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Be Gentle: I know my dog is old
A call for improving our etiquette with older dogs.

Like everyone else in a society loudly lamenting a decline in civility, I recognize there are new breaches of etiquette every minute. On any typical day, cell phones alone account for the rudeness factor going off the charts.

But I believe there is one type of impolite behavior among adult humans that goes pretty much unchecked. I’ve been guilty of it myself and slinked away feeling really stupid. It just isn’t something that makes it into the etiquette books and it apparently isn’t even worth Miss Manners’ fleeting consideration.

I am referring to the blunt, utterly uncensored and often just plain mean things people say to us about our dogs (by “us” I mean dog people). My close friend Pam has a 12-yearold German Shepherd who is visibly aging. So are the rest of us, human and canine, but to what person would you ever be so crude as to say the following: “Is that your mother? Wow, she looks awful. She can hardly move!” Yet this is the unsolicited blubbering my friend endures from strangers, all day long, about her old dog. I empathize because I’ve been through this three times, beginning with our family Beagle, Sam, who lived to be nearly 17, mostly out of spite.

“How old is he?” People would ask this unrelentingly about my now-departed Irish Setter, Amos. I didn’t mind telling them that he was 12 or 13. “Wow. They don’t live much longer than that, do they?” How tacky is this?

But it gets worse. When my big, hairy mutt, Louie (we called him our “Bavarian crotch-smeller”) was old and frail, someone once asked me, “Have you thought about putting him down?” First of all, that’s kind of like asking a woman in her 40s (this also happened to me), “Have you ever thought about having children?” “Gee, there’s an idea! Why didn’t I think of that?” When your dog is old and sick, the end is pretty much all you can think about. Your heart is breaking and you’re preparing yourself to come to that decision in a way that spares your dog unnecessary suffering while giving yourself time to feel as peaceful as possible about letting him go.

People assume they can say anything they like about a stranger’s dog. While they’d (I hope) refrain from saying, “Excuse me, but it looks like your husband is losing his hair,” when Louie was suffering from Cushing’s disease, strangers constantly took it upon themselves to point out his hair loss. “Do you know your dog is losing his hair?” And what can you do except mumble, um, yes, this is my dog, he’s part of my family, I’m nearly always with him, I bathe him, I brush him, he sleeps with us, and throughout most, if not all, of these activities, I am looking at him! And it’s always too late when you think of how you could’ve said, “Do you know you have a wart on your chin?”

Pam is at the point where she dreads walking her dog in public because she knows passersby will make insensitive comments she can’t bear to hear. Out in the world she is thoughtful and tender enough not to remind everyone she encounters that they are mortal. Like the rest of us, she can tell when a person’s on his or her last legs, but she keeps herself from saying, “Gee, you sure are slowing down” or asking the person’s daughter, “So how long do people in your family tend to live?” When approaching people like my friend, it helps to remind oneself that she knows her dog is old. She knows it every waking second of every day.

The last years and months we share with our geriatric dogs are among the most bittersweet times in dog lovers’ lives. We know, from the moment we choose these guys as puppies or meet their limpid stares at the animal shelter, that our hearts will be torn apart some day. What makes it so much worse is that the older they get, the sweeter they get, and when they reach absolute critical sweetness—you simply cannot love them any more than you already do—they grow completely exhausted and die. So a person patiently coaxing an old dog on his increasingly shrinking route is someone who could benefit from a little compassionate restraint. Like a simple hello for the owner, or a tender pat on the head for the doggie emeritus.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 63: Feb/March 2011
Susan Seligson's essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Salon.com, The London Times, and many other publications. She is the author of Going with the Grain (Simon & Schuster) and Stacked (Bloomsbury), as well as the co-author, with her late husband Howie Schneider, of several children's books, including the award-winning "Amos: The Story of an Old Dog and His Couch."

Image by Stephanie Checton.

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Submitted by elain | December 15 2011 |

that was such a beautiful article, and it had me in tears. Last year I had to part with Zoe the Wonder Dog. She was 16 years old, and to all who saw her, she appeared to be in perfect health. People were constantly amazed at her real age. She was alert, playful, friendly. Then some of her behaviors began to change, I attributed it to old age. I forget things too. It kept getting worse. She forgot her name and her beloved blanket. She started to have minor panic attacks in the car, and sometimes for no reason at all.
No one ever told me about Canine Cognitive Disorder. It's doggy Alzheimers, and there is no cure. They just keep getting worse. Everyone would comment on how healthy and fit she looked for her age but only I knew that she needed tranquilizers nearly every day to deal with the panic attacks.

