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

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.

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.


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


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

28 Responses

  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.”

    1. 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,

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. I am going through all of this right now Your bed time routine resonated, as I do exactly the same. Every morning when I wake up, I check a) that she is breathing ( she breathes very shallowly, so it is hard to tell, and b) that she has not peed or pooped in her sleep. If she stirs during the night, especially if she starts circling (as opposed to changing position, you get to know which is which) I whisk her to the bathroom to pee (or poop) on the pads (she is only 5 lbs, completely blind and totally deaf) Everything you say is happening to me. She poops, and if I am not there (she is now restricted to the bathroom when I am not there), she then circles back around on it, and basically spreads it all over the bathroom. The bathroom is now covered in pee pads, from corner to corner, though that does not always help as she manages to shift them and get the pee and poop UNDER the pee pads, and I have to do a major clean up and swiffer of the bathroom. It hardens on her feet, and I have to take several wipes and try to get the poop off, or just stick her in the bath, and give her a good sluice down. She gets herself wedged in the tiniest and tightest of spots. Practically every day, there is another spot that I didn’t think of, and i have to block that off too. She has gotten behind the TV, and dislodged all the cables and wires and the cable box, and she had several wires wrapped around her body and her neck, (this is why she has to be in the bathroom, as I have pretty much gotten rid of anything that can cause her harm). Another time she had tipped over the trash can, I found it on the other side of the room, and her head was inside the pastic bag – trash can was empty at least- that was a close call. I had nightmares of her circling round inside the large trash bag and twisting it in and around her, and suffocating. Another time she got trapped in the tiny space between the screen door and the sliding door, it it literally about 2 – 2 1/2 in ches space, and I could not get my hand in, I had to squueze it in and grab her by her hipbones and yank her out. She spends a lot of the time stuck in corners, just where two walls meet. She sometimes does not seem to recognise me, in that if I pick her up, she struggles to get out of my arms, and back to circling. Before, when I picked her up, she would always calm down and settle down, and go straight to sleep, on my chest, from sheer exhaustion. But I keep putting off the dreaded day, as she is eating like a horse, and is even a bit plump. I give her CBD oil, and it has definitely helped with the circling etc, in that she does not do it for as long, and she sleeps longer and is generally calmer. But that is only a short term fix. It does not help in the long run with her symptoms. I don’t know what to do. She is 17.

    1. Oh my goodness, Fiona, that does sound exactly like my Cricket’s group of symptoms. You have had some close calls, too! I found Cricket stuck over the framework of a table one day when I came home–even though that was one of her favorite rooms where she could find a bed, I had to lock her out of it from then on. I’m sorry you are having such a tough time. You must be tired, too. (I understand about the pee and poop under the pee pads too. They can be so good at that!) HAve you talked to your vet about meds or supplements besides the CBD? There may be other things that help with the agitation. My heart goes out to you. It’s so painful to see our dear old dogs struggle.

  7. Hi. I”ve been reading this blog for the past three days because my Rex (only years old, but diabetic on insulin shots, and a ShiTzu Jack Russel mix, 18 lbs). has been rapidly declining since last week. We’ve suspected he had dementia, but were honestly in denial for a while. At first we thought it was adjustment to the insulin that only began back in January, but he rallied and was happy and running and back to long walks and smiling. Then – he got into his brother teddies (a cat) food and got bad diarrhea and hasn’t been the same since. He got stabilized again with his food and insulin, but it seems the dementia really took off since that week – about a month ago. And now – I’m up in a cabin (that he knows) and he’s totally lost – banging into walls – forgetting how to walk up steps and walking dead into big trees. He’s almost forgetting how to walk on the path even – criss-crossing his legs and getting confused. He’s also sleeping for very large chucks of time – unlike he’s ever done. he plops down and doesn’t move no matter what. I’m about to leave him for the first time in four days and I’m nervous. It has gotten so bad in just the past 2 days. It’s heart-breaking to see hi this way. He just sits with his eye closed. We went down and sat at the beach and he walked into the water – he usually swims right in – and he just stood there – like and old man trying to sort himself out. Then he turned and looked sort of at me, came out of the water and plopped down to sleep with a long groan and he rolled over. I’m so sad. I have ten more days here – I’m afraid he might not make it!

    1. I’m so sorry about what you are going through with Rex. What a tough situation, but what a good mama you are to him. Hugs.

      1. Thank you for having this website. It has given me so much solace these past few days. Rex is going to be 13 years old and it does break my heart, but I’m ready to give him all he needs until I sense that he’s had enough of this radical change in himself. Sometimes he looks at me as if to say “Mama, what’s going on with my mind?” “Help me”. He even resembles your Cricket, but with smaller ears and slightly longer hair. This is so difficult! Thank you again, Eileen!

