Updated: Apr 29
Elderly Dogs Need Time.
Once upon a time, many years ago, the silver faced, slow moving senior dog with a few aches and pains was once a vibrant puppy. Chewing personal items, pooping in the house and discovering the beautiful fragrance of socks and underwear. Thinking back to those puppy days brings out the best stories and the belly laughter roar. Remember when you were woken up on a Saturday morning by the antagonistic little demon lol. Oh, the memories, how not so long ago that was.
Those wild days of chasing the puppy have been long behind you. Your life has changed over the years and your dog has been with you through breakups, moving, road trips, dinner parties and many outings to the park. Accompanying you to a café to meet up with friends, attending Christmas with your sidekick beside you. These moments in time have a cost and the heartfelt moments of rushing your beloved dog to the vet, the worry and concern is real. You have been a good sidekick to your puppy, your dog and now your old, wise, senior dog. So, what next?
How to care for an aging dog.
I will share a few things I have learned along the way that I was taught by my own senior dogs. Be patient, have patience and STOP. Stop being in a rush, put down the phone when you are out with your aging dog. Be present, make yourself available, slow down your walk to accommodate your senior dog. And listen, listen to the silence for it is speaking to you when you are gazed upon by your elderly dog. Stop and sit in the grass with your old dog, rest. Give time to allow your dog to lay down and rest their weary bones. One of the pure joys I learned time and time again is to make time to Stop and allow the dog to wonder, sniff the air, the ground and just be. I have many fond memories of my past dogs who seek security, touch and safety when they lay along side my leg and use it as a pillow. Comfort is what we get to bring to our senior dog. They are fragile and they are in need of your understanding. Many of you reading this also know that our senior dogs will try and defend us even at the senior age.
My heart melts when I am thinking about the many senior dogs I have watched with past clients. Wise stares to say I need to go out, or I need help getting up, the look is undeniable and very honest. Listen to them breathe when they sleep, watch how they dream and flick a paw and from time to time share the vocalization of a senior dog dream. We wish we could understand the latest dream, what was it about, who was in the dream and so on. Some mysteries and questions will go untold, and that’s okay. When you look at the grey hairs or the mature old face we all see something different. I remember when I was watching Dezdamona sleeping on her bed with her precious adorable resting silver face. I was filled with joy and sadness. Sadness because she was going to be leaving soon. All of our experiences together were coming to a close, much sooner than I wanted. Denial had set in and I was scared, scared to be alone without her, scared to lose a piece of me, she was my shadow, and I was hers. She mountain biked, hiked, explored the world, stayed by me through breakups, moving and much more. For 21.5 years we were a part of each other’s lives. Her teachings made me better at understanding and teaching dogs. She was my teacher, she was the dog that checked my ego at the door. Dez was humbling, she was brilliant, and she was understanding of my shortcomings. I remember when her and I had to say goodbye to Max much earlier than I could have imagined. Dez laid on him in the back seat of the car, protecting him and comforting him when we travelled to the vet. The sadness of that morning still hurts. Dez was devastated, filled with sadness she too was saying her last goodbye to Max, she laid in the back weeping and broken, her best friend was going away. Her heart crushed with pain knowing this is the last car ride together.
Our dogs live too short of a life even when they live a full life. Our time is limited, It’s not forever. 10, 12, 16 years is a fragment of time compared to a human’s life span. I tell clients not to rush the puppy stage, don’t rush your dog’s life. It’s already too short. Cherish today and be thankful for tomorrow!
If I can offer you one piece of advice I learned from my dogs and many other dogs is to slow down. Give your old dog the time of day without cellphones and selfies, or forcing your senior dog to move fast. Be kind, understanding and compassionate.
When the time comes to say goodbye, please make sure your dog has not lost any dignity. You have the power to assist your aging dog at the end. Don’t stretch it out to the point where your dog is laying in poo or pee. Be respectful of your dog’s needs. This is the time to give back to your dog for all the dog has given to you. Dignity and respect are important and go a long way. Be there until the last second of your dog’s life. Do not take your old dog to the vet and leave it to be put to sleep alone. Don’t be that person. You absolutely owe your dog this respect and you must be there until the end. Abandoning your pet of any type to leave it alone at this time is cruel and heartbreaking.
To all of the dogs who have taught me, I am thankful for the opportunity and the endless lessons about life as a dog.
Dez and Max, I still miss you today and I will continue to miss you. xo
Written by Brad Pattison, Dog Behaviourist, Vancouver Dog Trainer & Puppy Trainer
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