I have had to deal with the loss of many of my dogs through old age and sickness, but i think this was the hardest. Because she seemed to be so healthy, but her body could not let her go. When i could no longer control the panic attacks. I had to make the decision to let her go.

Submitted by Colleen | December 16 2011 |

As my walks with my Shar-Pei Rajah became increasingly shorter, neighbors would say hi and inquire about her. She was 15 and I can't recall anyone ever saying anything bad about her even as she walked slowly and sniffed the ground. Many commented on how good she looked for her age. I'd have to say I agree. She was deaf, going blind, and arthritic, but she left this world with dignity. Still walking, still holding her own. I couldn't stand the thought of carrying her anywhere. Especially to the last place I would see her.
It's been almost 3 years and the heartache is still very real. Still I carry a great pride in my heart for the 15 plus years that we shared. Her presence in my life was an irreplaceable gift.

Submitted by Naomi | August 10 2013 |

I have tears running down my face, reading these comments. I dont know if anyone is still reading these after all this time but my golden retriever, Jemma is nearly 17 and showing signs of dementia. She has had breast cancer at 13, cured, arthritis, the slowing down of old age and now a cancer on her back leg, 35mm at the moment, vet says it wont take her out, but she is favouring this leg. For a short time I got frustrated with her up and down antics in the evening, but now that I know about doggie dementia, if she is up, so am I and I am taking her outside for (PP)...you know, a pee!! I dont think her eyesight or hearing is what is was and recently I was told by a regular that I saw on a walking track I take her every day..."you are not going to lose weight at that pace, are you???"...yeah...thanks for that, I am going at the pace of my 17 year old dog, that has waited for me when I was slower than she in the previous years and now the tides have reversed. As long as she can walk I will walk with her at any pace, she is my angel...now I am blubbering....such a sook!!But she breaks ny heart on a daily basis now, the changes are fast at this age...luv my Jem.x

Submitted by Jerri Krueger | December 19 2011 |

I have never been blessed by having a dog just pass over on their own and it has always been a heartwrenching decision when I was keeping them going for them or me. The vet bills until that day were not a factor. I am not wealthy but they are family and family provides what is neccesary for the comfort and well being of their own. For those who would heartlessly say "it's just a dog"... I would venture to say you have never truly known love.

Submitted by Katie | December 19 2011 |

I only adopt senior dogs. It's strange some of the things people say. I tell them my beagle mix is 11 and half the time the response is, "Wow how long do they live?" Does it matter? He's alive now. In fact he's quite healthy. I prepare myself for their passing on my own time, I don't need your help by pointing out that it's coming.

Submitted by Tamandra | December 19 2011 |

Loved the article-I'm experiencing this full force for the first time. My GSD Assistance dog is 10.9 years old, and in great shape appearance-wise. Fit and feisty. But I'm taken aback at how often I get similar comments. And about when am I going to replace him, and do I have to "get rid of him" then. No, we've been together since a few weeks old, he's not going anywhere. And no, he's not in his last year or two, his mother lived to 16 and a half. Not that he will (though I do hope so!) but it's just my retort to the insensitive.

Then because he's a GSD, I always get the comments about hip dysplasia, which he doesn't have. If I divulge that he has a herniated disc, I usually hear "Ohh, they get that". No, he was injured and had surgery, then re-injured himself. And now I am going through some scary health stuff that's still a mystery. Even my own mother is critical of the idea of spending lots of money on the health issues. If it turns out he has cancer, or something similar, there's no way she would understand me spending my meager income on saving him. As long as he has quality of life, and not in pain, I would do whatever it takes. Because he's the better part of my soul.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 19 2011 |

I know I have personally had to deal with things like this and I see people doing it to others and I am saddened by it. I see and old dog and my reaction isn't "OMG its old and you should get rid of it." I go up and if the owners are okay with it I love to hug them and tell them they are so handsome/pretty and I bet they are the best dog ever. because at that point even if the dog looks like it doesn't have much longer it isn't for me to say what the owner should do. And you can see the owners stiffen as you approach. They've heard it all before and they know. That's their family so the best thing to do is praise sweet words and affection which is all the dogs want to begin with.