  8. Everything I’ve read in this post is so familiar. Our shih tzu was diagnosed with CCD 3 years ago when he was disoriented/confused, staring into space and very restless at night. He was started on medication which helped the restlessness. He has progressed now to where he can no longer walk and has difficulty staying in a sitting position when placed in one. He’s been incontinent (totally) for 2 years. He has somewhat forgotten how to eat in the past year. My husband ever so patiently feeds him his canned food (sliding small bites into his mouth) and then some dry food, piece by piece. He has always loved being outside so we take him for his “outside sits” several times a day. This sweet little guy just celebrated his 17th birthday,

    1. Aww, Gretchen, congratulations on taking such great care of your little guy so well that he has reached 17! It sounds like you and your husband are doing a perfect job of figuring out what your shih tzu enjoys and seeing to it that he gets it. I hope you have more sweet time with him. (Having CCD for three years is a long time! What great caregivers you are!)

  9. Dear Eileen,
    I am so grateful that I stumbled across your informative website. I immediately ordered your book and am eagerly awaiting its arrival.
    Our Springer Spaniel, Creole, is 15 and experiencing most of the items listed on your CCD checklist. I had not realized that not all elderly dogs experience cognitive decline. One of our big challenges is to get her to eat. The meal that was welcomed one time doesn’t even get a sniff the next.
    She has been on SAMeLQ for her liver for several years. Her liver count was good at her recent check up.
    Reading about other people’s experiences has been a big help.
    Thank you.

    1. Dear Marge,
      I’m glad you ordered the book and I hope it is helpful for you! Be sure and talk to your vet about Creole’s symptoms now that you are seeing a pattern.

      Eating problems can be so tough! I hope you are able to help Creole stay interested in food. Take care and give us an update if you like.


  10. Eileen,

    I am struggling with watching my 18 yr old Lab-mix lose her energy and stamina. I am carrying her to do her business outside, but at times she seems a bit confused and doesn’t move. She’s been slowing down with hip dysplasia, but will walk around in home as needed. Seems very lost outside sometimes.
    It was so nice to run across this article. I feel quite alone at times in dealing with her. I’ve always made her as confortable as possible. I know the inevitable is coming soon, but it was nice to see that it is quite normal to be sad and worried. And that others experience the same thing, and my dog’s problems are quite normal.
    I look forward to being comforted by your book. Thank you for your work. It was found at the right time.

    1. Dear Alan,
      I’m so glad when my writing can be a comfort. This is such a hard thing to deal with. There are a lot of people on this site who have been through it and know the heartache.


  11. My Louie is 15 years old. He is a mini schnauzer mix. He came into our lives when my daughter brought him home from the place she worked which was a pet food warehouse. They held pet adoptions once a month. No one wanted to adopt him because he was aggressive. He was abused by his prior owners and left alone. We got him at the age of 2. He has never been a lap dog and he doesn’t like being fussed over. But he got used to us and became a family member. Fast forward 13 years and he is now living with dementia. It’s been about 10 months now that we have been helping him cope. Lately, the pacing, circling, accidents in the house, loss of appetite, getting lost in the house, all of it is getting worse. Nights are hard because many times he struggles to get up and walking is getting harder. His hind legs aren’t working as well anymore. He whines when he gets lost or when he loses his balance. He has good days and bad days. He follows my husband around and always wants to be with him. We are both retired, so being there for him is not a problem. I found that brushing his hair calms him especially when I can’t give him a bath. He has lost a lot of weight. He eats, but sometimes he just doesn’t want anything to do with food. He does drink a lot of water though. He lets us carry him around or help him when he is having a bad day. He is loved and we want to make him as comfortable as we can. We know that his time to leave us is near. It’s tough for sure. Your story and reading other people’s experiences helps. Thanks.

  12. I have lived with 54 different dogs in my life. only had one dog that jumped up on her front legs like cricket did when when she was excited for supper. That was a 80 lb lab mix I dropped it from a shelter. Sadie died about 20 years ago at age 17. She was such a sweet dog and she loved to run

    thank you for your wonderful blog. I purchased your book some years ago and I still refer to it. You have done the world a great service.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Frances. And thanks for noticing Cricket’s cute behavior. That makes me so happy.


  13. So glad I found your site! As I sit here with tears running down my face, our 18 yr. old yellow lab/malamute mix is doing circles on the front porch & walking down one side of the driveway and up the other. She used to go down the road to the creek excited that she could get in a swim! I’ve known for a while that she must have dementia, but my husband refuses to see it. Suzy is “his” baby girl & she ho longer wants anything to do with him (unless he has treats). He’s taking it personally. She has ALL of the symptoms (except barking) and falls down a lot. It’s tough on both of us (myself & Suzy) as I’m 63 & disabled. Her favorite place to sleep now is on soiled pads. We live out the country & she used to bark & chase the raccoons and possums off the property, now she just looks at them like they’re not even there – even if they are only a foot away! It’s breaking my heart. I know we will have to let let her go soon as her quality of life is rapidly declining. Your Cricket sounds a lot like other baby, C.J., who has more energy @ 7 than I ever did!!
    God bless you & thank you SO much for your site.

    1. Hi Becca,
      I’m so sorry about Suzy. I’m glad the site was helpful. Hugs. I know how hard this can be to bear.

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