Month: March 2023

Ageing companion animals

Our lovely dog Della is showing her age. She’s had the tell-tale white whiskery face for some time but was as lively as ever until very recently. Perhaps it’s the first early signs of approaching autumn and that unmistakeable morning chill as we set off for the morning walk before the sun has properly risen. Whatever the cause Della has suddenly become a little less enthusiastic to emerge from her basket, and a lot less bouncy first thing in the morning. She’s also noticeably more stiff in the legs, especially her left rear leg which is clearly giving her trouble.

I mentioned it to Paul, our vet when I took Della in for her vaccination booster recently. He confirmed my suspicions. Della is showing the first indication of arthritis or rheumatism. Not yet serious, and medication not yet recommended but the day will come when she may need some pain relief. It seems none of us are immune to the ravages of age.

Since she was a rescue dog, we aren’t exactly sure how old Della is. The RSPCA thought she was about seven months old when we picked her out as our new dog to replace the lovely and recently departed Mona. We collected Della earlier than expected because she’d been able to have the necessary desexing op due to a last minute cancellation, so she was a lovely surprise Christmas present that year.

But in common with far too many rescue dogs Della’s biography didn’t make cheerful reading. She’d been found wandering the streets as a half-grown, thin, starving and fearful dog, who’d obviously been ill-treated. Why people want to mistreat animals is beyond my understanding, but they do, as we know. In spite of her timidity though Della was pathetically eager to please, but she’s remained needy in many ways. And even after so many years of love, care and security we have to remember not to surprise her with a sudden sharp movement that could be interpreted as the precursor to a blow. This is especially so if we are holding a broom or some other implement that might be likely to cause her pain.

Those early weeks and months of trauma obviously still run deep, suggesting animals don’t forget abusive behaviour any more than children do. They are sentient and emotional beings after all, so it shouldn’t be surprising. In the first few years there were several embarrassing encounters that saw Della highly distressed, shaking and frothing at the mouth in fear if a visitor – it was always a male visitor – came to the door. We can only assume the person – often a tradesman – resembled in some way the fellow who was responsible for the early cruelty and abuse she suffered.

Hopefully we’ll have Della for several more years yet but as winter approaches I can see there will need to be some adjustments to the daily walk routine. That might not be a bad thing since I’m not getting any younger either! And it’s certainly more pleasant to walk in daylight and sunshine than it is on autumn and winter mornings when the moon is still visible in the sky, and the sun is barely up.

And now there are three . . .

Green and gold frogs that is. In the bathtub near the small greenhouse-cum-potting shed that’s been a haven for green and golds for several years, and is also a water source for thirsty birds when they don’t fancy drinking or preening their feathers in the bird bath.

The latest wildlife rescue was a large frog who’d gone exploring in the raspberry patch, and then couldn’t work out how to negotiate the netting to extricate herself. We’re sure it’s a ‘she’ because of her size. Female GGs are bigger than the males. Rescue accomplished the obvious solution was to plonk her in the bathtub to join the two frogs already there. At least we think they’re both still there but days can go by when we don’t see them so it’s hard to be certain. Then just as we’ve decided they must have hopped off to pastures new, suddenly there they are, basking on the side of the tub, or hanging onto the wire netting that covers some of the tub, while enjoying the view. Neither of them seem too fazed when we walk past now so assume they’re got used to us and realise we pose no threat. Hopefully they’ll also get along with ‘big mamma’.

Heartening though it is to have seen and heard some GGs this summer, and been able to rescue a couple of them, we’ve not seen as many as usual. Not even squashed ones on the road – roadkill victims when they’ve been out partying in the rain.

It would be easy to lay the blame at the door of development for the apparent loss of these frogs given so much former farmland in the area has been sold for residential housing. It’s known that disease can all too readily be introduced through heavy vehicle movements, and on the soles of boots, and the amphibian fungus disease known as chytrid is still very much a concern around the world.

We’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope our ancient bathtub is providing a sanctuary for at least three green and golds, and they’ll choose to overwinter there, ready for breeding again come the spring.