I rang to see if they were at home, as, for once in my life, I was actually running early. A man answered the phone, and told me his wife would be back in a few minutes, and to come straight around…
“Our road’s a bit muddy,” he told me. “I graded it the other day, and then it started raining. Do you have a four wheel drive?”
“No, but I grew up in the bush, and plenty of dirt roads,” I assured him.
“Ok then,” he said. “But make sure you stay up on the high side of the road.” He sounded pretty uncertain that I’d make it, which made me smile.
The rain spattered on my windscreen, the wipers working hard to keep my vision mostly clear. The rolling green hills were shadows in the pale sky, the road a shining strip of bitumen, wheels splashing below me. I turned off the main road onto a back road, all patched and bumpy, before turning onto their driveway. It was muddy, and slippery, so I got my van spinning along with good momentum and kept my foot down, wheels spinning, motor surging, the van slipping and sliding in the deep, muddy ruts. The last hill made me hold my breath, but the trusty van roared to the top! A few more more twists and turns, and I pulled up to their house.
“You made it!” she said, with a smile.
“I did,”I replied, as they showed me inside.
I settled down on a seat at the kitchen table, and got my computer out.
“How can I help you then?” I asked.
“It’s our old dog- he’s over 16, and he’s really struggling. He’s been the best friend, you know, and we just want to help him feel as well as possible. He’s blind as a bat, and deaf as a post. He gets quite agitated at times, and wanders around the house all the time, bumping into things. We’ve had to block off lots of places that he used to get stuck in. And he doesn’t really connect with us any more at all, unless we have food, or we pick him up. He loves being massaged. He’s very restless at night, I have to hold him for ages before he’ll settle and go to sleep.” Her words ran out, and she looked at me with bright, wise old eyes.
The old dog was walking around the floor in a jerky, clockwork sort of fashion – he’d walk until he bumped gently into something, then he’d turn and walk again until the same thing happened. Sometimes he’d bump into something and get seemingly stuck in his head, standing there for a while before he realised, and moved on. He came towards me, and I held out a hand. He gave it a very perfunctory sniff, but didn’t seem to really care much, he just kept going. I could see that his joints were stiff and rickety.
“Could you bring him over to me?” I asked.
She gently popped him on my lap, and I examined him. His eyes were milky white with severe cataracts, he was totally deaf, and grey as a badger. His coat was dull, and his teeth mostly worn out or gone altogether, though his heart was strong, and everything else seemed ok. He relaxed after i held him for a bit, but I could see that mentally, he was very vague.
“He’s got pretty severe doggy dementia,” I explained. “Also, he’s got pretty bad arthritis, and I reckon he’s in quite a bit of pain with that. He’s so old that I think we’re in a place where palliative care is what’s needed. Some green lipped mussel supplement will help his joints, and getting him onto a BARF-raw diet without any biccies will help too. Green tea is a great antioxidant – so if you steep it in cold water for 12 hours, you’ll get the antioxidants without the caffeine. The other thing I think he really needs at this stage is some pain relief.”
She scribbled down everything I said. I’d put the old fellow back down by now, and his random wanderings had taken him over near her husband, who picked him up and held him.
“That sounds great,” she said. “We just want him to be as happy as possible.”
Before I left, I had them bring him back to me, and did some Whole Energy Body Balance work with him, holding one hand over his sacrum, the other at the base of his skull. His tired old body softened and relaxed more and more the longer i did this, and his eyes started to close.”
“That’s the most relaxed I’ve seen him for ages!” she said. “Whatever you’re doing, it’s really having a good effect.”
“There, he’s done,” I said. “Now I just have to get back down the hill without getting bogged!”
“Don’t worry,” Her husband told me. “I’ll come and pull you out with the bulldozer if you get stuck.”