We struggled with what to do about Rita Mae’s constant in-house bathroom habits. We researched all of her symptoms and behaviors, and we have come to the conclusion that she may have the beginnings of Dog Dementia. Her erratic behavior, constant confusion, and bathroom habits all fit the mold. We don’t know for sure, but she has every possible symptom there is, except bouts of aggression (thankfully.) This oddly gave me some relief. Finding answers to things, even when those answers aren’t what we want, helps put things in perspective. “Fear of the Unknown” is all too real. When I realized this is what she may (probably) have, I cried for the moments I got frustrated and raised my voice at her. If she does have dementia, she does not know what she is doing and can’t help it.
The next step: what do we do about it? I (we) love this dog and giving her up or worse is not (and never was) an option. She does function fairly normal most of the time, doesn’t seem to be in any pain or discomfort, and still seems to respond appreciatively to the pets, kisses, snuggles, and treats we give her regularly. In other words, her quality of life still seems good. BUT, we cannot have her peeing and pooping all over the house at random times. Once in a while is one thing; every day, sometimes two or three times a day, no matter how often we let her out, or for how long, is another matter entirely, and all of our time was spent monitoring her movements all day and night.
Then we remembered how much she used to enjoy her dog crate we had used for her when we first brought her home, even long after we stopped closing it during the day so she could go in and out of it at as she liked. When she was scared, tired, or worried, she would often go into her crate for comfort. We no longer have that crate, and I don’t want to keep her in that confined space for long periods of time again, so we went with a similar but better option. We used a large, segmented dog gate we have to create a pen for her in the middle of the house:
We lined the exposed wooden floor with 2 layers of puppy pee pads (most of our house is wooden floors, but most rooms have area carpets,) and gave her her own bed, blanket, food and water bowl. The pen is located at the intersection of our pseudo-open Dining Room, Living Room, and Kitchen, so she is right in the middle of our main living space and can see and hear everything going on at all times, with plenty of space to move around, stretch out, and move and contort her bed into all kinds of bizarre shapes as she’s wont to do.
Much like placing a baby in a crib or playpen, we can place Rita in this pen, which allows us to leave her to her own devices for stretches of time allowing us to work, clean, make and eat dinner, or just relax for a bit without worrying she will wander somewhere and soil the floor. We pet and talk to her every time we walk by (which is all the time), take her out as often as we are able to sit with her and watch her should she wander a bit, and always give her treats and comforting pets and “good girls” when we place her back in the pen, so she does not see it as a punishment. In fact, it seems like she actually enjoys having her own, safe, enclosed space again. (Or maybe I’m just telling myself that to make myself feel less guilty about restricting her access to the house.)
I wish we did not have to do this, but it seems like the best option to keep her in the home she loves, with the dads who love her, allows her to move freely without stress or fear of chastisement should she pee indoors, and gives us peace of mind that we will not step in, nor have to clean up, any surprises day in and day out. She sleeps a lot (and has done so for the last year…she is not a young chick anymore.) We bring her outside first thing in the morning and any time she wakes up from a nap, but she does still soil the pads, which get changed every morning (or more often if she pees a lot.) I don’t love having this in the middle of our home, but you do what you gotta do for the people and pets you love, right? And, hey, it’s not like I haven’t needed special accommodations in my life over the last 20 years, so who am I to judge?
Is it perfect? No. Does it work? Yes. And I’d do anything within my power to keep my princess safe, happy, and comfortable as much and as often as possible for as long as possible. I owe her that, for all the love and joy and comfort she has brought me.
Not to mention how much less stressful this set up is for this little guy: