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Izzie needs a substitute for her pack

| Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dear Dog Talk: We brought home "Izzie," an 11-week-old West Highland white terrier, five days ago. We are having problems with her staying in her pen and sleeping. The first night, we were surprised when Izzie slept from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. However, since then, she sleeps quite a lot during the day and won't sleep at night.

Also, somehow she is escaping from her pen and then scratching at the door and howling for hours. We also have a cage with her bed in it, although we never shut the door. My husband has to sleep downstairs with her to keep her quiet so that we can get some sleep. Please help.

Dear Dog Tired: Your Westie was used to sleeping with her mother and littermate bothers and sisters. They were Izzie's pack. Now you and your husband are Izzie's pack. However, her new pack is socially isolating her, and she finds it stressful.

At bedtime, put Izzie in her crate right next to your bed. Close the crate door. In all likelihood, Izzie will curl up and go to sleep. If she cries or whimpers, lean over the side of the bed, lightly bang on the top of the crate and using a firm (but not loud) voice say, "Quiet. Go to sleep."

Make sure to physically wear out Izzie each night before bed. Also, be sure to give her a chance to urinate and defecate before bedtime.

Dear Dog Talk: I recently put Mojo, my greatest companion, to sleep. He was adopted at about 7 years old, and I had him another four years.

After I put Mojo to sleep, I started having regrets on what more I could have done. I searched and searched articles all over the Internet. The only article that I found solace in was one that was written by you.

Mojo, my old, 95-pound Australian shepherd mix, had been on the decline for over a year. He struggled every day for a year to climb the multiple stairs to my home in San Francisco. He was on "Rimidal" for close to a year.

The final straw came when his legs started to give out. I took Mojo to the veterinarian, and he was given some pain medicine. About a week later, Mojo had trouble getting up and moving to his food and water bowls.

I made a harness to help him walk. While I was walking Mojo, the phone rang, and I had to run inside the house. When I came back outside, he was just sitting there not able to move. I felt so sad for him. His dignity was lost, and I could not take it anymore.

The veterinarian offered hip replacement or other surgery, but I thought he was just trying to give me hope because Mojo was an old dog.

I keep thinking, I could have made him some kind of apparatus or done something more to keep him alive. I miss him so much. I never thought I could get so attached to anything.

Please tell me I did the right thing.

Dear Do the Right Thing: Based on what you've described, it sounds to me like you did the right thing for Mojo. My condolences for losing a beloved friend.

It does sounds like you did the tough thing for you. Mojo is at peace. You still are mourning the loss of a dear friend and family member.

The best advice that I can give you is to try not to dwell on what else you could have done. Mojo was an elderly dog. The other treatments that you might have chosen probably would have been chosen more for you than for Mojo.

When troubling thoughts come into your mind, try to turn them into pleasant thoughts about the fun and loving times that you shared with Mojo. I know that it can be a challenge to do this. But the more you try, the easier it becomes to do.

When I lost my Springer spaniel, Crea, I had many thoughts and regrets about what I might have done differently. But, ultimately, I came to the realization that Crea was not going to become young and healthy, no matter what I did. Trying to avoid the inevitable would have come at Crea's expense.

When I think of Crea these days, I still feel a twang of sorrow. However, my thoughts quickly change to some of the great days that we spent together and how the time that we had together was a gift for me.

When the time feels right, consider bringing another dog into your life. There are a lot of dogs out there that desperately need a pack leader like you. Take the time to bond, and tell your new friend some "Mojo stories." Sophie, my black Lab, has heard lots of stories about the great dogs that came before her.

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