Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thoughts on Aging Dogs

Keeper's eyes

Wouldn't it be nice if dogs could comfortably live for at least 30 years?  I miss my gone-dogs.  And it's not easy watching my lovely Keeper become creaky and slow. 

There are days when she appears to be in pain when she gets up from a long nap.  A bit stiff in the back-end, and slow to rise.  I wish she could describe to me exactly what she's feeling, and let me know exactly what she needs.  She's on a careful exercise program, and gets several dietary supplements, to make her life easier.  I take her to Ziji as often as I can, for adjustments, and give her frequent massages.  One SuperQ short of a PADCH, she is retired from agility competition.  She doesn't care about ribbons or titles, and I don't want to cause her to be sore.  I won't compete with a dog on doesn't seem fair to me.  Of course if she needs them to be comfortable in her daily life, I wouldn't hesitate.  She enjoys multiple daily walks.  She is free to run with Riff in the backyard - if she wants to - at her own pace.  She knows what feels good, and what doesn't.  At times I wonder if she can hear and see as well as she used to, although she's incredibly astute re:rustling treat bags, mail trucks and the gardener next door.   Maybe she's just not paying as much attention as she used to?  Are her dreams too good to leave? 

These days there's an easy, peaceful feeling around Keeper that I really like.  She seems more loving than ever (although Riff might argue that point).  She even ran a short agility course with Jeff on Thursday!  When she was younger, she wouldn't run a course for anyone other than me.  Even on Thursday she consistently veered off the last 8" jump to come over to me.  But the mere fact that she happily took several jumps was a real coup for Jeff.  In fact, they both looked incredibly happy. 

These days Keeper seems quite content with her life.  She has a soft bed in every room....but she often prefers to stretch out on the carpet under the kitchen table - her favorite spot for all these years.  In the old days, she never let me out of her sight.  She followed me everywhere, no matter how many times I got up and down doing chores around the house, or getting my glasses in the other room, or walking back and forth from potting table to garden.  She stayed close to me.  Nowadays, from under the table, she can keep an eye on us while we hang out in the family room.  She can watch the front door and see through the back door out into the yard.  She can watch the hallway.  The table is her place. 

These days she waits for me to come back into the family room, instead of following me down the hall.  I do miss her constant presence, but - luckily - Riff is keeping Riffish tabs on me.   This young dog will let me out of his sight...but he checks in every few minutes.  He is a touchy-feely dog.  When I'm sitting at my computer, I'll often feel his nose touch my leg.  He's not happy just looking in, he also needs to give me a poke....every 15 minutes or so.  He stays busy checking on Jeff, too.  When Jeff is gone, he'll settle down (sort of) in whatever room I'm in.  Keeper never did care much about what Jeff was doing, and didn't bother to keep track of him.  But Riff loves Jeff.  I would describe Riff is an Everyman Dog.  Keeper has always been a One Person Dog. 

And she used to be just as active as the Riffle.  She taught me a lot about living.  For instance: Keeper always had to get up with the first shy rays of the morning sun.  She insisted that I learn how to enjoy a cup of coffee during sunrise, followed by a brisk walk - even after a late night of rehearsal at the theatre.  She taught me how to walk the neighboring hills as fast as I could.  At first I protested.  I told her I was over fifty, and didn't have to move that quickly any more.  She laughed.  (Border collies have a very special laugh....)  Then she introduced me to agility.  Need I say more??  Life is better, because of Keeper.   

These days, she likes to sleep in.   Riff does too!  Now I'm the one getting them up at sunrise, herding them out into the backyard to enjoy the first gray light of a new day.   I hope they love it as much as I do.  They chuckle, almost every morning, so I'm pretty sure they do. 

Keeper trained me well.  She can rest on her laurels.  We'll do our best to help her age gracefully, surrounded by joy.  I know she's doing the same for me....


corgi2bc said...

I have similar thoughts about Kirby as well. He is only 12 but his hearing is definitely not as acute as it once was and he only wants to go for short walks now. He likes to do a bit of "training" for cookies but thankfully he isn't interested in any of the agility equipment, we just do tricks or obedience stuff because he still likes to "do something." I sure don't understand why dogs live such short lives.

Elf said...

Yup, going through the same thing with Tika. About this time last year, I was thinkin', hey, we could get our Platinum LAA if we keep up at this pace! Let's go for it! And now--yup, hearing has deteriorated, energy is down, doesn't have that *push*, that forward mo, on the course all the time. And just when I think we're done--she sails around a jumpers course like it's nothing, bounds in and grabs my feet, and then I know she's having a great time. But those are fewer and farther between. Sigh. Also, like you, trying to remember to enjoy this stage as well.

Free Hit Counter