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2 year old west highland terrier

"I think you should have a talk with your veterinarian about what to do if Murphy expires in your arms."

View full size West Highland terriers can live for more than 15 years with proper care. Roadell Hickman, The Plain Dealer

I have a West Highland terrier named Murphy who is 15 years old. He will be 16 in April. I just love him, but, because of his age, I know he is living on borrowed time.

My concern: What if my sweetie passes away in my lap some evening, or overnight on the bed? I've never had to deal with this. Shall I just wrap him in his blanky and take him to the veterinarian in the morning ?

A: Oh yeesh, you tug at the heart strings. Dog Lady also has a 15 1/2-year-old Westie named Shorty. He will be 16 in July. Loving care accrues to longevity and Westies can live a long time, up to 17 years and more.

I think you should have a talk with your veterinarian about what to do if Murphy expires in your arms. Certainly you can wrap him in his blanket and place him in the coolest spot in the house for the night. You can bury him in his blanky, too. Do you want him cremated or buried? Make these arrangements now so you're prepared for the moment. In the meantime, enjoy him. Ah, hold that little guy close.

I just moved into University Heights from San Francisco, Dog Country, and am very eager to find a place for me and my dog, Hattie, to feel at home off-leash. Around the Bay Area, we were so spoiled by all the dog parks. We had our favorite group where we went every morning. Hattie was in heaven with all her pals. I was too.

So far, I’m in reconnaissance mode. I’m scoping out the possibilities, visiting various parks and green spaces -- to find the ideal situation where Hattie and I can feel free. Hattie, a 6-year old Labrador retriever, is often skittish around dogs she doesn’t know. She’s also been quite unsettled during this dislocation. She snapped at one of the dogs on our street yesterday. I think a regular doggy playgroup, with opportunity for Hattie to ruff and tumble, will make her feel more anchored in the universe. Does this seem reasonable?

A: Your plan sounds dandy but don’t be so rigid about finding a play area for Hattie. You understand, of course, she’ll be happy with a few blades of grass to sniff. However, you are being a very responsible pet owner and thinking about what’s best -- in the human world -- for your dog.

Recently, Dog Lady attended a lecture on “Dog Park Etiquette” and a major theme emerged: Dog owners must be informed and vigilant. Duh. Sounds so basic, but this is where all good dog behavior begins -- with owners like you who are keenly aware of their animal’s needs, strengths, fears and frailties. By acknowledging that Hattie is snappish with dogs she doesn’t know, you are already one step ahead of your pet. Make sure you socialize her, bringing her in safe contact with many people and dogs. She needs to sniff out every new situation.

You’re right. Hattie was thrown off-kilter by the move. Dogs are nesting creatures. They like their hangouts familiar and simple. That’s why you don’t need to sweat so much to find her a good place. Just give her a new routine and she’ll find her comfort zone. So will you.

Question? Write [email protected] Visit facebook/askdoglady to see pictures, read about Dog Lady’s dog and see episodes of “Ask Dog Lady,” the TV show.