


Traci Delos loved watching her little dog play in the sprinklers. He’d bite at the water and chase it around the lawn, bright-eyed and wiggling, happy as could be. It’s the kind of all-out playing pet parents love to see, and a perfect way for pups to burn energy while staying cool on a warm day. 

The day he came in from playing and collapsed, Delos became a sudden expert in something she hadn’t known existed: water toxicity.

“He drank too much water, and that upsets the electrolyte balance enough that it can actually kill them,” she says. The dog was nearly unresponsive when she rushed him to the veterinary clinic. Thankfully, he survived. Since that day, Delos has been passionate about warning people that dogs who swim or play in water — or even who gulp buckets during rough play — are at risk for this uncommon but potentially fatal condition. “Especially for Retrievers and other breeds that tend to overdo it, this is something to watch for. It can cause swelling of the brain and they can die.”

Delos was surprised that she’d never heard of the condition. She’s worked with animals all her life, first as a groomer and sitter, then in veterinary client care and practice management. Today she is hospital administrator at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center in Tigard, OR. 

“It’s something I wasn’t aware of,” she says, even after years of experience in emergency clinics and specialty practices. But she’s not alone among well-informed pet guardians who hadn’t heard of some of the deadliest illnesses until their own pet experienced an emergency.

We’re all wary of common maladies like sore muscles and arthritic joints in our weekend warriors. The deadlier dangers though, while rare, are so horrifying that they warrant conversation.

The good news is, simple precautions can lower the risk of sudden deadly conditions. And pets who experience the more common ones, such as exertion injuries, are fortunate to live in the Northwest. 


“There aren’t a lot of things I see in human medicine that aren’t available in animal medicine,” says Delos, pointing to treatments such as veterinary acupuncture, massage, cold laser, stem cell and injection therapies, underwater treadmills, and therapy pools. 

Stem-cell therapy involves drawing the animal’s own fat cells, harvesting the stem cells, and injecting them back into the patient. “Tissues can regenerate,” Delos says. “Laser therapy and acupuncture are incredible. When I think back to when I was growing up, and what we were able to do for them and what we can do now, it’s just amazing.”

That, along with new anti-inflammatory medications with fewer risks and side effects than those available even just a few years ago, make it a pretty good time to be an aging dog or cat with creaky joints, bulging discs, or torn ligaments. 

As with humans, pets typically experience some age-related joint or soft-tissue pain. Some are more vulnerable due to their breed, genetics, or lifestyle. The part we can impact —lifestyle — can be challenging for those who have playful acrobatic cats or intensely ball-crazy dogs with a go-go-go approach to life.

Humans are likely to slow down when in pain, but our furry athletes are often loathe to leave the field. As Delos points out, it’s up to us to watch for signs of trouble and make them rest before overdoing it. Signs can include excessive panting, trembling, being unusually vocal or restless, or frequently re-positioning while lounging or sleeping. Symptoms might not always be obvious, which is another reason to see the doc anytime a pet’s behavior changes. 

Delos recalls a woman who felt she had to give up her Retriever who had started showing signs of aggression. “I had to email her and say, ‘Hey, that’s how animals often react to pain, so it’s important to have the vet check that out.’”


Guarding against overexertion can be a daily job for people with highly-driven breeds or working dogs, but simple steps can help prevent wear-and-tear injuries and even more dangerous conditions. Depending on your pet’s age, breed, snout length, and general fitness level, his exercise limits might be a short leash walk or an hour-long game of fetch. Whatever his limit, it’s worth heeding. Especially in extreme heat or cold, and in older animals, the risk is far greater than a potential knee injury. 

“A seven- or eight-year old dog can be like an 80-year-old person,” says Delos. Risks can include sudden death from “breathing problems, heart problems, heart attacks — pretty much anything that can happen to an older person from overexertion.” 

Thanks to advancing medical care, pets and humans alike are living active lifestyles well beyond middle age, healing from injuries, managing arthritis, and staying in the game. In the end, that means we get to enjoy our furry adventure buddies for more years. 

“We’re their guardians,” says Delos, “and it’s important for us to make sure their quality of life is the best it can be.”


Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.

Can you hear me now? Vision and hearing loss in elderly pets.


One morning, shelter staff arrived for work to find a gray-faced black Lab wandering the parking lot. She was stiff-kneed and seemingly confused, but happy to see them. She put a slight bounce in her step as the humans slapped their legs to call her to them. Animals were usually surrendered at the front desk during business hours, and staff were able to get the pet’s history. All they knew about this old girl was what they could see: she was probably about 10, a bit arthritic, and sweet as they come.

