DEAR READERS: Dogs, cats, humans and other animals sometimes have the ability to engage in remote sensing. Through what I have termed the "empathosphere," animals are able to sense when a family member has a serious accident or dies before anyone else knows. They show evident distress at the time of the accident or death, which is later confirmed.
Empathosphere connectedness and the associated sympathetic resonance enables animals to locate loved ones in places where they have never been before, such as a new home miles away from where they were living.
One journalist, playing devil's advocate, asked me if this is just coincidence. She meant sheer chance, because coincidence is precisely the metaphysical dimension of these phenomena, for which I am unable to give a physiological explanation. Scientific understanding of brain function is still limited, but I believe that some quantum field phenomenon coupled with affection and empathy may be involved.
I would like to hear from readers whose animals have demonstrated such remote sensing abilities -- the most common being able to anticipate when a family member is coming home, not on a regular, conditioned learning basis but at irregular, unexpected times. Some earlier accounts from readers are posted on my website, DrFoxVet.com
DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 16 1/2-year-old rat terrier we got from a family who no longer wanted him when he was a puppy. He is almost deaf and partially blind, and he has arthritis in his back legs and one front leg.
My main issue is that nine months ago he started urinating and defecating in the house. He just stopped telling us when he wanted to go outside -- he squats wherever he is at the moment. I have several male wraps with extra pads, and they help to an extent with the urinating, but not at all with his defecating.
I took him to the vet in February for his semiannual checkup and explained the situation to her; she said it was just part of the aging process. She said other than the accidents, my dog is healthy. He's on heartworm medication, flea/tick medication and Dasuquin for his arthritis. We tried Rimadyl for his arthritis, but it didn't help him. The vet told me to have cleanup stations positioned around the house and to leave him outside to try to help keep the mess outdoors. I've been doing what she said, but it's just getting worse each day. He used to sleep until we got up in the morning, but now he gets up at 6 a.m. for his breakfast. If I don't get downstairs in time, I am met with quite a mess on the floor. I tried feeding him a little more food before bedtime, but all that did was create more of a mess in the house for me. He doesn't have one particular area where he goes -- it can be anywhere in the house. The rest of the day continues just as it started.
He has gotten angrier in his old age. When we first got him, he was aggressive with males and seemed to be protective of me. He got better, but never quite got along as well with men as he did women. When I pick him up now to put him outside, he growls and tries to bite me -- he does this with my husband, too. I've noticed that when I pick him up to bring him inside, he doesn't get upset at all. While he's outside, he walks back and forth in a line waiting to come back in the house. He will urinate quickly when I put him down in the grass, but sometimes it takes a while for him to defecate. He stopped walking with us a few months ago; he seems to have no interest in it anymore.
Do you have any advice to help me with this situation? I never could have imagined the last nine months being like this. -- J.M.P., Centreville, Va.
DEAR J.M.P.: Your letter is very important to dog (and cat) owners whose beloved companions are relatively healthy in terms of heart, kidney and liver functions but are now incontinent, becoming blind or deaf, and are more fearful and aggressive because of painful arthritis, sensory and cognitive impairment, and other age-related issues.
My wife and I went through the same situation for months with our 17 1/2-year-old dog, Lizzie -- she was a lost puppy my wife, Deanna Krantz, rescued in Jamaica. Like you, we were exhausted and devoted caregivers. We called in a second opinion from a veterinarian specializing in hospice care. Soon after, she set us all free, administering in-home euthanasia while we held Lizzie and said goodbye to her in this life.
I feel that this is the path for you to take with your dog, considering the quality of life of all involved.
Check my website, DrFoxVet.com, for my article on hospice care for pets, and look for another veterinarian in your area who does house calls and can help you along this final path.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)