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BC and dealing with another dog's illness


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Good morning - I am a long time lurker and long time dog owner but my 1st BC (a mix but according to our vet - very BC in behavior). We have had mostly labs and lab mixes over 30 plus years of dog ownership and truth be told I am surprised at how different these 2 dogs are. FWIW I am also a former Labrador foster for over 15 yrs etc. Fry was adopted from our local shelter. The mother was a pb BC and gave birth in the shelter. Fry was our 1st puppy since before we had kids (most of the labs I fostered or adopted were adults). He has been a joy and a delight and also a true challenge in that he has taken everything I thought I knew about raising dogs and changed it. He is extremely smart and sensitive. As a parent of many human boys I tend to be a loud person and Fry is more sensitive with noise. He's also intuitive in a way that labs are not. He is extremely good when I take him out and about etc. 

The problem is that we also have a 10 yr old lab older female. She's beginning to slow down. She has started to show real arthritis in her hips and no longer tackles or plays in the same way she did before. Fry is extremely attached to her. I work out of the house (even prior to covid) and my husband and I are the only ones living here at the moment. My adult children come and go but Fry's world is us, our lab, and 2 cats for the most part. Each time I have had to take her to the vet (which now I cannot go in due to covid) when they take her away, he is inconsolable. He cries and whines etc. I hate leaving him at home alone since he will do the same and scratch at the door and windows. He has no issue if I take him without her (and she doesn't really care) but if he is left behind, he gets extremely emotional and when she returns, will check her all over etc. We also have a granddog, a black mouth cur, who is younger but Fry isn't as attached to him as he is to the lab and in fact is less then enchanted when the granddog shows up. And the BMC owner, my son, is in the military so we will have the other dog for months and then months alone. 

 I am dreading the eventual slowing of the lab and her passing. It may not happen for a long time but I am already concerned about it since we walk every day for several miles or more and I see she is, on occasion, struggling. I guess what I am asking is what is the best way to prepare a BC for a loss? I never have had an issue with labs. They are sad and they move on. We've always had 2 or more dogs but in this case I am not sure it would be helpful at all. Fry seems to be more sensitive than our past dogs and I am curious as my experience with him.

On another note, I live in a suburban/country setting. I have 2 acres and live right next to large open tracts of protected land. I have kept my blood pressure in check in part by owning Fry and his relentless need for exercise and he runs free, listens well and has excellent recall. I am fascinated by people who have BC's in the city or urban settings. I notice if we do have to keep him on a leash for a reason, we still have to take him running free everyday (rain or shine or freaking 0 degree weather etc).  

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57 minutes ago, frysmom said:

 I am dreading the eventual slowing of the lab and her passing. It may not happen for a long time but I am already concerned about it since we walk every day for several miles or more and I see she is, on occasion, struggling. I guess what I am asking is what is the best way to prepare a BC for a loss? I never have had an issue with labs. They are sad and they move on. We've always had 2 or more dogs but in this case I am not sure it would be helpful at all. Fry seems to be more sensitive than our past dogs and I am curious as my experience with him.

I appreciate your concern on this and can tell that your dogs mean a great deal to you. Unfortunately in my opinion there really is no way to prepare for the loss of a loved one, not for people or dogs. Even for us, when we see a loved one approaching that time, and think we are braced for the loss, the loss when it comes is felt just as strongly.  At least, that is how it is for me, and I suspect for most people.

You did not say how long you have had Fry. If it's not been long, it's possible that the attachment may become less intense as Fry gets older. Fry will also know when your lab starts to get close to that time, as he will take note of how much the lab slows down. That doesn't mean, of course, that he will not mourn when the time comes.

I had  male and female border collies, and the female was intensely attached to the male, although not to the point of the separation anxiety you describe. When the male died at age 15 after getting steadily more infirm for weeks, I made a point of making sure I was prepared to bury him in my yard, and I brought his body back to the house. I placed him next to the grave and brought each of my other dogs out one by one to see him.

I did this because a friend told me that she took one dog to be euthanized and after that the other (very attached) dog never behaved the same way with her again, as if she blamed her for taking away her companion.

When Kit saw Jester's body she became visibly upset, and I did not let her linger for long. But after that, for two or three weeks, every time I let her out to that part of the property she would rush to Jester's grave and try to dig him up. It was heartbreaking, but I allowed her to to it because it seemed to be a part of her process, and eventually this behavior faded and she went on with her life.

I think it's important to allow a dog to grieve in the way they need to. But I don't think it's possible to prepare a dog for that loss.

 

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I'm so sorry that you're facing this loss and I know how difficult it is to let them go. As far as preparing a dog for an upcoming loss, I don't think it can be done.

Dogs are aware in ways humans are not, that's for sure. AND, I don't believe dogs look much further into the future than a few minutes. 'Oh, she's grabbing the leash ~ we're going for a WALK!' type of thing. Dogs in general and I think bc in particular read human moods and movements very very well. They see and respond to what's in front of them and not much further than that.

I had 3 border collies all at once, and the youngest got bone cancer. We lost him way too early. The other 2 were aware that something was different, and I think they worried about how he smelled after he came back from chemotherapy treatments. When I had him put down, the vet came to our house. I had the other 2 shut away in another room and after the vet left, taking Buzz with him, I let them in. They sniffed around the area where he'd been laying, then went on about their lives. Every now and then for a week or so after I'd see one of them sniffing the spot where Buzz generally slept. Nothing more than that.

Fry will notice that your girl is gone, and he'll likely notice that you're upset. He may look for her, or sniff the area where she spent the most time. I don't think you can prepare him in any way for anything.

And my condolences. It's just painful to us humans to lose these precious furry beings.

Ruth & Gibbs

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I also don’t think you can do anything to prepare your dog. I have had 2 dogs go through a loss of a best friend badly (and one that didn’t care but they weren’t friends) 

Both times the companion died naturally at home and the surviving dog was with us with when we buried their friend. Our GSDx showed her loss by attempting to engage with every dog we met on walks, she was 13 and at times it was heart breaking watching her trying to engage with dogs that just didn’t care. Our plan had been to give her time to be an only dog but clearly this was not what she wanted. We brought home a 3 1/2 year old border collie, they clearly did not like each other but she immediately snapped out of her funk and we had 2 more great years with her.

When we lost the border collie mentioned above far to young at 8 his younger brother was basically a wreck, he was devoted to Brody. We had already made plans to move from the US to Europe so getting another dog wasn’t a possibility, at times it was horrible, things would trigger him and he would just wail in the truck. 
 

We are back in the situation of having a younger dog who is tightly bonded to his older brother (this time it’s mutual) and our plan is add a third dog, this actually works two ways he gets a young play mate and I get a second agility partner! We would already have added him but COVID and serious loss of income has delayed those plans.

 

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