Photo by Diane Schmidt

When you blog about dog health issues on occasion, spend a good deal of time reading  veterinarian blogs — and are a little paranoid to begin with — you are likely to be hyper-aware of canine illness potential. Frankie is a very well-scrutinized dog.

Sometimes, even in the midst of worrying, I know I’m being ridiculous. Take Only the Nose Knows: A Frankie Mystery Tale, a post detailing my obsession about a growth on Frankie’s prob0scis.

But of course the copious water drinking that I observed several years ago turned out to portend Frankie’s diabetes, just as I had feared.

And now I’m worried about something equally serious: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, which Dr. Janet Tobiassen Crosby discussed in detail here.

For the last couple of months, Frankie has been acting, well, weird.

He used to either hang out in the bedroom on his own or sit with me on the couch while I watched TV in the evening. Now he roams around the house, restlessly, or lies down in odd places.

Last night he spent a good deal of time under the kitchen table.

He doesn’t seem distressed — definitely not as distressed as I am when he sits in front of me and stares at me like he wants something. (Don’t think I haven’t asked him what; he refuses to disclose.) And as soon as I am ready to go to bed, he settles in with me, satisfied, and sleeps through the night.

Photo by Diane Schmidt

Then there are the new morning food rituals. Frankie won’t just go to his bowl and eat, even if it’s a food he enjoys and will — eventually — scarf down. He wants me to feed him a little in advance, as though to ensure the bowl isn’t poisoned. And he keeps looking over his shoulder, like someone is going to take his food away. Or shoot him. Maybe he’s joined the doggie mob without my knowledge.

I mentioned a few of these oddities — although not my mob theory — to my vet when I took Frankie in for a checkup recently. He noted that Frankie is 12 and gently brought up the possibility of cognitive impairment, unaware that I had pretty much committed every detail of the syndrome to memory.

Several friends have pooh poohed my concerns, suggesting possibilities like different noises in the house, different routines, different… you name it.

As far as I know, nothing has changed, except Frankie.

Of course, I’m not getting any sharper myself. I often wander into rooms, forgetting what I went in for. I’ve been known to do this two or three times in sequence, going back to my desk, remembering what it is I got up for, getting up again, getting distracted, going back to my desk… Frankie seems perplexed by my behavior.

Frankie’s health — diabetes and symptoms of dementia aside — is very good. So is mine. I can just see us wandering the house together, meeting in different rooms, looking confused. But always glad to see each other.

Maybe that’s not so bad.

26 thoughts on “Still Crazy After All These Years”

  1. You are a hoot. Here’s my take on Frankie’s behavior. I spend waaaayyy too much attention to my two scruffy mutts and I know how unsettling it can be when you notice something different.

    I think something is bugging him but that doesn’t mean it’s dire. Terriers are very stoic and sensitive at the same time. Dogs are also very social eaters, and always prefer to eat when someone is in the room. Once you start feeding him a few pieces from your hand, though, you are trapped doing that for life. My dogs always eat when we are in the kitchen, and often look behind them to make sure we are still there. It’s just a weird dog thing, and maybe he’s just now started doing it…

    Could it be that he has a hard time getting up on the couch and doesn’t want to jump up? Or could he be avoiding the couch because of a scare? My dog once tried to jump up on the couch and fell back and hit his head on the coffee table — he avoided that end of the couch for a long time. It could be he wants to settle down with you but something about the couch is bothering him so wanders around trying to find a good place, and then tries to get you to go to bed instead. (staring at you when its bedtime is a common dog behavior).

    I wouldn’t pooh-pooh it, because I think you know when there is something different, but dogs can be weird without it being a cause for concern. They are also great at knowing when you are worried and picking up on that and acting even weirder.

    1. Thanks for this! I love your description of terriers as stoic yet sensitive.

      To start with the couch behavior, it did occur to me that he might have problems with jumping up on the couch. It’s not very high but maybe he’s having problems with depth vision that makes it seem difficult. That said, he still jumps up on it at some points during the evening; he just doesn’t stay there for any extended period of time. He has also begun leaping into my lap once a night (and only once) when I am sitting on the couch, which is unusual but nice.

