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In Celebration of a Dog’s Life Well Lived

Words can’t express how grateful I am for all the support I have received these past six weeks. It’s so comforting to be surrounded by an army of dog lovers that speak the same language and just get it. I’ve found great healing when reading all the heartfelt comments on my tribute to Sanchez and in personal emails and Facebook posts. Thank you!

Today would have been Sanchez’s 14th birthday. While I had been hoping to be partying with him, I am instead honoring him by celebrating his life. It was a dog’s life well lived.

A few days after his passing, I recorded the video above. I chose the Lento from the B flat minor Sonata of Chopin because it’s one of my personal favorites from iCalmDog.

It represents ascent into heaven and was very healing for me. The music reminds me that Sanchez will always live on in my heart and in the music that he inspired. I am eternally grateful.

Party on at Rainbow Bridge Señor Sanchez!

 

 

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Can Music Really Heal Your Dog?

sanchez-upside-down-icd3

Four years ago, Sanchez was experiencing intense neck pain. My holistic veterinarian doesn’t have x-ray machines, so I took him to a neighboring clinic that does. I was told he would need to be sedated unless he could lay completely still on his back for the x-ray.  Not only was this a clinic that was new for him, but the veterinarian didn’t exactly have a calming presence. And, I wasn’t allowed to go into the x-ray room with Sanchez.

Fortunately, I had Through a Dog’s Ear downloaded on my iPhone. So, I asked if I could send in Sanchez’s calming music with him on my phone. The vet gave me a strange look, and then said, “well…. ok.” About 10 minutes later, he walked Sanchez out of the x-ray room and said, “We’re done. No need to sedate, he laid still and listened to the music. By the way, what is that magical music anyhow?”

I then realized the need for portable calming canine music and that experience planted the seed for iCalmDog. The clinically tested music in CD format was already calming hundreds of thousands of dogs at home and in shelters. What if dogs had a device that played their own music and could be taken anywhere? After all, people listen to their music on their mobile devices. What if Buster had his own specialized music on a player designed for him… sort of like an iPawd for dogs?

sanchez-acupuncture-icd3

It turned out Sanchez was diagnosed with a slipped disc in his neck. Fortunately, he responded very well to acupuncture treatment, and it literally saved his life. Little did I know then how much I would need him to lay still during treatment. Taking iCalmDog to the vet clinic became a routine for us. Well, until my vet supplied iCalmDogs in all of her treatment rooms, so I didn’t need to bring my own.

sanchezfluids

More recently, Sanchez was recovering from E. coli. It was really touch-and-go for awhile, and I feared I was going to lose him. During that time, I was giving him subcutaneous fluids daily, cooking all his meals, and trying to never leave home alone. I was worried sick. My 13 and 1/2 year old Labrador seemed suddenly very old and frail. listening to calming canine music For a 3-week period, I was playing his favorite calming music, Elderly Canine on his iCalmDog almost around the clock. The soothing sound tracks were such a comfort to us both, I’m not sure who it helped more. And while he wasn’t up for his nightly bonding time through training, we shared some very tender moments together listening to music.

Sanchez Calm Dog

I’ll never know the full impact of music in his healing process, I’m just so grateful that Sanchez is just about back to his normal old self. And while we’re again training every night with yummy treats, we’ve also been enjoying some cuddle time together in the evenings while listening to his favorite music.

Has music helped heal your dog (or you)? Thanks for sharing your experiences in a comment below.

(Aside note: I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to walk into a very quiet vet clinic, see calm pets, and hear nothing except music especially designed for dogs and cats. I gave up my concert career to create music for our beloved 4-leggeds, and this is one of the ways I’m reminded that it was worth it.)

 

 

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Feeling Guilty While Caring for My Senior Dog

sanchezsick

My 13 and 1/2 year old Lab, Sanchez, has been recovering from an E. coli infection. It was touch and go for awhile. While I was waiting for lab results back after a few weeks of treatment, I didn’t know whether he just needed a diet change or if it was to be our final days together. I was on a complete emotional roller coaster.

sanchezfluids

Truthfully, his care was really hard. I didn’t know how much more I could endure of making all of his meals, giving him subcutaneous fluids daily, and barely leaving the house in case he needed my help.

I had already decided I wouldn’t take any measures to prolong his life if his quality of life wasn’t likely to improve. I stopped in my tracks when a friend said, “Lisa, you have to remember that your quality of life is just as important.”