Days passed while staff waited through the old dog’s mandatory stray time, doubting anyone would come looking for claim her. She wasn’t lost; she’d been dumped there. In her kennel, she bounced and wiggled when caretakers opened the kennel door, but she rarely lifted her head to make eye contact with people walking by making friendly, encouraging sounds. Maybe she was a bit withdrawn, they thought. Poor old love had been abandoned, after all.

When her stray hold was up staff called me, the first person who always came to mind when elderly black dogs were in the adoption kennels. Big, old, and black (BOB): the well-known trinity of bad luck for dogs in crowded shelters. In those days — the early 2000s — the shelters were always full. For some reason, potential adopters overlooked BOB dogs. And this one, with the way she stared at the walls rather than visitors, it was unlikely she would be adopted anytime soon.

The dog happily got in my car for the short drive home. I showed her to a new dog bed in the living room, and she plopped her old bones down. Never a sound, or a demand, or a nudge from a wet nose: the old girl just kept to herself. She didn’t seem distressed; in fact, she walked into my house and claimed the bed without a hint of surprise — as if she knew she’d be coming to a house like this and a bed like that.

I settled in and picked up the book I was reading. Maybe just sitting quietly nearby would help the old girl come out of her shell.  I realized I needed to call her something other than “Old Girl.” She needed a name. From my spot on the couch, I started calling out names of female characters in my book. “Chelsea?” No response. “Gretchen?” Zilch. “Becky?” Nothing. “Maya?” Hey! She lifted her head and looked right at me. “You like the name Maya?” Her floppy ears perked up, making wrinkles just above her silver brows. “That’s your name then, Maya. Okay? Maya?” Nothing. Her head dropped back down on the dog bed.

By the time Maya had her first medical checkup two days later, I was starting to wonder if maybe she was deaf. The vet said she’d do a quick exam to find out.

“Maya. Hey! Maya!” the doctor called from four feet away. Maya’s ears didn’t move. Her head didn’t rise off the tile floor.


“Yep. She’s deaf,” the doctor said. “Can you believe I have twelve years of college to do this job?” she laughed. Maya was otherwise in generally good health, and there was no way to know whether she’d always been deaf or had lost her hearing with age.

And suddenly, I had a big, sweet, lumbering, deaf buddy. Pretty soon, though, I could easily forget she was deaf. Because Maya settled in and adapted to the household the way any dog would.

None of this surprises Susan Licari, founder of St. Martin’s Animal Rescue in Sheridan, OR. “Having a deaf or blind dog is never any more trouble,” she says. “And that includes finding adoptable homes for them. They always get adopted and they always do well in their homes.”

Licari has rescued elderly and special-needs dogs for much of her adult life. When she founded her rescue in 2012, she became a refuge for many elderly dogs with hearing and vision loss. Animals find their way to Licari when families can’t keep caring for them or when out-of-state shelters with high euthanasia rates can’t devote the resources to help them find ideal homes.

According to Licari, though, the necessary time and energy are almost inconsequential. That’s largely because of dogs’ and cats’ sharp senses. “If they can’t see anymore, their sense of smell and hearing just become more pronounced. Same with deaf dogs: their sight and smell just get stronger.”

For many of us, acquiring a deaf or blind pet is a gradual process. That is, our dog or cat will undergo this loss with age. While some breeds are more prone to vision and hearing loss, all animals (like humans) experience some changes with age. Animals whose faculties diminish over time have the advantage of being familiar with their surroundings. In later years, the dog might get bumped by an opening door because he didn’t hear us approaching, or the cat reaches a paw to feel for a ledge before jumping because she’s learning not to trust her depth perception. Such small things are often the sum of their changes. Once they adjust to their new sight or hearing levels, they carry on as usual.

“It’s good to keep furniture where it is,” says Licari. For her, such practices are a given, and she’s happy to coach new adopters through the steps. By definition, a rescue organization places animals in new, unfamiliar homes. For deaf and blind pets, that transition requires just a bit more attention, but the accommodations are simple.


Licari sometimes outfits animals with halo-type bumpers while they learn the layout of a new home. This allows them to explore without bumping their heads or noses against walls and table legs because the halo bumps first and gives them a warning. Soon, they don’t need the halo.

Licari also uses pets’ sense of smell to help guide them to different zones of the house. She’ll place different essential oils in each zone, such as citrus near the door where the dog will learn to go out to potty, and a comforting fragrance near the cat’s new bed.

