When Greta got to within about eight feet of the rabbit, he decided retreat was the better part of valor. He turned and zigzagged toward the weeds and briars, his white fluffy tail encouraging the dog to go all out for the chase.
Before Greta’s joints worsened into arthritis, she would have skimmed over the grass and plunged into the briars, not stopping until the rabbit reached its hole. Or, if this were a slow or unlucky rabbit, she would kill and eat it. But when the specific rabbit in her sights that morning reached the edge of the briars, Greta stopped. She gave the canine equivalent of a shrug.
Greta moved on down the trail. Dogs seem to spend much less time than humans regretting what their bodies can no longer be counted on to do. Greta may not know she has what we call arthritis, and she surely doesn’t know that it will probably worsen with time. But she does know that it hurts to get up after lying down for a few hours. She knows she must pause and brace herself before starting up the stairs.
And she knows she hates the twice-daily pills. Memo to the makers of Dasuquin®: not all dogs like liver flavored tablets. Those who don’t won’t chew your pills and they’re too big to swallow except with a coating of butter or oil or canned tuna broth to help them slide down. Greta is not very good with cause and effect, so it seems unlikely that she understands that the pills are helping. And she doesn’t know the monthly shot of glucosamine chondroitin gives her joints an almost instant boost. However she feels at any given time, she accepts and deals with it.
We knew that swimming would be good for Greta’s hips. But with the only readily accessible local pond polluted, I wasn’t willing to risk adding a bacterial infection to her problems. The pond looks bad. It is covered with green scum and under the sun, it stinks. We needed an alternative swimming hole.
One bright Sunday morning, we set off for a dog-friendly section of Patapsco State Park, a section where a stream runs down to a dam installed long ago—rumor now has it the state may consider removing the dam. About a mile along the trail, we came upon a sandy beach, a good launching point into the stream.
Greta romped. She swam. She retrieved her squeaky toy and rolled in the weeds, chomping on the toy to make it squeal. Another dog arrived with his owner and his retrievable ball. Both dogs splashed and played and swam to grab their toys from the water. Both emerged muddy and tired.
An occasional swim will not cure Greta’s arthritis, of course. But it will help keep up her muscle tone, making it easier for her to climb the stairs and hop into the car.
More important: a wet, tired dog is a happy dog. Life is still good.