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We recently said goodbye to one of our senior dogs and I'm still looking for my new normal.  But while I'm grieving the loss of my best girl, our other dogs still need love, training, walks, and attention.

On top of that, our other dogs are grieving too.  And they are searching for their new normal, which can be noisy on some days.

In this post, I share what I'm doing to help all of us find our new normal without destroying the house.

Can you believe that we're approaching nine months in a pandemic with no clear ending in sight? I'm stunned that something I expected to last a couple of months, at most, is turning into my new normal. Damn, 2020 sucks, right? It's been one thing after another and all of it is extra – a pandemic, murder hornets (which, in my opinion, didn't get their due), protests, riots, and politics.

And then, if things couldn't get worse, my dog dies of cancer and losing her shook up my world and it hasn't settled yet.

However, it's not all bad for me up here in the Pacific Northwest. COVID allowed me to work from home, which meant that I was able to spend all my time with Sydney before she passed away. And because I'm an introvert, COVID has made it possible for me to crawl into my shell and hibernate socially for months.

All in all, things have been pretty good and I don't have complaints. I do, however, have a concern.

Job Opening: Part Time Regulator

With the loss of Sydney, we have an opening in the house – Regulator. I don't think we truly appreciated Sydney's role of regular in our home. I used to joke that Sydney was the alpha dog in the house because she could growl or bark once and everyone would settle down. When Sydney passed away, we didn't have a regulator. Scout and Apollo were bouncing off the walls. Zoey was barking because the boys weren't behaving. And Rodrigo was just sad.

And we waited. We waited to see which dog would step up to be the new regulator and how the dust would settle when everyone adapted to the loss of our girl.

Wanted: Part Time Regulator

We are hiring immediately! All interviews will be held in my home office.

Do you like organization, peace, and calm? So do we! The Gauthier-Kingsberry Family is looking for a part-time regulator who can help to bring order to our pack of dogs. This is an exciting opportunity for you to use your voice (low growls and firm barks) to provide security to the pack. This is a part-time position because you will be working alongside two humans who will also help to maintain peace in the home.

Duties:

Your role in the pack will be to remind the other dogs to calm the heck down when they start bouncing off the furniture. To wake up the neighborhood during the morning potty break. Lead a chorus of barks whenever anyone steps onto the property (or a leaf blows by the window). And to squash any conflicts between the dogs before it gets started.

Take the first step towards a great position in our household, APPLY TODAY!

Requirements:

  • An authoritative growl
  • A bark that can scare the UPS driver
  • The ability to sense when the dogs are having too much fun
  • Stepping up to being Mommy's best boy or girl
  • Ability to lay on a dog bed for long periods of time; yet still be excited for a romp outside when the opportunity arises

What We Offer:

All dogs in our home receive a nutritious raw food diet, healthy dog treats, CBD oil, and an ton of toys. The Regulator gets first dibs on sleeping positions at night, has a dedicated spot on the sofa, and gets to sample the food on meal prep days.

It took about a month, but then we noticed Zoey, our most timid dog, stepping into Sydney's shoes. She's not as bad ass as Sydney was, but she's holding her own and we're proud.

Keeping Our Dogs Calm and Happy When I'm Grieving

Our dogs are relaxing into their new normal, which is a four dog home, but we still have days of adjustment. Most of my focus was on Sydney for nearly two months and now I'm working through my grief. This isn't a great place to be when you have a lot of dogs in the home. It's not that I'm crying for hours or hiding beneath my comforter for days – I did most of my heaving grieving after Sydney's cancer diagnosis. Nope, I'm just sad and a little lost without my girl. She was my touchstone, my lucky rock, my heart dog.

However, I still have four dogs to care for and having been here before, I know what to do to help me get through my grief and keeping our dogs from spinning out of control.

Doggett Style Dog Training

Revisiting the basics (sit, down, shake, high five, touch, and yes) has been a great distraction for myself and a fun refresher for the dogs. I've found it easier to work with the dogs one on one or two at a time. Working with all four dogs creates too much anxiety and frustration as the dogs begin to compete for treats and my time.

I'm no dog trainer and given the pandemic (and my budget), I won't be taking the dogs to a class anytime soon, which leaves me with online training. Doggett Style Dog Training to the rescue. I was gifted with a free membership to Doggett Style Dog Training and I plan to take full advantage.

The training course includes:

  • Over 13 hours of content broken down into short (5-15 minute), easily digestible videos.
  • Easy to follow instructions that you can practice daily – starting immediately!
  • A balanced approach to dog training that is LIGHT, EFFICIENT, EFFECTIVE and that brings results. 
  • No more turning to “expert” Google for your dog questions— just search for what you want inside the video library  (Barking, Pulling on Leash, Husband doesn't listen… 😉
  • A portion of the proceeds will go to Charity Water™ because people matter too.

If you're interested in checking out Doggett Style Dog Training, you can save 25% off your purchase of the program when you use code WAGGING25.

Training will allow me to spend quality time with each of my dogs while setting up some new positive habits and exercising their brains. This will be perfect now that summer is over and the days are getting shorter.

