DEAR DR. FOX: You have on your website some accounts of animals appearing to their owners after death. So do you believe in heaven, where we will meet up with all of our loved ones? Or do animals, like some people think, go somewhere else because they do not have souls? -- R.E., Glen Echo, Maryland
DEAR R.E.: The notion of heaven is different for different religions, and has often been used as a political tool to make people conform to certain values and beliefs -- otherwise, they were told, they would go to hell.
The English poet John Milton contended that “the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of a heaven.” Accepting that there are different physical and mental states of being, then Milton is surely right: Heaven is in the embrace of all we love and suffer for. Ignorance, indifference, fear and hatred of each other and other animals turn heaven into hell. We are living spirits experiencing life in human form, whose lives are enriched and even healed by other spirits in dog, cat and other sentient forms.
As the Australian aborigines say, “Dingo (dog) makes us human.” Indeed, other animals can awaken our humanity and touch our spirits, and we must protect them from those who are not yet so touched. We must help those people connect -- and not treat other beings as objects, having neither compassion nor empathy for their earthly relations, nor respect for their ancestors.
DEAR DR. FOX: My bichon dog, Max, is 16 years old. His heart, lungs and muscle tone are good, according to our vet, but he has been diagnosed with high blood pressure and atypical Cushing’s disease. His hormone test was normal, but ultrasound showed slightly enlarged adrenal glands. He is on trilostane (15 mg a day) and amlodipine (1.25 mg).
He insists on waking us up at 4 a.m. and again at 6 a.m. to urinate and eat, after taking him out at 10 p.m. If we do not respond to his cries to go out, he will lose his bladder control and urinate on the floor. I don’t think he even realizes he has urinated.
My question is, are there any meds that can help his lack of bladder control? He never had any accidents 14 years prior to this. -- G.C., Neptune, New Jersey
DEAR G.C.: Congratulations on keeping this older dog going, which, as you have discovered, can be an ordeal.
Restlessness and even wandering around and waking everyone up for food or to be let out may be related to chronic kidney failure, senile dementia or a combination of such issues. This is often seen in older dogs and cats, as well as people.
I would suggest your veterinarian consider these possible complications, and try a light dose of alprazolam at bedtime. But first, try 3-6 mg of melatonin coupled with a last walk before bedtime, and a good total body massage as per my book “The Healing Touch for Dogs.”
DEAR DR. FOX: I love your stories about pets that initiate play. I had a Siamese who liked to play “chase.” She would peek around a corner and look at me, then step back, then peek around again to see if she had my attention. I would do “monster hands” in the air and start to chase her. She’d run and usually hide under the bed or a chair. I’d turn the tables on her, waiting until she reappeared from under the furniture. If I stood just outside the door, she’d know it and creep forward to see me. I would run down the hall and she would chase me! She wore me out!
She was an “only pet,” and was with me for 18 years. After she passed, I got two Siamese sisters, and they exhibit the same behavior -- hiding, ambushing and chasing each other. I guess I was just one big playmate to the first cat. -- M.D., Shiloh, Illinois
DEAR M.D.: One game I developed with my first cat, Igor, a very talkative Siamese, was to flip him with my foot at a burlap screen about six feet away, to which he would cling, do a backflip and come back for more. I once showed this game to a date to impress her, and she was ready to leave in disgust at what she thought was cruelty, until she saw Igor’s delight.
Igor also walked with me in the close-by Maine woods, and would sneak ahead and ambush me on the trail or arch his back and threaten to attack me. I would crouch down and he would jump on my back, and we would continue our jaunt.
I wish more people would learn how to play like a cat with their cats, and consider having two or more cats rather than just one.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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.net.)