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Boarding the Senior Westie

Whether the reason for boarding your senior Westie will be a long holiday, a hospital stay, or a family crisis, the boarding information is best researched well in advance of the need. It takes time and effort to put the pieces together and satisfy yourself that Toto will be as comfortable and happy as possible. With the older pet who may not have been separated from the family his whole life, special care is needed. Separation anxiety can cause high stress levels leading to such problems as lack of appetite, depression, behavioural problems and severe degeneration in health. You are not looking for a ‘summer camp’ but more of a caring ‘retirement home’.

Getting Started
In considering a boarding kennel, make a list from those in the yellow pages, and from recommendations of your friends. Spend the necessary time by phone, talking with each one. Then with a short list in hand, you can make the visits to determine your final selection. All kennels are not created equal, and all kennels are not as advertised.

What to Look For
The kennel premises should be very clean, with heated indoor runs as well as large clean outside runs. There should be a knowledgeable ‘dog person’ living on the premises, not just a daytime cleaning staff. Take note of the dogs in residence - do they seem happy, alert, and do they move about easily? Are there any objectionable smells? Do the kennels look carefully maintained? Kennels with large constantly changing populations are loud with the barking of stressed animals - not a good place for any senior dog. Ask if the kennel operator is willing to walk your Westie and perhaps take him inside to sit on a lap for an evening of TV if that is what he is used to. Such ‘extras’ are not possible for big boarding kennels, but small family-run kennels are sometimes happy to do this. Many dog breeders also run small boarding kennels, and are worth checking out even if they are not associated with your breed. If your absence will be more than a week, a trial visit for your Westie could prove very helpful.

Food, Bedding and Medications
Regarding his food, be sure he takes with him enough of his own food and treats to last the entire time you will be away . That will ensure a happy digestive system. Include instructions on the portion size of the meals, and the times of day at which he usually eats. Supply two sets of washable bedding, using such things as bath towels. These can easily be kept clean and are things from home which will add to his comfort. If he uses a pillow, take that, and any toys he likes - don’t buy new ones - you are trying to change as little as possible for him. As regards medications, arrange to have enough to last his entire stay. There should also be carefully written instructions. Be sure that the kennel person knows how to give medications and is willing to do so.

Emergencies and Where You can be Reached
Give the kennel operator your entire itinerary, and phone numbers where and when you can be reached, as well as the name and phone number of your veterinarian. Be sure all vaccinations are up to date. If your vet is close enough to the boarding kennel, they will use your vet for him in case of emergency. Give your vet information as to where your dog is boarding, how long you will be away, and where you can be reached. If the dog is very old, or very ill, leave instructions with both the kennel operator and the veterinarian as to your wishes should serious surgery, or death occur. Also leave instructions re euthanasia and cremation.

Arrange for Visitors
If you are planning a long trip - say a month or two- ask a friend or family member who knows the dog well to drop by the kennel for a little visit and give your Westie a walk now and then. That person can also keep you posted as to his general physical condition and mental contentment. An occasional call to the kennel will keep you in direct touch and allow input from the operator as to how she feels things are going.

Analyze
On your return, note the condition of your Westie both physically and mentally. His reaction to the experience will be your best gauge of the quality of care he has received.

Author: Anne Matheson