Aside from these temporary fixes, Licari says these pets only need a bit of understanding. “Try not to startle them. A lot of times they’ll feel the vibration of the floor as we walk toward them,” she says, adding that can still be easily startled.

At my house, Maya sometimes didn’t hear footsteps in time to move away from a swinging door. I learned to open them slowly. At the dog park, she’d put her wiggly gray nose to the ground to follow a scent, lost in her own fragrant world. I’d only need to catch up and tap my finger near her shoulder, and she’d look up, always surprised. “Oh, hey! You’re at the park, too. Isn’t it great?!?”

Resources: * St. Martin's Animal Rescue on Facebook


Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.



Testing the Bond: Incontinence and your senior


There’s no doubt that dealing with chronic incontinence can challenge even the most patient and dedicated pet owner. The smell you can’t quite get rid of, the endless shampooing, the squish of stepping into a puddle or pile you didn’t see.

Just like humans, aging dogs and cats often suffer physical and sometimes cognitive changes that can weaken bladders, bowels and the systems that control their function. Incontinence can be so trying that it plays a role in why many pets find themselves homeless in their golden years.

“I don’t have statistics, but in my experience it’s quite often that dogs are surrendered because of incontinence issues,” says Susan Brugato, founder of St. Martin’s Animal Rescue. Established in 2012, the foster-based rescue’s mission is to save senior dogs from high-kill shelters.

Sadly, some of those dogs might have been able to stay in their homes had owners known that many incontinence issues can be treated — or at least managed.

“The biggest mistake people make regarding incontinence is assuming it’s behavioral and not taking the dog to the vet,” says Brugato.

Diagnose before you decide

Incontinence can happen at any time and for many reasons. However, some pets are more prone to these types of problems.

“We tend to see incontinence much more in females than males, and much more in dogs than cats,” says Dr. Alicia Zambelli of Murrayhill Animal Hospital.

The most common urinary incontinence is seen in older spayed female dogs, which can be remedied with medication or hormone supplements. Still, the issue may not be age-related.

“Anytime you see the dog is leaking, the first thing you want to check is that they don’t have a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, or other medical problem,” advises Zambelli. Most of those issues can be treated effectively.

Fecal incontinence can be much harder to manage. In older dogs, cognitive dysfunction can be a cause, but other reasons not related to age such as spinal injuries and disease may be addressed with acupuncture and medication.

Luckily for cat owners, true incontinence of any kind is much less common. In senior felines, constipation and kidney disease are more common, and both can have the same root cause.

“Kidneys are the Achilles heel of cats,” says Zambelli. “Over time if kidney function deteriorates — renal insufficiency — in order to compensate they drink more and urinate more. Sometimes that expands into urinating inappropriately.”

This lack of fluid can also create poor bowel function, and if your cat has an unusually poop-free litterbox, you should note that.

There may be another less direct cause if your kitty starts to have accidents. “One thing that’s easy to miss in older cats is arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and pain,” Zambelli says. “They no longer want to jump up into the cat box, so they start peeing on the floor. It’s a solvable problem if we troubleshoot and put a real low pan down, like a baking sheet, and improve accessibility and address pain.”


Oops! I did it again

Taking care of an incontinent senior takes effort, but there are many ways to make this labor of love manageable.

“First of all, no carpet!” laughs Brugato. “Also, make any bedding easy to clean. I take the filling or pad from dog beds, put it inside a plastic garbage bag, tape it up, then put the cover over that. You only have to wash the cover and the filling stays fresh and dry.”

Barrier pads, such as belly bands for incontinent male dogs, work well. With any method, however, pets need to be kept clean so that secondary issues don’t arise. 

“It’s important to make sure there’s no perineal scald [skin burns from urine], skin irritation, or dampness that can lead to secondary itch, infection, and discomfort,” says Zambelli. “Animals can suffer silently and don’t always tell us when they’re uncomfortable.”

But sometimes they do. Constant licking can be the first sign of a problem. “Some dogs just get moist and there aren’t puddles around the house,” says the doctor. “That can be emerging incontinence. It’s probably not just a habit.”

As for clean-up, Brugato says there are many great solutions on the market, including the one she uses with the superhero-worthy name: Airx Rx 101 All-Purpose Odor Counteractant Cleaner. You can also opt for something simpler that’s nearly as effective: hydrogen peroxide mixed with baking soda and vinegar.

“You have to really soak the carpet or fabric and rub,” she says. “Just spraying with a spray bottle does nothing.”