Taking my dogs on solo walks helps me get to know them and bond with them one on one.  It doesn't matter how old they are, they always love being the focus of our attention.  

Apollo loves to go see the horses.  Rodrigo loves sniffing and marking everything along the trail.  Zoey loves searching for chipmunks and bunnies.  And Scout just loves exploring new areas.

Solo Walks with the Dogs

There was a time when I walked with four dogs. We stopped leaving the property when Sydney's arthritis became too much and since we live on 5 acres, we have plenty of space to exercise all the dogs at their individual speeds from the comforts of home. But now it's time to create new habits and walking daily is one of them. However, I want to walk with one dog at a time.

Going on solo walks helps me to relax. I can listen to a podcast, an audio book, or music on our walks. And it allows me to appreciate each dog as an individual. For instance, Zoey is a pro at spotting a chipmunk or rabbit. She loves to just walk and walk. She barely pays attention to anyone else on the trail, she just likes to explore the environment with her nose and eyes. Each dog has a different energy that I don't often see when they're together as a pack.

The exercise is good, exploring new areas makes them happy, and I get loads of dog time.

Feeding my dogs from a flat dish instead of the traditional dog bowl allows our dogs to enjoy their meal without being overwhelmed by the scents in the bowl.

To make a meal even more enriching, try feeding on a cutting board, spread the food out, and watch to see what your dog goes for first.

Making Meal Time Enriching

For years, I added food to the bowl and dropped the bowls in front of each dog. Every now and then, I'd notice that a bowl looked especially pretty so I'd snap a picture and post it on Instagram. But making pretty dishes isn't my forte. But I can make meal time enriching and I got this idea from fellow raw feeders.

Some people use licking mats, while others put food on a flat surface. I chose to buy large pasta bowls for my dogs and I feed them from those bowls a few times a week.

The pasta bowls are wide and shallow, which allows me to space the food out for the dogs – it's fun to watch them sniff and then choose what they want to eat first. The traditional dog dishes have high side and all of the scents (raw meat, sardines, organs, vegetables, supplements) can become overwhelming; shallow dishes are better.

It's kind of fun making up a dish too.

We recently lost our girl, Sydney, and her brother, Rodrigo, has been grieving this loss.  Calming supplements are a great way to help our dogs when they're grieving.

Calming Supplements for the Dogs

And, finally, I'm using supplementation to calm my dogs. This may sound lazy – like, instead of training my dogs, I'm resorting to drugs. But that's not the case. Rodrigo had a rough time when Sydney, his sister, passed away. He has never spent more than a few hours away from Sydney in 10-1/2 years and although we could see that the dogs knew she was sick, he didn't understand why she had to go away. In Rodrigo's grief, he became clingy and he began licking his legs and paws obsessively like he did when he was a pup. I saw the beginnings of a hot spot and decided to take action.

I began adding Canna-Pet to his diet, one to two capsules twice daily (in his meals). And I gave him treats that we received from Rocket Animal Health called Canine Cush.

Canine Cush is a hemp chew supplement for joint health and anxiety that includes eggshell membrane (for chondroitin and glucosamine), Boswellia, curcumin, and hemp powder. I can't speak to how well it works for joint health because Rodrigo is on a joint supplement for his arthritis, but Canine Cush helped to ease his anxiety during the month after Sydney's cancer diagnosis and the week's following our loss.

What I appreciated most about Canine Cush was being to “treat” Rodrigo with the chews throughout the day when we saw symptoms of him struggling (licking, whining, hiding behind me). Canine Cush also helped to call Apollo down during the evenings when we were settling down and he was getting his fifth wind.

Dogs Grieve Too

When we brought home Rodrigo and Sydney, I read a lot about littermate syndrome and one of the warnings was that if one dog died, the other would struggle greatly with the loss. Because I worried about Rodrigo's health, I took him for a wellness check and cancer screening. So far, he's happy and healthy. He has a couple of fatty tumors that we identified and he has arthritis in his spine, but his mobility and temperament is good. He's adjusting to a life without Sydney, but I know that he misses her too.

If you're reading this while grieving the loss of a dog, please know that you're not alone. It sucks monkey butt, however, it's also part of life. I take comfort in knowing that Sydney is somewhere doing zoomies like she used to do, hanging out with Blue and Riley, and still watching over us. Instead of focusing on losing my dog, I try to focus on the gift the she was to me and that she gave to me. Sydney taught me relax, enjoy the moment, and bark loud when I feel like it. I have 10-1/2 years of memories of my girl and I am so grateful for the time we had together.

And now my focus is turning to the dogs sleeping around me as I type. My goal is to get Rodrigo and the other dogs to 15 years or older by focusing on nutrition, training, and enjoying every single moment we have together.

Working from home has been a blessing.

We recently said goodbye to one of our senior dogs and I'm still looking for my new normal.  But while I'm grieving the loss of my best girl, our other dogs still need love, training, walks, and attention.

On top of that, our other dogs are grieving too.  And they are searching for their new normal, which can be noisy on some days.

In this post, I share what I'm doing to help all of us find our new normal without destroying the house.

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