      The food thing is interesting. Yes, I’m afraid it’ll be hand feeding forever at the beginning of breakfast (he doesn’t do this at dinner) but I don’t think he wants me in the room; he seems happier for me to initiate the process and then ignore him! I wouldn’t care about his eating but he needs his insulin shot on schedule, so it becomes a big deal. Of course he probably senses this… Terriers are also mischievous!

  2. I wouldn’t pooh-pooh your concerns… you would know better than anyone if Frankie seems “off.” Regarding this: “not as distressed as I am when he sits in front of me and stares at me like he wants something” — my cat does this constantly. And I’m, like, “What is it? Why are you just staring at me like that?” Kinda freaks me out. It’s like that dog from Frasier, but in cat form. //Dave

  3. Hi Edie. Your post made me all misty about Morgaine my last dog. Of course, I can’t say what is happening for Frankie, but Morgaine exhibited similar behavior starting around 13 years. I’m glad he’s healthy otherwise and doesn’t appear to be in distress. Neither was Morgaine. She just seemed confused and unfocused. But, who among us, as you so aptly point out, is not at times?

    1. Thanks, Deborah. It sounds like you got used to Morgaine’s confusion after a while and learned to accept it — is that true? It seems to only happen at night with Frankie, which I guess is typical. Was that the case with Morgaine, too?

      1. Hi Edie. Just now found your reply to my comment. I don’t recall Morgaine being confused primarily at night. I was some time ago, but I seem to remember that she would stop and stare into space any time of the day and sometimes would just squat and pee—in the car, in the bedroom. Those episodes would come and go. She wasn’t incontinent. I think she was just confused about where she was and what she was doing. Did I ever get used to it? Not really. Some days I felt more accepting than others. When I couldn’t just go with the flow, so to speak, I felt sad that I was loosing my smart, engaging dog to old age.

        1. Thanks, Deborah. That must have been difficult. So far, Frankie’s weirdness hasn’t reached anything that definitive. In fact, he has been far perkier, less weird after I posted about him, engaging me in play with his squeaky toy for a full 10-15 minutes yesterday afternoon (usually he poops out after 5). Perverse little terrier!

  4. I hope everything turns out well and you can find a more harmless cause for Frankie’s change in behavior. It is very understandable you worry, unfortunately a change in behavior is sometimes the only signal we can go after. Maybe somebody that has experienced CCD can comment if the symptoms sound recognizable?

  5. I don’t think you’re making something out of nothing at all. I think it makes sense that Frankie might be having a little canine cognitive dysfunction. He’s not that old for a terrier, but age may not matter. I think as long as you don’t make a big deal out of it he likely won’t suffer any stress.

    My cat Nick appears to be having the same issue. I’m not going to lie. It does drive me crazy at times. He will meow at me (like he is yelling at me) for no reason or just follow me from room to room (he never used to do this before) or just decide to serenade me with a litany of meows while in the bathroom. It’s sad for me to see him acting this way, but I know it is not unusual.

    BTW – I also love the photo of you and Frankie and the smooch!

    1. Thanks, Mel. I agree, he’s not very old for a terrier, which is why I am still in semi-denial. Possibly the diabetes is a contributing factor. I’ve got to admit Frankie’s behavior does drive me crazy at times too. In fact, I was originally going to end my post with that admission but changed my mind, not wanting to be too much of a downer. I definitely empathy with you about Nick’s behavior — sorry to hear about it.

      But Frankie is, possibly, more of a smoocher than he was before so the picture — taken this past spring, before any symptoms reared their head — is apt.

  6. Edie,
    you make me laugh! The image of you and Frankie wandering around the house and bumping into eachother is great. Of course, I’m sure it won’t come to that.

    Maybe start a journal of when and where Frankie spends most of his time- you might find that it has a very distinct pattern- it may just be a sign of aging- certain surfaces feel better than others now, etc.
    As for the odd behavior concerning eating- my own dogs have been really weird about eating lately. I wonder if there is something in the food or packaging- or the water?