For pet owners, the hardest part of dealing with incontinence may be the realization that your loved one is aging and that your time with them is growing shorter. But Zambelli says it doesn’t need to be a sad time for you or your pet.

 “There’s so much I think we can do for older cats and dogs.” 


Michele Coppola is a veteran Portland radio personality, copywriter and freelance writer who shares couch space with her dogs Ginny and Bailey, Roxy the a cat, as well as Bryon, the stray man she married eight years ago.

Senior Emergencies


Leading causes, and keys to survival

We’ve all been there . . .

You’re walking the pup, and . . . “Is he limping?  I didn’t notice that yesterday.”

Or you’re strutting along and wonder, “She sure is panting a lot. It’s not that hot out. Is that normal?”

Or your cat has been sleeping all day. “I know cats sleep a lot, but he used to be so playful.”

Or, “Wow, she sure has been drinking a lot of water lately.”

Or, you’re snuggling with your lovebug and discover a lump.

Another biggie: they didn’t eat breakfast (or dinner) — a huge concern with a pet who never skips a meal.

These occurrences are all the more worrisome when pets are older.  Any new, little thing brings trepidation and fear.

It’s hard to believe how time flies, and our pawed companions reach their senior years much faster than we do. Aging is an undeniable part of life and, for pets, along with it comes lumps and bumps, limps and gimps.

It’s easy to recognize the outward signs of aging in a pet: stiffening joints, graying muzzle, slowing gait, and once bright eyes growing cloudy.  What can’t be seen but must be remembered is that his or her internal systems are changing too.

So, how can you tell if your senior pet is suffering from a serious health issue or merely presenting signs of age?

Spot spoke with Dr Megan Nyboer, Emergency Director at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center about the most common medical emergencies for pets in their golden years.


Metabolic System Disease

The metabolism makes energy from food and eliminates waste and toxins from the body.  Metabolic function is at the core of good physical health. Disorders include anything that disrupt the process, from disease isolated to an organ such as kidney or liver to a systemic disease affecting the body overall such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism.


Early indications of a metabolic problem include increased thirst/urination and weight loss. More advanced signs include decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting and weakness. “While not curable, metabolic system disease is treatable if caught early,” Nyboer says. The best prevention, she adds, is annual exams and bloodwork for pets six to seven years of age and twice yearly as they get older or as specific health issues arise.


Heart Disease

Dr Nyboer says heart disease is very common in both older dogs and cats, but that it can be managed when detected early.


Signs that trouble is brewing for dogs include a cough lasting more than a couple of weeks, lethargy, and intolerance to exercise. Difficulty and/or heavy breathing, severe coughing, and fluid from the nose are more acute symptoms, signifying a possible emergency that may require oxygen.

As with their canine counterparts, sudden onset of heavy breathing and general lethargy in felines are indicators of heart disease, but Nyboer warns that cats often exhibit no symptoms.  In fact, she says, cats tend to mask signs of illness better than dogs, often delaying detection.

This underscores the importance of yearly physical exams: early detection is key to being able to manage a disease, and hopefully prolong survival. If a murmur is discovered, for example, it can be monitored, and explored further with additional diagnostic tests.



For pets, incidents of cancer increase with age. According to The Veterinary Cancer Society, cancer is the leading cause of death in 47% of dogs (especially over age 10) and 32% of cats. 

With so many different types, cancer follows no iron-clad rule. Symptoms vary, or can be scarce until the disease has become advanced.

The cancer that causes the most life-threatening emergencies — especially in older animals — is Hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive, malignant tumor in blood vessel cells. Because these tumors form in blood vessels, they are frequently filled with blood. When a blood-filled tumor ruptures, it can cause internal bleeding — particularly when the liver or spleen are involved.

“This can happen very quickly and without warning,” says Nyboer. “This an acute, urgent situation where immediate emergency care is needed.”


Because pets may not exhibit symptoms until a problem becomes serious, the doctor urges parents of senior pets to vigilantly watch for listlessness, sudden and unexplained weakness, pale gums, abdominal swelling, difficulty breathing, and collapse.



Regular veterinary examinations and bloodwork establish a baseline for pets, making it easier to detect abnormalities before they become advanced or life-threatening and improving the chances of a longer, healthier life.

You know your pet better than anyone, making you his or her first line of defense. Watch for even small signs that your aging dog or cat is “just not feeling or acting right” and, should they appear, get veterinary care. The sooner you act, the better the chance of a positive outcome for your best friend.

