Poop in My Pocket: Life With an Old, Old Dog

This story is from 2012 when Cricket was still with me, previously published on eileenanddogs.com.

The very first thing I do every morning when I wake up is turn over and take a careful look at my very old dog Cricket. She has a special place on the bed surrounded by pillows on three sides and me on the fourth. Here is what I often see.

Old dog, rat terrier, asleep surrounded by pillows

Cricket sacked out in her fortress on the bed

First, frankly, is she breathing? Then, what is her alertness level? Is she still sacked out or is she looking at me?  Big “oh-oh” if she is sitting up or trying to get off the bed. I have to make an important decision right away. Who gets to go to the bathroom first? Me, Cricket, or Clara the puppy?

These days it’s usually Cricket, although once in a while she sleeps in enough that I can get a head start. The other dogs virtually always have to wait since it is not safe to leave her out of my sight on the bed.

Small rat terrier starting to stand up on colorful bedcovers

Cricket needs to go

Cricket has neurological weakness in her back legs and a bit of arthritis. She needs some help in the morning, typical for an old dog.  And as soon as she stirs, I don’t have very long to get her outside. She is 16 years old, and when she needs to go, it’s right now. In that case, I put on my glasses, throw on a robe, step into some shoes, and grab my phone. I lift her up a little and stand her on her four feet on the bed so she can get her bearings and practice standing. Then I pick her all the way up. I usually have a treat in my pocket and I offer it to her (I have taught her to associate being picked up with good things). Amazingly, even bleary-eyed and dry-mouthed, she usually wants the treat. Her teeth are in good shape.

I tuck her under my arm and she chews on the treat as I carry her down the hall. I unlock the door, go down the steps and take her into the front yard. Without fail, as soon as I step out the door she takes a deep sniff, then snorts a little. Then I make the daily search for a moderately level place on which to set her. Every degree of slope counts against us in the morning.

After I choose the place, I put her down very gently but don’t let go. I keep my hands under her chest and abdomen and help her stand up. I try to get her pointing downhill (there is nowhere completely flat). If she needs to pee first, I let her go and she manages. If she needs to poop, she often needs a little more help. I keep ahold of her, switching my grip to keep her from falling over backward.

Old rat terrier waiting at the door looking expectant

Cricket waiting to go to work with me

Things improve after that first trip outside. Like a lot of older humans, Cricket is stiff in the morning and a little slow to get going mentally. But even though she has dementia, she definitely perks up as the day progresses.

By the time I leave for work, she is generally crowding me at the door to make sure that I don’t forget to take her along.

And later in the day, she is downright frisky.

Here she is getting her supper:

But back to the title of the post. The other day I went through our morning routine. I took a look at her and the answer to the daily question was clearly: Cricket needs to go. The old dog gets priority. As I was carrying her down the hall, I offered her a treat but she seemed distracted. This happens sometimes. I took her outside and she peed, but that was all. Now that is very unusual. We stayed out for quite a while, but no go. I got bored and reached into my robe pocket for my phone.

Not yet.

I pulled out my iPhone.

Now.

Perched on the top edge of my phone case was a small, neat piece of brand new poop. I stared at it for quite a while in disbelief, willing it to be something else. It remained poop. I transferred the phone to my other hand and very carefully peeked into the suddenly very interesting pocket. Nothing else. I very carefully removed the phone poop with a leaf curled in my fingers and stuck it under a rock or something. I actually don’t remember that part, even though an embarrassing amount of my brainpower is normally spent keeping track of the location of poop. Amazingly it had not smeared around on my phone case or in my pocket. It had just perched there politely. But even a moderate poop cleanup is not something you can do later.  But neither could I run frantically into the house to clean things up because I still had a 16-year-old dog toddling around in my front yard. Also, there was a very important question: where was the rest of the poop?

So holding the phone a bit outstretched (wouldn’t you?) in my left hand, I picked up Cricket with my right and tucked her above my hip in her usual place, noting the positioning of her butt and my robe pocket for future reference. Watching my step, I trekked back to the house for cleanup and a change of clothes.

Once inside, I saw the rest of the poop in the hallway where she had dropped it while I was carrying her down the hall. That’s why she had been distracted earlier when I offered her the treat.

I have never been so glad to see poop on the floor!

Old black and white rat terrier in the sun

Cricket in the sun

Resources

My book on canine cognitive dysfunction:

Book cover for Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Copyright 2012 Eileen Anderson

11 thoughts on “Poop in My Pocket: Life With an Old, Old Dog

  1. Great story! We are just starting on this journey with canine dementia with our 15 yo doxie mix. It progressed rapidly over the weekend for some reason. Reading about your journey is helping a great deal–especially with the humor!

  2. Reminds me of our last days with our Josie who went to the bridge at 18&1/2. Your book helped us not feel too alone as she approached the end.

    Josie, even on her last day, ate with gusto and could walk and do her chores. She could usually sleep all night w/o going out.

    But we were having to watch her 24/7 with an eagle eye as she would get trapped under or behind things. She was getting more and more forgetful where she was.

    We were sorry to euthanize her, but she seemed peaceful and we liked to think her last looks on us were with a look of,” I know it is time, Thank You.”

    • Carl, thank you so much for sharing this story about Josie. I think it will help many other people to feel better about what can be such a tough decision. Josie was SO lucky you were her family.

  3. I sadley with so much pain had my sweet Ginger baby girl euthanized on Feb 18,2017.She was 15 1/2. We struggled throughcanine dementia for9 months.
    I am grateful for my copy of “Remember Me” The contents are informative,and sometimes comforting. I have great compassion for any dog parent who also has to endure this health issue with their beloved pet.
    Ginger is in my heart forever,
    Barbara

    • Dear Barbara,
      Thank you for your kind words. It’s so good to hear that the book has helped. Cricket is in my heart forever too. Hugs.

  4. This could be my life with my 15 1/2 year old blind, deaf Pug. Fortunately, I am retired, so I am able to be here for her 24/7, tracking her as she wanders from room to room, making sure she doesn’t leave any poop during her “patrol.” I also check every morning to make sure she’s breathing. She is also weak and poop incontinent due to degenerating disks in her spine. So far, she still has total bladder control. She also needs help getting her legs going at times. Evenings are the hardest because of the vocalizing when nothing I do seems to comfort her for the hour or so that she “talks” to me. But she can smell a treat a mile away. She still loves her cuddles, her naps, and her food. She’s not in pain and seems happy. So she will continue to be my life until the day she lets me know she’s ready to take her next journey. I also have an aging, 13 year old Pug with health issues and a 3 year old that I adopted in June. Wouldn’t trade any of my babies for all the tea in China.

    • Dear Sandie,
      That really does sound similar to Cricket’s group of symptoms. I’m glad you can mostly collect the poop as it happens. I had to have a cleanup system because Cricket would poop then walk around in it and I had to clean her feet a lot. (Thank goodness for webcams!) I’m so glad your dear pug still has a good quality of life. I found that if I left behind my own assumptions of how dogs are “supposed” to act, I could see that Cricket still found her life just fine most of the time. Take care.

  5. I let my 16 & 5 months jack russel jilly go six weeks ago she had most Of the ccd symtoms and seemed to progress over 12 months , also gradual weight loss and wobbly on her back legs on a morning ,but when she got a bad dose of sickness and diarrea , I made that heartbreaking decision to let her go , miss and thinkk of her every day since.

    • Dear Alan,
      I’m so sorry for your loss. That is a heartbreaking decision to make, but nobody could doubt that you were making it out of love for Jilly. Take care.

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