Loving an Old Dog
For those of us who have lived with an aging pet, nothing is more bittersweet than the moment you realize your pet has crossed the invisible line between healthy adult and senior. It begins with the little things that are barely noticeable, like not coming to the food bowl when you are getting dinner ready for him or not barking at the UPS guy. These subtle nuances seem to escape our attention until one day you realize that it is the new normal for your beloved pet. But alas, you rest assured that these are just the typical signs of aging that we all must face at some point.
These are the signs that seem to shift our thinking about how we live with our best friends. At this point, we begin to consider our daily routines and how we might change just one or two things to make life a little easier for our fur babies. We may buy them extra beds to put around the house to make them comfortable, put down an extra water bowl or two, maybe even buy supplements to make sure their joints are healthy as they ease into old age. These beginning stages of senior living are still pretty easy, albeit a reminder of what is to come.
I remember the night that I realized my sweet George could no longer jump on the bed unless there was a light on in the room. He could not judge how far he needed to jump to get back up in the middle of the night. He was around 11 years old then but still looked like a healthy 7 year old, so this one caught me by surprise. For 4 nights in a row, I would have to get up in the middle of the night to put him back up on the bed after he'd jumped off (or else suffer his panting next to me until I complied). After that fourth night, I finally gave in and took my bed off of the frame and put the mattresses on the floor. What a HUGE difference that made! No more waking me in the night and he was super happy.
George is now 13 years and 7 months old (and my bed is still on the floor). His joints are really stiff, but he can still manage to jump on the bed if the lights are on and he has a bit of a “running start”, but he no longer gets down in the night because he knows he will not be able to make it back up. He spends his days sleeping a lot. His hearing is not great and his eyesight is very poor, but his sense of smell is still kicking strong! He can smell food a mile away! He is always within eyesight of me and follows me through the house if I am moving around a lot, even though he moves at a snail pace. He doesn’t run anymore, and his supplement drawer looks like the typical medicine drawer of an senior citizen. He gets acupuncture treatments every month, and special food every day. And to his delight, everything he does now warrants a small treat afterward, so senior life is pretty good! Except when it’s not. Those days are difficult to watch, as he hardly has any will at all to do anything except sleep. Those are the moments that I wonder if today will be my last with him.
We recently took a road trip with George and realized that travel with a senior pet is quite different as well. The car ride itself cannot be comfortable enough (I think it would take a full size RV for that to be the case). The 5-6 hours in the car make his already stiff joints even stiffer. Then, there’s the long hallway walk from the hotel elevator to the room and then once in the room, everything is different. A senior dog has a difficult time figuring out where everything is, as his eyesight isn’t quite the same as it used to be. Oh, and the beds are not on the floor, but that doesn’t mean he won’t try to jump up there! And did I forget to mention that he can no longer jump in and out of the car? Yeah, not my idea of fun to pick up a 70 pound dog several times over the weekend (and yes, it has to be me because he will not allow my husband to do it). Yikes!
Every holiday season, we take a road trip. This year, we have decided to stay home for the holiday season, as we recognize the difficulty in traveling with George, and the fact that it may actually be our last holiday season with him. We just want his quality of life to be the absolute BEST as he gracefully eases into the next world.
Being a QHHT practitioner, I can logically understand that this will not be the last time I will see him, nor is this the first lifetime I’ve spent with him. And on the days he can barely manage getting out of bed, I find myself thinking that I hope he just goes to sleep and I find him there still sleeping the forever sleep. But there is a larger part of me that wants him to stay here with me for as long as I am here on this beautiful Earth. I know that those of you who’ve loved and lost a dear pet understand this sentiment.
We have lost many pets over the years, and even though each one was special to me in their own way, George has been with me longer than any other. He has taught me so much about life in a human body and aging with grace and dignity. He has taught me compassion, patience, consideration, service to others, and most importantly he has taught me about LOVE!