Resource: Cascade Veterinary Referral Center | |  503-684-1800


Vonnie Harris is a freelance writer, and operator of Pet Stop Pit Stop pet sitting services in SW Washington. She resides in Vancouver with Jessie (a yellow Lab), and Pedro & Grey Bird (parrots). Vonnie is “the face of Spot” at many Portland-area pet-related events, and the voice of Spot in social media outlets.

Fresh food — it’s good for everyone


Heather Macfarlane of WILD Pet Provisions has worked in the pet health and nutrition field for more than 30 years. In that time, she says one of the most frequent questions she’s heard from pet parents is what senior dog/cat food is best.

Macfarlane says nutritional recommendations are based on each dog and cat's individual needs, and senior pets are no exception. “Diets should be tailored to meet each pet's nutritional needs, and not based on age alone,” she says. “Every person I know eats for their needs — why should pets be any different? 

In the natural world, Macfarlane points out, there is no puppy, adult, or senior food for wolves or wild cats, and in fact no packaged food at all. “Their food is their prey —  raw muscle meat with organs, bones, fur, and pre-digested greens, berries, and anything else that’s in the stomach of their prey.”

What did dogs eat before commercial pet food became available a mere hundred years ago? Macfarlane says, “People food. Mostly consisting of the parts of the food we didn't eat — meat scraps, organs, bones, veggies, etc. This was much closer to their natural diet than what we find in the pet food aisle today.” 

Macfarlane goes on to say that while the pet food industry holds that senior dogs and cats should eat differently than adults or young pets, there isn't a consensus for guidelines on such senior formulas. “In reality, senior pet foods on the market vary in content and analysis, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, and calories,” Macfarlane says. “Just because a pet food says it is for "senior dogs/cats" it doesn't mean it's good for all senior pets. A dog the same age as your senior dog may have very different nutritional needs, so feeding them both the same food may not be beneficial to one, or either one for that matter.” 

22-year-old Turtle is one of Macfarlane's four senior felines (and one senior dog)

22-year-old Turtle is one of Macfarlane's four senior felines (and one senior dog)

All dogs and cats should eat according to their individual needs, not just based on their age, Macfarlane says. 

So what to consider when making food choices for your pet? Macfarlane says body condition and underlying disease or imbalances are much more important factors than age when it comes to feeding your senior pet. 

“What I recommend is that all dogs and cats, including seniors, eat fresh, raw food,” Macfarlane says.  “Raw food is in its natural state and the nutrition is readily recognized and utilized in dog and cat bodies. Older pets thrive from food they are designed to eat, which provide moisture, natural joint support, digestive enzymes, and animal-based protein.” 

Where to start? “Some fresh food is better than no fresh food at all,” Macfarlane says. “You probably don't eat salad every single day, but you eat salad, right? Likewise, if you don’t feed your pet a 100% fresh food diet, then incorporate fresh as much as you are able by adding fresh foods to your pet's current meals, feed fresh meals once a day, once a week, twice a week, whatever is feasible for you and your pet.”  Pet nutrition assessments and individualized dietary plans are available through Macfarlane’s business. 

Beneficial foods Macfarlane recommends incorporating into your senior pet's diet include:

  • Green Juju (contains buffalo bone broth, celery, coconut oil, dandelion greens, ginger, kale, lemon, parsley, turmeric, zucchini)
  • Canned sardines (packed in water, not oil)
  • Bone broth
  • Freeze dried food and/or treats (such as Stella & Chewy's, K9 & Feline Naturals, Vital Essentials, Primal)
  • Phytoplankton
  • Eggs
  • Wildcraeft's Heal
  • Turmeric or Golden Paste
  • Green and Blue Lipped Mussel
  • Coconut oil
  • Probiotics
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Boswellia

Learn more and meet the nutrition specialists at WILD Pet Provisions at 2393 NE Fremont, Suite A in Portland, or at

Support for those with aging, ill pets

At-Home Vet hosts twice-monthly support groups for Portland metro area residents who are facing the challenges associated with caring for an older pet or a pet dealing with a chronic or terminal disease.

Facilitated by Heather Dillon, DVM and special guests, the group is called “Halo: Pet Parents Helping Each Other,” and provides access to others navigating a common experience. Together the groups share and learn how to live with the demands of daily care of and decision-making for pets experiencing challenges related to age or disease. Upcoming meetings — which are free to attend but first come, first served —  will be held Apr 4 and Apr 18, 7-8pm, at Multnomah Arts Center on Capital Hwy in Portland.  Learn more at


What do we do when our loving pets face the last leg of the race? We do all we can to help them finish well, of course. We take time to read the unspoken needs of the friend we've come to know so well. We give the simple reassurance of a loving touch when the old boy seems confused for no reason.

