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Ember and Hawkwife, walking through a local park at sunset.

Ember is the little brown dog of the Hawk clan. She's been with us since some time in the late 1990s - I honestly can't remember the year. She's between 15 & 17 years old.

And her age is rapidly catching up to her, to our profound dismay.

She was only six months old when I adopted her off the streets of a small town in Oklahoma, at least as far as the vet could tell. She looked & acted like she'd been living rough most of that first six months.  She was happy, wily, and loved jumping and bouncing.

...now, she only jumps and bounces when she's excited about dinner or an imminent treat. And there's a high likelihood - which she's aware of but ignores - that she may topple over, her rear leg collapsing beneath her, leaving her stuck on the floor until we help her regain her footing. But that doesn't stop her. Not for a minute.

This morning, when I was upstairs changing and preparing to head out for a few errands, she toppled over in the kitchen. Near as I can figure, it was soon after I'd gone upstairs. She couldn't gain enough traction on the tiles, so slid herself over to the fridge for leverage, but still didn't have the strength and leverage she needed.

When I came back downstairs, she looked at me - a mix of embarassment, desperation and hope in her expression.  She'd had an accident.

It was very likely due to the efforts of trying to get up more than anything else. But she was very calm and restrained when I helped her up - she kept peering at me around & over her shoulder as I tried to help her get her hips and legs aligned.

We went outside.

She's always been curious, and very independent-minded. We think it's due to the mixed makeup that comprises her nature - as far as we can tell, there appears to be some Aussie Shepherd, some Border Collie, some Blue Heeler, and perhaps a touch of demon-spawn.

In the midst of living room chaos,
Ember wants to know if we really
have any idea what we're doing.
She was always quick to check out the people around her - we often refer to her as our "nurse dog" as she had an uncanny sense of any injuries someone had - physical or emotional - and would follow them around silently, keeping watch. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, she'd approach the injured area and carefully examine it, first with gentle sniffs then lightly identifying it with her tongue, and finally "cleaning" around it vigorously before lightly re-affirming the injury very gently.

She loved my mother-in-law, and took her role as co-assistant caregiver and morning wake-up dog very seriously.

After we lost Mr. Jack, the malamute ("malamoose") who'd served as her favorite toy, companion and big brother, she looked for other activities to fill her time. We accommodated as best we could: below, you can see how she came out with us to investigate the start of a very large storm that our little section of New England was bracing for, about 2 years ago.
Collage of images. From left-top to bottom-center: TL - Storm begins; TR - Desolated parking lots; BL - Stalwart doggie walk; BC - Enough of this.
Ember assisting us with evaluating the big storm.
As with all our dogs, she had a variety of made-up backstories that we'd tell spur-of-the moment, along with some songs that we'd make up, riffing off popular(-ish) tunes.

One of the backstories that HawkWife was less than fond of, but which has persisted (initially due to the fact that we used to have a load of trouble photographing her with any success without using powerful lights, backlighting and flashes) was the "Doggie of Darkness" meme. It seemed to be rather reinforced by her initial pre-occupation during her puppyhood with volunteering for suicide missions.

Just when you think the Doggie of Darkness has fallen asleep, her eyes snap open, glowing with the power of a thousand suns...
Just when you think the Doggie of Darkness has fallen asleep, her eyes snap open,
glowing with the power of a thousand suns...
But, above all, Ember enjoyed getting out and traveling. Ideally, on her own paws, but if she could also ride in a vehicle and then go out exploring with her four- and two-legged companions, that was fine, too.
Sitting happily in the back seat,
wondering what that silly Husky
is looking at.
She was effectively raised by one Alaskan Malamute (Missy), befriended another (Smoky), and then had her very own Malamute toy to play with (Jack).  She's now working on her first Husky (Max), and while her arthritis prevents her from playing with him the way she'd like, she still tries to race him to the house after walks at night and then feints a grab at his nose, reminding him that she's still "got it" and is in charge.

He just rolls with it, but he does understand that she's older, and often feeling "ooky" - more often now, too. And he worries about her.

Max keeps an eye on his fellow traveler, Ember, who was tired & 'ooky' that day.
You can see his concern for her in his eyes.
We do, too.

Right now, as I await HawkWife's return, I've gotten ready to bathe her so she's cleaned up from this recent incident. Fortunately, it's been a beautiful day. I put her outside after the incident this morning, cleaned up the kitchen, and then asked a neighbor to keep an eye on her while I ran a couple quick errands. I took Max with me - our fence is too short in one area to leave him alone out back with her, and I couldn't leave him stuck in the house: he wasn't likely to act out, but he's smart and might've learned Missy's old trick of how to open nearly any bloody door.

When we got back, I noticed she's successfully moved around the yard. I went downstairs with a towel to act as a suspender, and looped it gently around her back hips. We walked & wobbled around the back yard for a while; she got visibly stronger. Like the last time she'd fallen and gotten stuck, she did more to further weaken and worsen the problem by struggling to find a way to get up without help. Once she'd gotten help, and we assisted her walking it off, she stabilized quickly and was more careful for a while.

The past few days, she's been extra-energetic - and quite extra-bouncy/boisterous - so it's easy to understand that she overdid it again.  Just like a stubborn human.

But the incidents, weaknesses and gradual worsening of her body ailments grind on.  She's got arthritis, and the worst of it is in her back, where it's also impacting nerves in her leg - leading not to pain there, but increasing weakness and less responsiveness to the left rear limb.  

Her demeanor, overall, is good - but she is aware that her life is entering its sunset, and she's fighting it with everything she's got.

Please keep her in your thoughts, and if it's your habit and tradition to send healing thoughts or energy, I'd be grateful for any you could spare for our little one.

Thank you.

Namaste.

Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 9:27 AM PT: Here's a relatively short clip of Ember moseying about in the back yard this morning. She was very hesitant to get up this morning - I had to lift & carry her outside - but once there, she traipsed around right up to the point I started shooting video. Then, she pretty much ignored me...

Originally posted to GreyHawk on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 03:26 PM PDT.

Also republished by PWB Peeps and CareGiving Kos.

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