I've been tweeting a lot lately about my elderly dog and how caring for her has started to really change our lifestyle. I've known for a while that she is getting older, but this summer I've been hit hard by the reality that our girl is aging. She can no longer do some of the things we've enjoyed doing in the past, leaving me scratching my head in search of low-impact things to do to keep her active. And although I've had to make some lifestyle changes, I see the changes as a compromise worth making, especially when we are snuggling on the couch. It's these times that have me making promises to my elderly dog.
Meet Lois, our 12 y/o retriever mix. She's an old-lady in dog years. Lois is a sweet old girl. She loves peanut butter, watermelon, and lying in the sun. We love to joke that she's gone to class with The Professor for the past 10 years but can't seem to graduate. She tolerates the cat's aggression with grace. She likes to play ball and go hiking but hates the beach. She's afraid of the dark and has been known to be lick sores on her feet when she's nervous. She's one of the many reasons I'm not traveling this summer and maybe not for a while. She's elderly, and it's starting to show.
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Her hips are hurting. Her allergies are difficult to control. Her kidney function is declining. She's less active and more tired. Her fur is less luxurious and sheds more than ever. She's lost weight without explanation. She's been to the vet more in the past few years than ever before. She's got an appointment with an allergy specialist early next month and currently pending blood work to check on her kidney function. She even has a daily medication regimen. The big picture is that Lois is getting older whether we like it or not.
Her anxious disposition and declining health make it hard to leave her behind to travel. Although she loves her pet sitters, being separated from us is hard on her. And over the years it's gotten harder on us, too. We anxiously wait for updates and photos of her enjoying herself because it helps us feel less guilty about leaving her to go gallivant around the globe.
To make matters worse, The Professor has to travel for weeks, sometimes months, at a time for work. She is very, very attached to him, so being separated from him for long periods of time is really hard on her. He saved her from the shelter; he's her alpha-male. I try to fill the void but find it hard to give her the attention she's accustomed to getting because of my work schedule. She usually goes to class with him at the University, so sitting home all day waiting for a walk is not her idea of a good time.
Leaving her alone all week makes it hard to leave her on the weekends. In the past I've found hikes or other activities for us to enjoy together during the summer months, which is usually when The Professor is away. This summer is different though. She can't hike anymore because of her hips. And long walks now take twice as long as her endurance has diminished. She's a little anti-social when it comes to other dogs, so going to the dog park or out to cafes is typically not an option either. It's a good thing I have a new hobby (blogging) because we've spent a lot of time at home in the air-conditioning.
No matter how much having an elderly dog may have cramped my style this summer, she's totally worth it. Her loving nature, sweet disposition and general good looks make it hard to get upset about staying home with my girl. She loves me, him and even the cat, more than we'll ever understand. She doesn't care if I stay in my pajamas all day or if my hair is a mess. She doesn't care if we stay or go, as long as we are together.
Over the past few weeks we've spent a lot of time at the vet and at the pet-food store researching kidney-friendly limited ingredient diets. I found myself standing in my local pet-food store asking "when did we get to this point?" The truth is that her aging caught us by surprise. It's made me pause and take stock of what she means to us, to me in particular. And although I know the day will come, it's hard to imagine coming home and not finding her here waiting for me, ball-in-mouth.
So, I've given up a few happy hours and maybe a few weekend activities to spend time with the one I love more than I ever knew I could. I'm sure I'm not the first person to fret about my elderly dog, and I know I won't be the last. And I'll keep making changes to my lifestyle to accommodate her, doing whatever it takes to make sure I keep my promise to my elderly dog.
Do you have an elderly dog? What promises have you made to your pup? Have you experienced any of the puppy problems I've described? If so, I'd love to get your advice. Drop me a comment below to let me know how you cope with caring for an elderly dog.
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