Tillie, our oldest dog, woke me around 2am one morning a few weeks ago. It’s a little unusual, normally she sleeps through the night. In fact, she snoozes from around 7pm onwards until we all go to bed, then sleeps without moving until around 7am. Even then she won’t get up until close to 8am, unless she realises we’re heading out for a walk earlier than that.
I woke to find her head near mine, resting on the edge of the bed. When I spoke her name and asked what she wanted, she didn’t move much, just accepted a head rub. I took her outside to the toilet, which she seemed to manage okay. On the way back up the passageway, I turned on the light to assist her as she was a bit wobbly.
Once back in our bedroom, she was reluctant to get on her bed. Finally I persuaded her to step onto it, and she had turned to settle down when suddenly she noticed the blanket-covered lump in the smaller bed next to her.
She stared down at it as if amazed. Then she sniffed at it, and prodded it once with her nose; stared again in puzzlement, then prodded again. It moved this time.
Then before I could stop her, she brought down her (very heavy) paw hard, straight on top of the lump, which erupted like a volcano. Elvis flew out of his bed as if shot from a cannon. You would too if sledgehammered across the back while in a deep sleep.
Although I suspected Tillie had become momentarily confused and forgotten that Elvis had been her kennel mate for the last nine years, I could have sworn I caught a look of glee on her face. Poor old Elvis looked sheepish and came to me for comfort. Meanwhile Tillie turned around twice on her bed and settled back down to sleep as if nothing had happened.
We’ve noticed a few odd things happening recently, which makes me wonder if she is becoming affected by dementia. It may not be as well-known as human dementia, but Canine Cognitive Disorder is a real thing.
Tillie should be turning twelve this year, according to her adoption paperwork. For a big-boned dog who weighs in at more than 45kg (99lbs), she is now more a geriatric, not just a senior! I didn’t know this, but dogs of her weight or more are considered seniors after the age of five. I knew that dogs and cats age faster than humans; and very small or very large dogs have shorter life spans, but that was a shock!
However, I think it’s all relative. Tillie’s teeth are great, her weight good, her eyes only a little cloudy, and her arthritis manageable. Looking at the list of symptoms, she’s far from a diagnosis, but we’ll keep an eye on her behaviour. I’m a little nervous of what such a large (and sometimes temperamental) dog could do if she stops recognising her long-term doggie companion, the cats, and ourselves.
It’s something to keep in mind though, if you find your dog standing staring at a wall, or forgetting who you are, or getting lost in their own house – time to take even greater care of your companions 🙂