In all honesty, I hadn’t considered my quality of life. Caring for senior dogs is not for the faint of heart. But, I signed up for the long haul when I adopted him as s a youngster. And, I’m one of the lucky ones. 13 and a half is a long life for a large Lab.

ginasanchezcoastalwalk

It’s hard for me to admit, but in all honesty, I felt guilty when I sometimes thought about how much easier my life would be if I only had Gina to take care for. I craved our old lifestyle, when Sanchez so willingly went for walks with us and enjoyed a very mobile lifestyle. On top of those feelings, I had some important trips coming up, and I didn’t know how I was going to leave Sanchez in someone else’s care, given his current state.

I’ve been through it before, so I know how painful and simultaneously precious the end of life is with our beloved dogs. I don’t want to miss that time with Sanchez. And, I’d rather choose to be a week early on that decision than a day late. But, how could I make that decision based on my lifestyle needs and travel schedule?

The truth is that caring for him in such a tender state has increased our bond and strengthened our relationship. It’s been hard, but it’s time that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I feel more connected to him than ever.

sanchezwalkhiggins

Fortunately, he showed me that it’s just not his time yet. I’m very happy to report that he is on a complete trajectory of improved health. Not only were his lab results very encouraging, but he’s back to his normal weight again, getting out of the house more (as am I), going for short walks, asking for tummy rubs many times a day, giving kisses again, and chewing on dog bones (and even went digging for one outside). He’s just about back to his old normal self.

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And, he’s also well enough to be at home with Gina and a dog sitter while I’m performing at the Nature-Based Therapeutics Conference in Minneapolis. It’s the first of three trips, and I was surprised that it wasn’t as hard to leave him as I expected.

Labrador Kisses from Sanchez

I’m eternally grateful for his recovery and renewed health. And, I’m well aware that every day with him is a gift. I know it’s only a matter of time before I have to re-consider both of our lifestyles if his health fails again. But, for now, he’s reminding me to be present and enjoy our time together.

Attaboy Sanchez!

 

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8 Steps to Enriching Your Senior Dog’s Life

8 steps senior dogs

I can hardly believe that my yellow Labrador, Sanchez, is now 13 years old. I count my blessings that he is in good health and still enjoys our twice daily walks. But, I’m also aware that he can’t keep up to his activity level from even a year ago, let alone in his prime. I’m always looking for ways to provide mental stimulation to his environment without physically taxing his body.

1. Alone Time Together
It’s not always easy having a multi-dog household. But, it’s important to make a priority of having time alone with your pets daily. Since Sanchez was an only dog for the first seven years of his life, he particularly appreciates this. Walks do take longer (walking Gina separately), but it’s well worth the time when I see Sanchez’s smile of contentment.

2. Keep Training
Dogs love to learn, no matter their age. I still spend time training every night with Sanchez. If it gets late, he starts whining and begging for his training time with me. The bonding time is precious and it stimulates him to keep learning and being challenged. He has no complaints about his yummy rewards either. Dog training should always be fun for both 4- and 2-leggeds. Get creative with your senior pup. Because you can teach an old dog new tricks.

3. Give Him Attention in Creative Ways
Gina is a high-drive dog. We spend a lot of time in agility training, along with retrieving and tugging at home.  While it helps alleviate her pent up energy, Sanchez used to look neglected when she was getting the extra attention. So, I started sneaking him small treats while tugging with her. At night time, I often play ball with her inside, having her run down and up the stairs, chasing and retrieving the ball. I include Sanchez in the game by discreetly tossing him small treats while she’s running back up to me to deliver the ball. It not only makes him feel included, but it also engages his senses as his nose has to search for the tossed treat.

4. Reward. Reward. Reward.
In the video above, I am training both of my dogs together. Even though Gina is doing all the physical activity, Sanchez is getting equally paid for staying calm and still while she jumps over and goes under him. Good boy, Sanchez!

5. Pay Attention to New Behaviors
It’s not unusual for senior dogs to develop anxiety issues later in life that seemingly come out of nowhere. They can include sound phobias, separation anxiety or resource guarding. There are some that I just accept, such as tearing tissue out of the bathroom waste basket. I call it his puppy behavior returned. I just make sure that I don’t put anything in the trash that could be harmful when chewed. Other behaviors will only get worse if ignored, such as separation anxiety or food resource guarding. Ignored, they will only escalate.Tips for Separation Anxiety are here.

