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Dogs/Old dog, old owner, grooming issues


I have a 13-yr-old German shepherd/collie mix, I think, rescue dog who's been with us since she was 6 months old. Jessie has always been a 'bark loud but back away' kind of girl, not wanting her feet touched to have her nails clipped or standing still to be brushed. With her thick undercoat, that has been a problem, but more so since my husband died a year and a half ago. Also since then I have lost the 2 other dogs that were Jessie's companions and who she was a caring 'mom' to. I have seen how the losses have affected her - sometimes more than me, I think. She has had rear hip problems for several years and the reduced activity now that it is just me and her and with the long, harsh winter we just went through, the hips are much worst. When I take her out, she only stays out 5 or 10 minutes and one or both of her hind legs shake visibly. She doesn't seem to be in a lot of pain, but my main problem is with keeping her groomed, especially around her butt, between her hind legs - that whole area that gets wet when she urinates and keeping her anus fairly clear of hair - she gets diarrhea more often as she gets older. I am pretty much alone now with my husband gone and not much of a support system around me. Getting Jessie in and out of a car to take her to be groomed regularly is taxing on her and doesn't solve her problem of not being able to stand up for very long to be able to be groomed. The last time we took her out for grooming was over 2 years ago and when we went to pick her up, she couldn't even walk on her hind legs at all. It took us almost 2 hours, my husband and I, to get our 80 lb dog into the house (we had 8 stairs to navigate). Didn't they notice she was having trouble during the grooming? I am 59, have a chronic low back problem and I am trying to find ways to keep Jessie, keep her healthier and improve the quality of her life as much as I can for whatever time we have left together. I attached a picture that is a couple of years old, but gives a good look at what her coat looks like most of the time and her relative size. I am thinking about something like a baby's 'jump-up' thing you put in a doorway - you know, so they can be supported but their feet touch the ground. With something like that, I could use it inside or outside - I have lots of trees - and could wash her outside, too. The bathtub is out; not safe for either one of us. Any suggestion you might have would be most welcome. Sorry for the length of this; my current profession is writing - i fiction and 1 non-fiction in the works right now - and you know how writers can get...
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Carolyn duFour

Hi Carolyn,

It really common for a dog the size of Jessie to have some joint paint at her age. Dogs are really stoic and have evolved not to show pain, but being unable to stand for very long is one clue that Jessie is in pain. If she isn't on a daily pain medication such as Rimady to help control pain and inflammation, it's something you should discuss with your vet. If Jesse is a little over weight it's important to keep her at an ideal weight at her age, it helps to decrease the stresses on her joints.

As far as grooming Jessie, I think shaving her coat in the problem areas (round her butt, between her hind legs)  is going to be the easiest way to keep her clean, for the longest periods of time. You shouldn't remove all of her hair, just shave it close to her skin with an electric hair clipper. You may need help in having her stand still, and support Jessie's hind end with a sling as the other person uses the clipper on her. Here are easy instructions for making a tote-bag into a sling:

If there is a mobile dog grooming service in your area, they could clip Jessie for you (and also clip her nails).
If Jessie is in the habit of sitting quietly close to you during the day, you could clean her up with baby wipes during these quiet moments. Do as much as she'll allow, if she starts to fuss or tries to get up and move away, let her. A couple of "high value" treats, like tiny bits of cheese or hotdog might help her stay and endure the clean ups.

A ramp might be helpful in getting Jessie outside, if you know somebody who's handy it's something that could be built to fit your doorway, or use a sturdy piece of plywood as a ramp. Or you could buy one, such as these:

Using the sling to help move Jessie outside as needed could also be helpful.

I hope I've been a help. Feel free to get back to me if I've left something out.

Happy July 4th,



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To date, I've owned 7 dogs, all of which have lived into old age. Having cared for them in all stages of life, I feel I can offer sound advice to other pet owners, and people considering getting a dog. I am knowledgeable about the AKC (American Kennel Club) dog breeds, training and exercise, caring for sick and elderly pets, feeding, as well as many holistic treatments pets can benefit from. My only request is that you write me using standard English and punctuation.


My life experience in this field is more like "on the job training" rather than an actual degree in animal welfare. You may benefit from my experiences over the past 30 years. Aside from the dogs I've owned, I'm also involved in "breed rescue" and have fostered several dogs, all of which have been adopted to wonderful "forever homes". I find helping people who want a dog very rewarding.

Real life experience, based on over 30 years of dog ownership.

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