    Crystal Saling, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP

    1. Glad I made you laugh, Crystal! And since you, as a frequent observer of Frankie (and me) are in a position to know, I’m glad you don’t predict a dire future for both of us.

      I like the journal idea for establishing patterns. I’ll try it.

      Hmmm… maybe it is the Tucson water…

  7. I know you remember blogging about CCD when Archie acquired it earlier this year, and your wonderfully sympathetic readers gave me so much support and good advice. As it turns out, CCD doesn’t have to be so bad. Archie is a bit dotty at times, and lately doesn’t quite make it over the threshold before making his daily deposit, but it isn’t the nightmare of human Alzheimer’s. Well, I should say, it can be, but it isn’t in Arch, and isn’t in Frankie evidently. Diabetes is the big challenge with Frankie, and you’re all over that. Cancer is the big challenge with Archie, and I’m all over that. The mild CCD, in perspective, is (I hope you don’t mind my saying this) mildly comical.
    Best of best wishes to you and the lover Frankie.

    1. Thanks for the perspective — and the sympathy and empathy –Clare. I’m hoping to adjust to this new reality — or unreality — soon. Of course you were on my mind as I was writing this post…

  8. We watch Ty and Buster as carefully as you watch Frankie, Edie. Sometimes I feel a little obsessive, but subtle changes tipped us off to Buster’s reaction to phenobarbital last year. I hope that what’s happening with Frankie is something temporary that passes, but if it’s not – you guys are amazing and will get through it together.

    1. Thanks, Amy. One of the great things about dogs — as opposed to kids, and especially older ones — is that they’re not annoyed when we pay too much attention to them, which allows us to be as obsessive as we like! And not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  9. This was really touching especially the part about Frankie watching your forgetful meanderings around the house…and it struck me that perhaps he *is* worried about that -changes in behavior upset dogs too. I saw it with Tashi when my mom had what turned out to be medically induced dementia. I also saw it after going through a period of not being able to walk – as I was recuperating, Tashi started mirroring my careful, uneven gait, watching me. You are the one and only trusted constant in Frankie’s life, so it would make sense.

    You know best, and as to the new feeding behavior – did you feed him this way when you first got him? Just curious.

    The idea of the two of you wandering around the house confused, being happy to meet each other was endearing…making me near tears. He’s such a darling and love those photos by Diane Schmidt!

    1. Much appreciated, Mary. I don’t think I’m any spacier than I’ve been for years, even pre-Frankie; it’s just funny to have a small creature pointing out my behavior to me. Oh, oh, now you’ve got me worrying that maybe I’m the one losing my mind, not Frankie…

      I did not feed him by hand when I first got him — just plopped down some (what I now see as) crappy kibble in a bowl on the floor. Looking back, I’m amazed I got him to eat at all.

      Diane is an old friend and a terrific photographer. She took a bunch of pictures when she visited last spring so I hope to bring more out eventually.

  10. Well, I learned to be over-sensitive to signs as well. Sadly, as it turned out every time I felt something wasn’t right, it wasn’t. That surely doesn’t help to decrease my paranoia.

    I think that such odd behavior could be more than one thing, though cognitive dysfunction could be one of them.

    There seem to be an antioxidant that targets specifically cognitive function – Novifit. Our vet uses that. We used it also, though for other antioxidant benefits.

    According to Stanley Coren stimulating the brain can slow down and even reverse the process. Recently he also had an article on how walking, among other things, improves brain function.

  11. Following up on Jana’s suggestion, my vet also said that Novifit could help. Evidently vets treat CCD with human Alzheimer’s drugs to very good effect. (As you know, not an option for Archie who will not tolerate any pill, in any disguise, or even forced down his gullet.)

  12. I hope all works out with Frankie. I second the idea of keeping a journal. We started an online journal for Gus when he hurt his leg, and then again when he was having stomach issues. We update it weekly, even when nothing has happened, just so we have a record. It’s nice to have it saved online in case we need it when we’re away from home. Good luck!

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