There is definitely something special about an older pet that makes my heart warm immediately. There's a look in a senior dog's eyes that you won't see in a puppy, for example. Maybe, it's a look of experience. My guy, , has always had an "old soul", but a puppy face, until the past year. He now has a look in his eyes that matches the old soul. I compare his puppy photos to his current photos and he seems to have the same sparkle and "life" as he did, but he looks like he's lived and could tell stories to grandchildren, if he had them.
The senior pets I've adopted over the years have all been very well-adjusted and loving pets. Most had health issues, but that is part of owning pets, committing to attend to their healthcare on a regular basis. Senior dogs, for example, may require more frequent vet visits than a two year old dog. I'm pretty sure I will hit the big spender group again this year with my two senior dogs.
It seems that my seniors have more personality now versus when they were silly youngsters, even my fish that are over ten years old. My 11 year old Plecostamus (aka "The Monster") does a good job, but is a terror in the tank and I admit I'm a bit frightened of him! Again, it's the committment I made to each of my pets when I brought them home...to be there until the end, even for...gasp...The Monster.
The senior years can be challenging, not just for the pet, but for the pet owner. One of my clients and friends is going through similar things with her fourteen year old Wheaton Terrier, Eddie, that I am with Bicycle. Our old dog's rears end up on the ground, they lose traction, can't get up and down without assistance at times, etc. We both have padded kitchen mats and non-matching carpets lining paths to the areas our old guys travel. Eddie has a difficult time navigating stairs or lifts through a dog door, so his owner has adjusted his dog door down to the floor. She also had a custom dog ramp built so he can go outside and not get stuck on the way in (see photos). Bicycle has custom steps next to my bed (also pictured), specifically made for his long body and shorter legs. He can make it up those, but I have no doubt the day is coming that his back and/or hips will no longer be able to support him. I will make more adjustments, using ramps, lowering the bed, whatever he needs. These types of things may seem excessive to others, but to us, we are doing what we feel is right for our senior dogs. We have the same goals: provide as much dignity in their aging process as possible and keep them as happy, pain free, and comfortable as possible.
Reality tells those of us with senior pets they are getting older, closer to the end, forcing us to think about what we want their last days, months, or years to look like. Forcing us to deal with emotions directly tied to the well-being of our seniors. For those that don't quite understand, I encourage us all to set our judgements aside and look at the relationship between pet and owner. I encourage us to allow pet owners to decide what they feel is best with the assistance they seek versus chiming in with advice. One of my clients and friends recently had to say good bye to a 27 year old cockatiel named Charlie. Another client and friend said good bye to not one, but two senior Basenjis, Ariela and Rufio. And a long time friend recently said good bye to a local Dalmatian icon, Tarmac. They all did so on their own terms, with assistance from understanding friends, family, and vets.
No matter how a pet owner prepares, whether it's a sudden issue requiring immediate attention or an aging pet that has slowly declined, there is nothing easy or pleasant about a beloved pet passing away. My least favorite days working at were the days I assisted in the euthanasia process. My most heartbreaking pet memory, so far, is when I held my own Dachsund, Sammy, in my lap while he was euthanized. I've been in the pet care industry for twenty years and it has become more difficult, not less as some may perceive, to say good bye to pet friends and my pet family. It's never easy and I imagine when it's time for me to say good bye to Bicycle, my other senior dog Tiberius, or my 70+ year old tortoise, Old Man Myrtle, I will be quite a wreck, as they have been integral parts of my world as I know it.
But, until the time comes for them, the senior years are all about their retirement. They have fun, spend time doing nothing, lay around, get lots of cookies, and they see their vet, , for senior dog care. Bicycle works when he feels like it, sleeps a lot, carries baseballs around, or watches court shows. Tye lounges all the time, usually upside down. There's nothing better than two old dogs snoring away after a lifetime of experiences. Old Man gets his special strawberry once a week and wanders around munching on greenery. Kudos to my old guys, they are doing retirement right!
I'd love to hear about your senior pets in the comments. How are they spending their retirement?