How My Dog’s Colitis is Teaching Me Mindfulness

It’s 4 AM and I’m lying in bed. Awake. I am not comfortable. Over the last couple of weeks I have been feeling a little worse. My colitis is starting to “flare” up, as it’s called.

I’m crampy. My gut is noisy. I keep thinking, “Do I need to get up? Do I have to go?” I suddenly bolt up and rush to the bathroom — the answer feels like a yes.

But sometimes I experience what I call a “false alarm.” I feel I need to go, but it turns into uncomfortable constipation.

That’s one of the worst things about colitis — this lack of control — this lack of understanding what my body is saying. It’s frustrating and it makes one feel more helpless.

I think I’m done with my business and go back to bed. But when I lie down, I immediately realize, nope — I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t completed the job, so to speak.

I just stay up because I’m gonna have to have access to the bathroom until I feel more at ease — it could be 4 or 5 hours later. And then I start thinking — is this just today? Will this take a week, longer even? Flares can sometimes take months to subside. Such is the frustration of living with colitis.

Anyway, while I am in the bathroom doing (or not doing) my thing, I hear Kona in her crate. She’s pawing, wanting out because she hears me. She always is aware of what I am doing. I’d like to think she just needs to be near me, to comfort me, but she may just have the need to be near her pack.

Whatever the case, it is comforting to know she wants to be close to me, but I ain’t getting up to let her out of her crate. I am preoccupied!

Two Peas, Not Quite the Same Pod

Kona isn’t having the best week either, though she behaves differently than I do. As is often the case, she ate something — it could have been paper at my mother-in-law’s apartment. Kona is obsessed with paper of all kinds.

At my mother-in-law’s we shut all the doors and we think we paper-proofed the apartment. But there’s always something left on the couch or in a waste basket. Kona feels completely free in that apartment. Whatever rules apply in our own home is not the case elsewhere.

She may have eaten something on the street — she’s quick to grab whatever is left on the sidewalk. In New York City, a lot is left on the sidewalks! She also may just be having her own flare up — I don’t know for sure.

But this week she has shown a pattern of a good poop in the morning and then a disastrous poop soon after, sometimes blood, always diarrhea — we say she has created a Pollack due to the artful, abstract droppings all over the floor. But she usually shows no signs of behavior change.

This Week — It’s a Little Different

I’m looking at the diary we keep for Kona in the Well Informed Pet app. Well Informed Pet is an app I started because we need to track Kona’s activities more regularly — her diet, her stool, etc. Also, when we have needed a vet away from home, all her info is available through the app and shared with anyone who takes care of Kona. (I encourage you all to try it out yourselves!)

Anyway, Kona has a very aggressive and excited appetite compared to the average dog — even our vet has said so. But the notes in the Well Informed Pet app tell a different story about Kona this week.

In the morning I usually open her pellet bag and serve her an amuse bouche of a pellet for her to catch before I pour the rest in her bowl. She wasn’t in the mood to catch her pellet. And worse — she didn’t want to eat at all.

That is the saddest moment in taking care of Kona — if she doesn’t want to eat, I know something is wrong.

Done and Over With

Well, in this case it ends up being not too bad. It turns out that, though she had her perfect morning poop, she just hadn’t finished the job and wouldn’t eat until she had. 20 or 30 minutes after her perfect poop, Kona rings the bell (Kona is bell trained — she’ll ring to do her business on our little patio — and she rings aggressively if she REALLY needs to go — Kona and I wear our emotions on our sleeve when we sense any bathroom urgency!). This time when she goes — it’s Pollack time.

But after that — unlike me — Kona seems to know she’s done. She eats energetically. She wags her tail and nudges me when she finishes. She grabs her snake (a ritual — after she eats she wants to play with her toy snake, but it’s never a solitary game). So she’s a happy dog.

I’m happy for her — a little jealous as to how relatively easy her calm approach to all her issues seems to be. Kona will have more bad poops — it goes on for over a week — she has to get the bad food or the paper out of her system. Paper, by the way, has some positive side effects. It leaves her constipated, but her poops end up pretty solid for awhile. It’s not good for her, but the fiber clearly is helping her system some. Maybe I should have some of her paper, too!

Sometimes We Just Need to Be a Dog

Anyway — it’s fascinating to see how we each behave when we have our down moments. I sulk at the unknown and it weighs me down — when will I feel better? Kona is more in the moment — she suffers, but briefly — and then she goes on her merry way. She doesn’t feel too much pressure or stress. She deals with her bad hand and then moves on to doing the important task of being a dog. Mindfulness is Kona’s mantra. As usual, I have something to learn from her.

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