6. Keep The Safe Physical Activity
Sanchez and I used to enjoy musical freestyle classes. He would weave between my legs, spin and jump on my arm on cue. While that would be too taxing on his body now, we have kept in what is safe for him. He still loves to “go back,” lift his left and right paw on cue, and show off his “downward dog.”  Of course, he is well paid for his behavior.

7. Engage The Senses
National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW™) is the official sanctioning and organizing body for the sport of K9 Nose Work. It is a growing popular sport, and it’s great for dogs of all ages. K9 Nose Work is built on scent work where dogs use their nose to search for their prize. Sanchez loved his K9 Nose Work class. Now, at home, I put pieces of liver into a mixed variety of cardboard boxes. He is told to “find” the liver. Boy, does his tail ever wag when he is searching!

Sanchez upside down iCalmDog

8. Canine Sound Therapy
Most senior dogs don’t have the same tolerance for noise they used to in their youth. The immune system of a senior dog is often heavily taxed. A natural reaction is to self-limit the amount of auditory or visual stimulation coming into the system. That is why senior dogs will often shut down in overstimulating sound environments. Music to Comfort Your Elderly Canine has also been helpful for pain management with senior dogs and night-time restlessness. As you can see Sanchez loves his iCalmDog. The Elderly Canine pet tunes playing on it provided great comfort for Sanchez (and me) when he was recovering from a slipped disc in his neck.

What enrichment activities have benefited your senior dogs? Thanks for adding your stories in a comment below.

And, if you missed Sanchez’s 13th birthday May 17, here is a short video clip I put together of wonderful memories together.

Sanchez’s 13th Birthday

 

 

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6 Loving Ways To Comfort Your Senior Dog

BWP_SanchezOnSofaLisaHeadDownPhotoCredit

I have to admit, now that Sanchez is 12-years-old and showing signs of slowing down, I think often about ways to comfort him. While I’m very blessed that he is in good health, it’s not unusual for senior dogs to lose memory, eyesight and experience hearing loss. Dogs also can experience some changes in behavior as they mature.

Some of Sanchez’s new behaviors remind me of his puppy years, such as chewing tissues from the bathroom waste basket. But, more serious behavior changes like resource guarding and separation anxiety developed later in life. I have heard from many people with senior dogs that get restless and agitated at night-time, yet they calmly sleep all day. It’s easy to feel helpless watching their discomfort, yet there are many simple things we can do to help.

TimeForDogsSanchez

1. Time

Spend time with them doing what they enjoy, whether that’s cuddling on the sofa or long, slow walks in nature. They may not need the amount of exercise they had as a youngster, but they still need quality time shared together. Sadly, they may not have an abundance of time left. Make every moment count.

Sanchez Smiling at Blufftops

2. Nature

Sanchez can’t manage the long hikes of his youth. But, he still really enjoys walks in nature, taking in all the sights and smells. We live near the Pacific Ocean and walks by the beach are the highlight of his days.

Sanchez flowers

3. Patience

Dogs, like people, move slower with age. Don’t rush them. They like to take more time to stop and smell the roses, and everything else in their path. Allow them this time. It’s a good reminder for you too that every moment is precious.

BWP_SanchezLookingAtLisaAtPianoPhotoCredit

4. Train

Dogs love to learn, and you actually can teach an old dog new tricks. I still spend time clicker training every night with Sanchez. If it gets late, he starts whining and begging for this time with me. The bonding time is precious, and it stimulates him to keep learning and being challenged. He has no complaints about his rewards either.

Sanchez Tade jacket

5. Work

Sanchez has been our loyal Through a Dog’s Ear mascot since 2008. Truth be told, he’s retired all of his previous careers ~ guide dog puppy, agility competitor, canine musical freestyler, and actor (playing Helen Keller’s dog in The Miracle Worker). But, he still really enjoys being in the limelight and posing for the camera. So, his work still continues as long as he is enjoying it.

Sanchez Car Ramp

5. Physical Assistance

Sanchez still goes almost everywhere with me. But, now I carry a ramp to help him get in and out of the car. I’ve been doing this since he had a slipped disc in his neck at age nine. I’d recommend a ramp for most senior dogs that are too large to be lifted out of the car. Their joints will thank you for it.

