The time has come…my dog is a senior

Jacqueline Drake, MSc student AABW

My dog and I are in the middle of a life transition. He is a senior and it’s starting to show. The beautiful silver hairs began a long time ago and while it was stressful to be reminded of his eventual departure from this world, his continued energy and vibrance had always put this worry on the back burner. 

In the seven years we have spent together I have had the most wonderful dog. Never a counter surfer or interested in the trash. He loves his cat siblings and is the best at cuddling. There are many undesirable behaviors that he has never shown, or been interested in. Many days I come home and am even more grateful that he is so perfect after being in lessons with dogs that need constant guidance. Not that we haven’t had our share of challenges…but overall, I have the best dog. 

So last week when I was curled up on the couch watching a movie and he walked away for a bit I didn’t think anything of it. He is so good, and I assumed he was getting a beverage or investigating what our foster kittens were into. He came back, tail wagging, looking for kisses as he always does when I am face level. And that’s when it happened. 

His face was covered in litter. His breath was appalling. 

NO! Not my dog. How? In all our time together with all the cats we have lived with he has never shown interest in the coveted poop sand. He was so proud. He had found the ultimate treasure. 

Not long after this, we started having some odd bedtime occurrences. I would get settled with my kindle and invite him up as I always did to sleep on the big bed with me. He happily jumped up….but quickly got down. He came over to my side to stare at me and it was the type of look that said “hey mom, I think I have to go potty”. As always, I appreciate that he and I have a very easy communication system and so I took him outside. 

This is when I watched his glow in the dark necklace just sitting stationary. This is a bit outside of his normal behavior. The necklace is usually coasting around the yard as he sniffs for peter cottontail. So, I stepped on the deck to call him over and that’s when I could see it. The confusion. The look of forgetfulness. “Why am I out here?” his eyes said. My heart broke. The transition was starting. My beautiful boy was stepping into the next, and last, part of his life. His senior years. The years where their hearing starts to decline, their eyes become opaque, and their brains have a hard time catching up. 

The next few hours were spent trying to help him to settle down and sleep with me as he always did. His brain was telling him otherwise. He was pacing non-stop. Up on the bed, off the bed, coming to my side, and then just laying on the floor in defeat. 

At one point he left for a snack in the cat box, and then proceeded to have bouts of those snacks coming right back up. In that one night alone, I had moved my google home to my room for soft music, put a gate up to prevent his snacking, turned on my soft reading lights, and shampooed my carpet 4 times. By 6a after numerous confused potty breaks…he finally fell asleep. Right before that, I had decided to share my thoughts, and heartache, for my senior boy in a blog. I jotted down my thoughts in my phone and finally fell asleep with him. Forever my little spoon.

As his mom, his guardian, his safety net….I made a promise when I adopted him. I would take care of him through all his years. I will keep the soft lights on all night so he can see better now that the darkness is confusing. I will keep paper towels, plastic bags, and my carpet cleaning machine in my room. I will keep soft music playing and make sure lavender floats in the air to bring him comfort. I will keep a gate up to help deter his late-night snacks, and I will embrace his pacing and confusion even if it means I get far less sleep.

I will keep him leashed for potty breaks so he can remember where he is in the darkness, and that he is not alone. I can always wash the carpet. I can always take naps. I won’t always have my dog, so I will embrace his aging as I have embraced all parts of our time together. I owe him that. I honor him by doing that. 

This is a really hard thing to write. To acknowledge the end that will someday come. I take comfort in knowing he won’t go through this alone. I will do my very best to continue to help him through this just as he has helped me through some of the darkest days. 

Love you Porter James. 

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