We groom them faithfully, but more gently, as age brings muscle wasting, and the arthritic bones aren't so well padded. We learn to slow down for their sake, as they enjoy the scent of the wind, or track a visitor’s trail across their yard. We expect to be inconvenienced and aren't angry when it happens.

We watch for pain and treat it, watch for changes in vision and hearing and do what we can to help preserve those precious senses for as long as possible.

We take care of their teeth and make sure their food is a manageable texture for them. We remind them of the need for a potty walk when they seem to forget.

We remember the little rewards. We scratch the graying ears and tummy, and go for car rides together.

When the pet we love has an unexplained need for comfort, we give it freely. When infirmities bring a sense of vulnerability, we become our old guardian's protector.

We watch their deepest slumbers, when dreams take them running across long-forgotten fields, and we remember those fields too.

When they cannot stand alone, we lift them. When their steps are uncertain, we steady them. And if their health fails, it falls to us to make the choice that will gently put them to rest.

Until that time comes, we pause to let the autumn sun warm our old friend's bones. And we realize, autumn is not a bad time of year at all. Old age is not a disease or a reason to give up. It is a stage of life that brings its own changes. Autumn can be a beautiful time of harvest.

And, sometimes, the harvest is love.

~Christy Caballero

For the love of Blake

“Thump, thump, thump.” That’s the sound I hear each morning from my precious dog as he wakes to greet the day with a wagging tail. My heart thumps in response, bursting with love for him. 

I adopted Blake from a local shelter, a big, goofy, 7-month-old Golden Retriever mix with floppy ears and chunky feet. It seems like yesterday we were bounding through the pet store, loading up on "new dog necessities." Now, 12 years later, Blake's gallop has slowed to a jolly trot, and dozens of stuffed animals and chew toys later, he still has some of his favorites from our first days together. He is a distinguished older gentleman now, with a soft white face and deep soulful eyes. He may sleep a little more and move a little less these days, but I treasure every moment. His health and happiness are a priority for me more than ever.

Blake has some of the common problems of aging. Arthritis in his low back prompted the purchase of a super-comfy orthopedic dog bed a couple of years ago. It’s better than my mattress, although I won’t tell you how I know! Still, muscles start the day tight, so I stretch his hips and legs each morning to help his movement. Blake also gets massages. I recently took a class to learn the best techniques for not only easing his muscle tension, but increasing his overall well-being. He loves it! Exercise is key for Blake, too. He still runs when a squirrel dares to cross our property line, but he most looks forward to our daily walks, which grow more meaningful to me as the days pass.

One thing that hasn’t slowed is Blake’s mind. We began playing “Go Find It” when he was a puppy. It’s a fun start to his day and a routine he expects. He makes a point to pop his nose around the corner in the morning to make sure I’m on task. He patiently waits while I hide treats around the house for him to sniff out. I truly believe this has kept his mind sharp as a tack. Obedience training has played an amazing role as well. Blake became a Canine Good Citizen when he was about a year old, and I feel it’s served his mind well. He always listens and obeys commands, and he’s still a bright, alert dog who’s a puppy at heart.

That’s not to say Blake has been a perfect little package since I brought him home. We’ve battled pancreatitis since puppyhood, and he’s overcome two major surgeries, one for a giant fatty tumor on his groin. The second occurred while I was writing this story. We made our third visit of the year to DoveLewis — this time for a twisted stomach. Now, a week after surgery, he lays before me fast asleep, looking like a patchwork quilt from the stitches and shaved patches all over his body. Incredibly, his spunk and appetite have returned with vigor. In fact, he and I have had a few heart-to-heart chats about him needing to rest while he heals! Speaking of that big heart of his, Blake is now in early-stage heart disease, which was diagnosed last spring. We have it well-managed with twice-daily meds, and it’s going strong. I always joke that we keep the lights on at our vet’s office.

I don't count the dollars I've spent on Blake or the lost sleep awaiting news from the vet in the middle of the night. Not the endless scoops of poop or the many nighttime trips for his favorite treats — after noticing the jar was empty — for our morning game of "Go Find It." What I do count are the soft sighs as Blake falls asleep, the soft, blinking eyes as he gazes at me from across the room, and the wishes I have that they would last forever. I also count my blessings. Twelve years, four legs, and the endless happy thumping from my incredibly loving senior dog . . . and my heart.