BWP_SteinwayWithKitchenSanchezPhotoCredit

6. Sound Therapy

Most senior dogs don’t have the same tolerance for noise they used to in their youth. The immune system of a senior dog is often heavily taxed. A natural reaction is to self-limit the amount of auditory or visual stimulation coming into the system. That is why senior dogs will often shut down in overstimulating sound environments. Sound therapy can often  help facilitate the nutrients of sound needed for maximum sound intake while conserving energy output. Music to Comfort Your Elderly Canine has also been helpful for pain management with senior dogs and night-time restlessness.

What has brought comfort to your senior dogs in their later years? Thanks for adding your stories in a comment below.

 

Related:
5 Surprising Ways to Protect Your Dog’s Hearing
How Could My Puppy Be 12-Years-Old Already?

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Happy 11th Birthday Señor Sanchez!

Sanchez Before After Years

Today is Sanchez’s 11th Birthday! 

I don’t know how my puppy is 11 already,  but I am eternally grateful that Sanchez is in great health on his 11th birthday.

I’m very aware of the challenges of having a senior pet. Sanchez is teaching me to be more patient, forgiving, and present. These are lessons not always so easy for me. Yet, he has the patience of a saint and is the world’s best teacher. And I am a crazy pet parent that would do anything to make his life more comfortable.

As I reflect back on the years, they are filled with so many wonderful memories. Eleven years ago, the rambunctious puppy behavior of Sanchez inspired the creation of Through a Dog’s Ear. Little did I know that the same puppy  would later motivate the creation of music that comforts senior dogs.

Sanchez coastal trail

Things about Sanchez that I appreciate now more than ever:

  • Hearing him snore
  • Hiking off-leash
  • His company nearby while I play the piano
  • Having him come running to me when I call him
  • Watching his tag wail while he’s sleeping (video below)
  • Watching him roll around on his back (click for video)

Do you have a dog in the double digits? Are there things that you appreciate now more than ever? Thanks for sharing them in a comment below.

Sanchez birthday hat iCD

And join our virtual party! We have a sweet deal for you and your pups on CDs and iCalmDog. Click for details. Enjoy and party on, while your pups listen to sounds that sooth, settle, and relieve anxiety issues.

Delivering Calm, four paws at a time…

Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from our Calm your Canine Companion music series when you sign up for our newsletter and/or Lisa’s Blog. Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!

 

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The Saga of the New Dog Bed

1) Spontaneously purchased a new dog bed because Sanchez could use the extra support. And, well… it was a very good price that I couldn’t resist.

2) Stuffed it into the passenger seat, since the entire rest of the car was occupied by Sanchez and Gina in their crates, an agility jump, an agility contact training board, and a basket of dog toys.

New dog bed

3) Only purchased one, because I only have one senior dog. (And the store didn’t have two.)

4) Gina, 4 years old, immediately claimed the new bed.

Gina new bed

5) Sanchez wasn’t happy.

Sanchez old bed, Gina new bed

6) Sigh…

7) Sigh…

8) Sigh…

9) Two hours later…

Sanchez new dog bedSuccess!!!

10) Add iCalmDog to the mix and…. Sanchez may never leave his new bed.

Sanchez in bed with iCalmDogMore Success!!!

11) In the morning, Sanchez was still in his new dog bed, and Gina was in her old (well, not that old) dog bed. No switching during the night. Good dogs!

12) Gina, who ALWAYS wants to tug after breakfast, went right to Sanchez’s new dog bed, when he was eating outside.

13) Sigh…

14) Sigh…

15) Sigh…

16) Problem solved…

Gina my bed

17) Oops, new problem…

18) Now I need a bigger bed.

19) Sigh…

20) Hopefully… not the end.

Have you ever bought a new dog bed for one dog and another claimed it? Thanks for sharing your stories in a comment below.

Delivering calm, four paws at a time…

Sign up for Lisa’s blog and you’ll receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from the Through a Dog’s Ear music series. Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox.

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Music to Comfort Senior Dogs? Tenderly!

Sanchez AKC CGC Certificate
Sanchez receives his Canine Good Citizen certificate at age 9

 

Like many dog lovers, I have a very tender place in my heart for senior dogs. When I first began working on the initial Through a Dog’s Ear project, I had a thirteen-year-old Golden Retriever named Byron. Only one year later, his memorial picture was on the piano as I recorded the first compositions. Byron was such a loving inspiration for me.

Shortly after he passed, I became a volunteer puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind and fell in love with an adorable, rambunctious pup named Sanchez who, it turned out, was not guide dog material. I find it ironic that the same “career-changed” puppy, who became the beloved mascot for Through a Dog’s Ear, is now a senior dog himself. At ten years old, Sanchez is definitely slowing down.

