Most of us consider our dogs to be members of our families, and our goal is to make sure they are as happy and healthy as possible throughout their lives. Too quickly they pass through puppyhood, adult hood, and become seniors. Dr Michel Selmer, DVM, offers specific suggestions that pet caregivers should do to make life easier for their aging dogs:
- If your dog is more than six years old, schedule a complete exam at least twice a year, in hope that any problem will be discovered early. The exam should include a complete physical exam, blood test, urinalysis, nutritional analysis, and fecal testing for parasites.
- Better bed….they make special orthopedic beds where dogs can relax and be more comfortable.
- Exercise, but less intensity! Keep a senior dog moving because movement helps lubricate the joints and maintain muscle mass.
- Handicap accessibility. Jumping up gets harder as dogs age….Build or purchase a ramp or steps to make it easier…..and they have ramps for the car as well as the home.
- Many homes have hardwood floors or slippery tiles. Be aware that a slip and fall can be just as much a safety hazard for your aging dog as it is for humans,.
- Elevate the food bowls. Raising the food bowls make it easier for her to eat and swallow foods.
The reality is that our beloved dog usually leaves us too soon, as Valsa George explains:
“Out through the window of his lonely cottage the man vacantly gazes; his eyes wandering over the dew dampened meadows and the sloping paths. Over them, how many times, he had rambled with Jack, his spaniel who died a few months earlier. Never before had he felt so lonely, and the memories of his dog haunted him. With nothing much to look forward to now, he is in no hurry to leave his cottage ….there is no one to walk with him. Each day as he sips his tea, he misses his dog. Old memories swirl around in his mind. It is with a wave of deep regret that he recognizes that he is alone. There is no one to care for, and no one to care for him. His world is so cold and he feels so lost. Once his dog shared his board, and owned his bed. How he misses him…with mist blurring his eyes and with a sigh, the man once more looks into the meadows for away.”
Every day, amazing dogs leave us.. We pay special tribute to two: Tyler was one of 6 abandoned ditch puppies who were brought to the TLC in 2003….. he was soon adopted by his forever family, Lee and Karen Kraemer. Tyler traveled the country, enjoying family and friends wherever they went. We were eagerly looking forward to their yearly visit to the shelter this fall, but Tyler, a much loved and pampered fellow was old and tired, and we mourn his loss.
We met John Adams, manager of the awesome Hearts United For Animals Rescue in Nebraska, years ago when we assisted in a puppy mill rescue. In late August of 2005, John and a host of volunteers journeyed into the treacherous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. What they encountered was unimaginable. John and the HUA crew pulled dogs from flood waters, abandoned homes, rotting piles of debris, and even rooftops. The conditions were incredibly dangerous and heartbreaking for all. HUA transported more than 100 dogs from the wreckage of Katrina back to the HUA shelter. Eartha was one of them. Eartha stole John’s heart and she became his best friend in the world, and it was decided that she should live for him forever. Over the years, Eartha left her mark in many ways…she won many ribbons at agility meets, but most importantly, she traveled with John and spent many hours on the road while they rescued dogs from puppy mills and hoarding situations. She had a special way with those so sick and frightened. A couple weeks ago this amazing dog—whose mysterious connection with her beloved human John and her ability to communicate with and calm some of the most troubled of animals, earned her angel wings. Brave, beautiful, silver-muzzled, Eartha had just grown too tired. John instinctively knew that his precious dog was saying, “I came. I left my mark! Dad, it’s time to move forward.”
Old dogs: their affection is timeless; their devotion is ageless; their love is unconditional. Blessed is the person who has the love of an old dog.