Kimberly Maus co-anchors Good Day Oregon on Fox 12 each weekday morning. She lives in North Plains with her husband Matt, her dogs Blake and Rodeo, horses Peso and Maverick, and a donkey named Daisy Mae.

Traveling through Life Together

The Adventures of Ellie, the Golden and Andrea, the Person

Ellie and I do almost everything together; we are rarely apart. So much so that when she’s not with me, people ask, “Where’s Ellie?” I love having her with me; when she isn’t, I miss her energy. We are getting older together, too. So far we’ve been lucky health wise. 

Ellie attracts attention wherever we are — waiting in line, sitting at a restaurant, walking in the park, shopping, in an airport. Wherever and whenever, people are drawn to her, and she to them. I have to add that she is beautiful, and I’ve learned that beautiful people and things actually attract a certain kind of attention. I’ve gotten used to it. 

Ellie has an equally big personality, and is very smart. She is an experienced traveler, accompanying me on frequent trips between Portland and the Bay Area, sometimes by air, sometimes on the road. Ellie moves expertly through airports, and is a pro at being a well-behaved passenger — people hardly know she’s there. She always knows where we are — recognizing the people, the parks, every rest stop, and all our routes. She has developed habits, routines, and places she likes every place we go. It amazes me how she remembers.   

She loves to walk on the Google campus, especially on weekends when we have the place to ourselves. We run around, jump in the ponds, and hang out on the colorful tables and chairs. Sometimes we watch as tourists pose for pictures in front of the Google signs. I want to take pictures of them taking pictures. 

While I mentioned we are both healthy, I do have one glitch: I’ve had one form of breast cancer or another for 25 years. I have been treated at UCSF, and regardless of where I live, have stayed with my medical team. There is no rhyme or reason why I’m still alive — they say I’m a bit of a medical anomaly.  

Ellie has been part of my cancer experience every step of the way and has always been amazing during rough treatments. She’s always given me reason to get up and out to walk with her. Her needs don’t change, and that’s been good for me. 

A year ago I was diagnosed Stage 4, which changed my plans a little. I had to think about what would happen to Ellie if I died first — something I’d never considered. I had never doubted my survival before, no matter how tough things got. This time I had to. It’s weird. I finally asked a dear friend who is crazy about Ellie if she and her family would care for her if I died. Of course, she said, yes. I knew Ellie would be loved and safe, and I was relieved. 

We visit the beach at Chrissy Field at Golden Gate Park after my monthly medical appointments. Being in that open space together is fun and a terrific counterpoint to the doctors and medical centers. If I didn’t have Ellie in my life, I wouldn’t have the same compelling reason to go to the beach and play. Ellie’s joy, chasing the ball in the ocean, is infectious and makes me happy. Her personality and character give me so much life, and I know I make her happy too. We are safe together, traveling through life whatever it throws our way. 

Oh, and I’m happy to say: I’m doing really well — we both are. 

Andrea is crazy about Ellie. In one of her former lives she opened the pearlretriever dog shop in the Pearl in 2004, and the dog-loving social network in 2007 (now owned by Spot). Andrea and Ellie live in Portland.

Life with Scooby

He wakes up and dive-bombs into the first scratchy carpet he finds. His butt high in the air, his back legs and hips drive him forward, scratching every spot on his face. Left turn, right. Forward and back.

He stops. Motionless. Just for a second. Then, boom! He explodes onto his back, continuing the scratch dance upside down and every which way he can. Jumping up when finished he ends with a big shake.

Good morning. His name is Scooby. A Beagle-Basset mix. He is 21 years old.

But before these days of morning happy dances there was a long list of sad. It hurts to write, it hurts to read.  Severely worn and fractured teeth. Heavily infected ears. Large masses on the chest, abdomen, legs, paws, and more. Painful arthritis in the hips and spine. Severe alopecia. Thickened skin in many places from chronic infection. Severe dental tartar. Gingivitis. Allergies. Bright pink skin. Multiple warts over entire body. Numerous hematomas. Fleas. Multiple and serious medical issues. And more.

He was 17 and in rough shape. That’s why the shelter felt euthanasia was best. They said he was old. That he hurt — a lot. He could not hear much because his ears were swollen shut. He could not eat much because his teeth and mouth hurt.