Last summer, I had the unexpected opportunity to use the first volume of Music to Comfort your Elderly Canine to help Sanchez with pain management. After a sudden onset of nerve pain and extreme discomfort, he was diagnosed with a slipped disc in his neck.

During initial treatment stages, when Sanchez was on bed rest and pain management was quite challenging, I played Music to Comfort your Elderly Canine Vol. 1 almost around the clock and both of us benefited. It was a highly stressful time. Every few hours, when his meds started to wear off, the soothing sounds helped keep us both calm.

Additionally, the music actually replaced anesthetics. Because of the location of the pain, he had to lay perfectly still on his back during the X-rays. They could not be done at my holistic veterinarian office, and the veterinarian (new to both of us) said that Sanchez would surely need anesthetics to keep still. Instead, I sent the Eldery Canine music into the X-ray room and the music became an agent for natural calming. No drugs needed.

While I am always grateful when I can combine my passions for music and dogs, I’m particularly honored to create the Music to Comfort your Elderly Canine series. I personally experience the serenity this music brings my boy, Sanchez, when he suffers from the inevitable ailments of growing older. I think of Elderly Canine as an auditory soothing pill.

These recordings build upon our clinically tested principles of entrainment, orchestral densities, and auditory pattern identification. Also, a new component has been added – frequency modulation. Eldelry Canine is specifically designed to accommodate a senior dog’s range of hearing. By reducing high frequencies and boosting mid-range frequencies in the music, mature canines derive far greater benefit than from non-adjusted recordings.

Newly Released Music to Comfort your Elderly Canine Vol. 2

EC2 Cover

Music to Comfort your Elderly Canine, Vol. 2, follows in the tradition of Vol. 1: beautiful therapeutic music designed for our beloved, mature furry friends. Listen to sound samples and enjoy with your senior pooch! If you’re lucky, s/he might even thank you for it with a kiss.

Schumann for Seniors? Sensitively!

Delivering Calm, four paws at a time… Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from the Calm your Canine Companion music series when you sign up for the Through a Dog’s Ear newsletter and/or Lisa’s Blog. Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!

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Happy 10th Birthday Sanchez!

rsz_sanchez_on_sofa_bday_hat

Today is Sanchez’s 10th Birthday!

This birthday feels different from all others. While I’ve celebrated all of his birthdays, this one is not like previous ones. I’ve known too many dogs who didn’t make it to their 10th birthday, and I’m aware that it’s a milestone and a blessing. And it is also  a reminder that every day forward is a gift. I’m very fortunate that Sanchez is in good health, especially after a very scary couple of months last year after the diagnosis of a slipped disc in his neck.

I’m also aware of the challenges of having a senior pet. He’s teaching me to be more patient, forgiving, and present. These are lessons not always so easy for me. Yet, he has the patience of a saint and is the world’s best teacher. And I am a crazy pet parent that would do anything to make his life more comfortable.

As I reflect back on the years, they are filled with so many wonderful memories. Little did I know that the puppy whose rambunctious energy inspired the creation of music to calm dogs and puppies, would be the same dog that would later inspire us to create music to comfort senior dogs.

As years pass, I realize there are things about Sanchez that I now appreciate more than ever:

  • Hearing him snore
  • Hiking off-leash
  • His company nearby while I play the piano
  • Having him come running to me when I call him
  • Watching his tag wail while he’s sleeping (video below)

Do you have a dog in the double digits? Are there things that you appreciate now more than ever? Thanks for sharing them in a comment below.

And join our virtual party! We have a sweet $10 deal for you that will be a gift for your pooch. Purchase any Through a Dog’s Ear CD for only $10 through 5/18/13. That’s a 33% savings! Enjoy and party on, while your pups listen to sounds that sooth, settle, and relieve anxiety issues.  Click for full details.

Delivering Calm, four paws at a time…

Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from our Calm your Canine Companion music series  when you sign up for our newsletter and/or Lisa’s Blog. Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!

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Wordless Wednesday: Keep Calm and Listen to Music

Muttville dogs listen to Music to Comfort your Elderly Canine. Does music help you stay calm? How about your dogs? Thanks for posting  your comments below and sharing my first Wordless Wednesday post with your dog loving friends!

Delivering Calm, four paws at a time…

Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from our Calm your Canine Companion music series  when you sign up for our newsletter and/or Lisa’s Blog. Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!