Caring for a senior dog can bring joy into your life in a way that you have never experienced before. But it has its challenges for both the dog and the human. Huff has a few things to say about that.
I am an old dog.
I still look handsome, a little grayer perhaps, but in a Sean Connery/Harrison Ford sort of way. Still, this is not the movies and my days of battling the bad guys are over.
What I need now is a slower, less tumultuous life. That is probably what your older dog needs too. But he doesn’t know how to ask for it, so I am here to help.
Give your senior dog time to get moving, especially in the mornings or when you get home in the evening.
After a long sleep, I am groggy. My muscles are tight and cold. Dogs don’t do coffee like humans. Give these old joints a few minutes to get moving.
Before you clip on my lead for a walk, help me get moving by massaging my leg muscles or do stretches with me. You should stretch before a walk too, you know.
If you don’t understand this joint tightness, it’s okay. One day you will. You don’t want to look back on this time with regret.
My sense of smell is really good. I can smell that sandwich you are making and will come out to investigate.
But if I am sleeping the next room, no way will I hear you call me.
If you come to get me while I am napping, stomp your feet a bit. I will feel the floor vibrate so I will know you are coming.
If you startle me awake, I might growl or snap. Don’t be angry, I didn’t know it was you.
My vision isn’t so good either. To be honest, I can’t see a thing up close anymore.
If I nip your fingers when you offer me treat, don’t be angry. I can’t smell where your fingers stop and my treat starts!
I can see some movement in the distance. Which might make you think I can see, but what I saw was a flicker of light and dark.
I don’t know if that flicker was a scary dog I should run from, a squirrel I should chase, or a pile of leaves blowing across the road.
My human has no sense of smell at all. I tell her I smell a cat and she insists there isn’t one.
Then it darts out of the grass and my human says, “Oh you were right.” Of course I was.
Remember that your senior dog will try to please you even when it hurts.
If my human wants to walk, I will walk with her even if I hurt. Pay attention!
It has taken my human a while to figure out how to tell when I need a rest. I am working dog. I do not ask to take breaks. I work (walk) until the job (walk) is done. That’s what herding dogs do.
I won’t quit, so she has to watch my body language. Some dogs have big fluffy tails and it is easy for their human to notice when their tail starts to droop with fatigue. My little nub tail is not so expressive.
She has to watch for things like how my whole body moves. Are my shoulders tight? Are my hips are moving freely?'
I do give her some bigger clues. If I half-squat to pee (undignified I know, but I am an old man) she understands that I am hurting. If I lift my leg, it is a good day and we can go a little further.
Pay attention to your dog. Body language is all we have to show you how we feel. We trust you to figure it out.
Your senior dog can’t play as much or walk as far with you, but she still needs time with you.
Take that time when you can.
I know you have that job thing. My human has explained it to me and it has something to do with keeping treats in the house. But spend time with your senior dog when you can. Don’t just pat her on the head and then rush off to the next most important thing.
I am not sure what is more important than an old dog in need of a little attention, but maybe you know better.
When the time comes for us to say goodbye, don’t cling to me. I will try to stay for you and I really need to go.
No life is forever, nor should it be.
I am grateful to you for being my human. I am grateful for your kindness. Now do me this one last kindness and let me go.
Suzanne didn’t want me to add that last part, because it makes her sad.
it’s important, so I did it anyway.
She let me go, because it was my time. Because of her, I was a happy old dog when I died. She was right there with me, and she let go.
I know she misses me, but she doesn’t have to. I will always be in her heart.
© Copyright Suzanne Grosser