But I didn’t know any of that. All I knew was that a 17 year-old dog with health issues was going to be euthanized in a shelter simply because he was a 17 year-old dog with health issues. It was not a time to place blame — that wouldn’t help. But I knew what my Pongo would want me to do. Pongo, who had passed away in 2007 when he was almost 19. He would want me to help this friend named Scooby. And I knew he was right.

And that’s when Larry met Scooby.

        “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”   — Gandhi

That long list of sad? I only learned those things after I’d met Scooby and reviewed the paperwork. It was a surprise, because when I met him it was like meeting a puppy.

His spirit was powerful and strong. He was buoyant. His eyes bright. He climbed into my lap despite the horrible pain that should have made such movement impossible. And that’s all that mattered. He needed help and I could help. Done.

That was four years ago. Scooby celebrated his 21st birthday this past August 31st. Four years ago the paperwork said he should not have those four years. They were wrong.

Many things on that list remain. They don’t get fixed or go away. But what could be fixed has been. What has not changed? His spirit. His spark. His spunk. His inner Scooby!

And while he looks a bit unique thanks to some bulging and benign lipomas, what is most noticeable is his chi. He just bursts with it. The gusto contained in this 50-pound loveboat is beyond belief.

He’s had many families over the years — I think I’m his eighth. I met his last family. During the worst of times they became homeless, sleeping in an office building doorway. They tried, so hard. I know they did. What they lacked in money they made up for in love. They loved Scooby to the moon and back. But the care he needed required more than just love.

All that pain, yet he harbors no anger. He’s a mix of the Dalai Lama, Buddha and Gandhi. I kid you not. He is the essence of love. An essence that touches everything and everyone he meets. Even those he has not yet met.

Scooby breaks it down to the most simple. He finds the good.

Shortly after Scooby and I connected I was at a party and a friend introduced me to a well-known veterinarian. My friend began the introduction by telling this person I had just adopted a 17-year-old dog. The vet’s reply? “You must like short relationships.”

More bad jokes followed. He was the only one laughing. His wife pulled him away, telling him to stop. She later found me to apologize, saying he was like that sometimes.

But I knew what he was really like: he was scared. That was all. How often do you meet someone who adopts a 17-year-old dog? And as a lifelong veterinarian he knew what that meant.

He wasn’t trying to hurt me, but to keep from being hurt. He’d been there too many times himself.

When I saw him again a few years later I told him Scooby was doing great and about to celebrate his 21st birthday. He smiled broadly. And I saw the tears in his eyes.

Science and medicine and veterinary school could not prepare him for that moment. This time there were no bad jokes — just pure, heartfelt joy. This singular moment might have given this lifelong veterinarian more hope than any textbook ever could.

21. That’s 147 in dog years. Of course he has some aches and pains. But I do too. We spend a lot of time laughing together about our problems. And we feel better. 

He swims. He runs on the beach. He tickles the ocean and tries to befriend every seagull he meets. He jogs on a therapy treadmill. He gets acupuncture and massage. He’s kissed an opossum. He caught a squirrel just to say hello. He has 10 beds. He received a Mayoral Proclamation. On his birthdays we share champagne. He lets me have most of it. That’s how he is.

Every Friday he gets a couple of French fries. Because it’s French Fry Friday.

 “Until one has loved an animal, part of one's soul remains unawakened.”  — Anatole France

There’s no end game in sight. No bucket list. We plan on being here for many years to come. Tomorrow’s another day, and we’ve got things to smell and places to pee.  

We always buy food, supplements and meds in the biggest sizes possible. We just renewed Scooby’s license for three more years, the maximum. And yes, we’re fully expecting to renew it for another three years after that. 

But there’s still that number. Scooby is 21. He’s considered an old dog. But that’s not the point. For me, he’s just an old soul — he’s Scooby. He is Wise. Peaceful. Faithful. Kind. He brings Hope. Joy. Love. He brings it all. Every single day. 

He should know. Because four years ago he was just days away from having no more days. Yet here he still is. Being Scooby. 

Many tell me that Scooby is lucky that I adopted him. That he needed me. But they are wrong. I am the lucky one. Because it was me that needed him. And I love him so very, very much. 

 “I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time? —     Sir Walter Scott

Next August 31st we will celebrate his 22nd birthday. We’ve already got the champagne in the refrigerator. 

Sit. Stay. Eat. Live. I Love Scooby. 

17 Larry Chusid Photo Credit The Pongo Fund.jpg

Larry Chusid is a Portland-born entrepreneur and nonprofit activist whose accomplishments include several businesses and, more recently, the founding of The Pongo Fund in Portland, Oregon.