Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Stuck in the basement

Buddy has been getting stuck in the basement lately. He insists on following my husband down there when he's doing laundry or getting some tool and then Buddy decides he's too afraid to climb back up the stairs. Or at least we think the problem is that he's afraid. He does have some old-age stiffness in his joints, but goes down the stairs fine, it's up that's the problem; and it's just this set of stairs. The three smaller stairs that adjoin these and lead to the kitchen are no trouble for him. The problem, we suspect, is that these stairs are open-backed and Buddy can *see through them* and maybe with his decreased vision it's just enough to make him feel unsure of himself.

You'd think he'd remember this and not go down there. But the urge to follow my husband and be in the middle of everything is still strong in him. He'll whine and pace. He'll try taking a running start at it, but gets only as far as his front feet on the first step before he chickens out. We spent nearly an hour coaxing him once before my husband had to carry him up. Poor embarrassed Buddy!

We've tried to be mindful of it and close the kitchen door on our way down so Buddy can't follow. Saturday my husband was in and out getting tools from the basement to help a friend of his - both were in the basement for just a minute and then left with the door open. Buddy went down to check things out without my knowing it. An hour or so later I realized he was missing and sure enough he was laying stranded at the bottom of the stairs, looking pitiful. There's just no way I can carry all 90+ pounds of dog up the stairs, so I tried coaxing him. It didn't work so I apologized and took his pic. An hour or so later he appeared in the living room, wagging his tail furiously.

I'm curious if anyone has had any experience with this in an older dog. We mentioned it to his vet when we were there last week and she wasn't too concerned and said that if it were hip or joint pain that was causing it, she would expect it to be when going down the stairs. I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas of what might be causing this new quirk in our old boy.


MojoMan said...

I don't have any idea why he won't go up, but adding some risers to close the space between the treads wouldn't be that hard to do. Stips of plywood or maybe 1x8 pine should do the trick.

Many of us aquire new fears as we get older.

Susan Gets Native said...

Poor Buddy! I agree with Mojoman that maybe putting something at the back of the stairs may help. With limited vision, open stairs could be very scary.
We had a dog a long time ago who lived to be 16, and he had trouble with our basement steps, that were open like yours. But it wasn't a problem for us, because he only weighed 10 pounds.

Dave said...

I have no idea, but I feel for Buddy. Like Tom T Hall's song, Old Dogs, Children & Watermelon Wine.

-llm. said...

I do have experience with older dogs and I think you have diagnosed it well. I would add glucosamine to his diet (talk to your vet but this is available at pet stores). When I give it to my old girl, she has my zip in her step. When I forget, well, things hurt more and she's way more careful getting up and down. If it's the pain causing it, this should help.

If it's the vision, well, yes, lining the back of the stairs with paper or cardboard should help. Heck, open stairs give me the willies.

Sandy said...

I can't believe you wrote this today. We went to my husband's parents for a visit, and had a discussion about dogs on the stairs. My brother in law has an 8 year old Yorkie who is afraid of them now, and we had a tiny poodle for 17 years who was able to make a run at the stairs until the last five years. It must just be age, and stiffness. Our dog also had eye problems in her last years. She was light, and had no problem letting us know when she wanted to be carried. My friends actually built a ramp for their dog (husky) to get up the garage stairs.

LauraHinNJ said...

Mojoman: Thanks - sounds like another project for the husband.


He thanks you.

Susan: Funny that it should come up all of a sudden!

Dave: :-)

-llm: We've been giving him gluco for a few years now. Guess we will have to re-do the stairway for him. Thanks for the comment.

Sandy: I had thought about making a ramp for him to get on the bed, but he can do it when he really wants to. This stair thing must be pretty common for older dogs.

Michelle said...

Poor stranded Buddy!

Chandler's old body manages the going down part just fine too, but it takes him a zillion years to go up them. We always joke about getting him an elevator or automatic chair thingy (our house has 4 sets of stairs and he must climb them all to get to our bedroom).

I am sure your DH will enjoy building "backs" to the stairs for Buddy :))

LauraHinNJ said...

Poor old Chandler having to climb all those stairs to get to bed! Buddy is lucky that the only stairs are to the basement. We just need to keep him from going down there. I'm sure my DH is just looking for another dog-related job - the past week he has been *in charge* of giving Buddy his meds for his most recent skin infection. It's easier getting meds into the bunnies - how can that be?

silverlight said...

If pills, try putting them in pieces of hotdogs.
Seems like medicine is a common situation.

LauraHinNJ said...

Silverlight: We've tried everything - salami, liverwurst, cheese, peanut butter, cream cheese - he gets wise to every trick! My husband has been managing with less palatable means - popping them in his mouth and then holding it closed until he swallows. Not nice, but it works. One more week to go!

Lynne said...

Tell your husband to try blowing a puff of air into Buddy's nose when he holds his mouth shut. It seems to trigger a quick swallow. Works for us every time! (Kitties too!)