Submitted by Janet | December 20 2011 |

Loved what you wrote. Excellent way to support those of us who have been there. For me providing my darling almost 19 year somewhat blind & deaf, arthritic & semi senile Papillon, Chloe the hospice care she needed until she let me know she was ready to go to the Bridge was an honor. She deserved my every consideration for all the love she and I shared for so many years.

Submitted by Diana | December 20 2011 |

That was a bittersweet story....sad but true. We have lost 2 senior pets in the last couple of years.....Riley,Lab,15 yrs and Joe,cat,13 yrs. and it was very hard. They were just like the article said...sweet and loving to the end.

Submitted by Mindy | December 20 2011 |

My favorite comment from a passerby came from an extremely helpful woman who noticed that our 11 year old lab shepherd mix, Zack, was limping along at a fast pace.

The woman went out of her way to stop me and ask "Is your dog alright? Should you be walking him on the trail today?" I said he was fine, and asked why she was concerned. She replied, as if I was a completely irresponsible pet parent, "well, didn't you notice your dog is limping?" To which I replied to this very observant person, "Well, yes, but didn't you notice he only has three legs?".

Needless to say, she left quickly, and I'm guessing that she was less quick to judge in the future.

Submitted by Denise S. | December 20 2011 |

All I can say, as the tears run down my face, is "Thank You". :)

Submitted by Marc | December 20 2011 |

my sentiments exactly! some people will just never understand!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 20 2011 |

Beautful! Thank you!!! I just put my 15 year old sweetheart that I had since she fit in the palm of my hand to rest. The hardest thing I have ever ever had to do. I too had comments that should have been left unsaid. Like want me to run her to the vet for you? You should put her to sleep now. Well, no not til I was ready...til she was ready and we all know when that time is...you see it in their cute little faces. Sure she was blind and senile and had accidents but I to someday will probably do the same thing!
Thanks for the lovely article!

Submitted by Chris O. | December 20 2011 |

My beagle Sonny endured many health problems in his life. He had a weight problem because of thyroid issues. That weight problem led to having both of his front knees being rebuilt, as well as a ruptured disc in his back. Living in New York City, arguably the Unsolicited Comment Capital Of The World, Sonny and I got our share of crass, ridiculous, judgmental and offensive things said to us. "How could you let him get so fat?" "He can't walk." "He's lazy." The worst one was, "What did you DO to him?" That's the one that made me LOSE it. "What I DID to him was spend upwards of 15 thousand dollars re-building his knees and back, giving him three medications twice a day, take him to physical therapy for six months, AND I've carried this 40 pound dog up and down three flights of stairs three times a day for FIVE YEARS when YOU probably would have stuck a needle in him and killed him out of 'convenience'! That's what I DID to this dog." That lucid moment came only after years of hearing stupid comments from people, and I just couldn't take it anymore. The woman who made that comment apologized profusely and slunk away. Sonny lived in discomfort, for sure. But he was so filled with love even when his body turned on him in every conceivable way. Still loved to play, to beg for food, to sit on my lap and watch movies with me, to sleep with me, and to kiss my face incessantly. He was the definition of unconditional love, and perseverance in the face of adversity. Sonny passed away October of 2010. He lived to be 14 years and 9 months, of liver failure. But right to the end, he was loving, and deeply loved by all who knew him. Having an elderly dog has made me a more compassionate and better person. And in the end I can only feel pity for those shut down people that scorn old dogs. They don't have the vision or the capacity to realize how much love these older dogs give, and how much they can teach us about how to be better human beings.

Submitted by Lisa | December 20 2011 |

Chris, I am sorry about the loss of your beloved Sonny. I understand your frustration over the comments and applaud you for sticking up for Sonny and yourself. Unfortunately, I'm sure I will be pushed to the breaking point myself one day and it's kind of nice to know I'm not the only one.

Submitted by Jen Bajackson | December 20 2011 |

Beautiful and well written. Earlier this spring I was asked about one of my GSDs. When I replied that he was 13.5, the person's comment was "wow, you are going to lose him soon." By November, he was gone. I don't believe the person meant to be rude although I admit I was a little put off by the comment. I choose to view the comment as one of knowing what I was sometime soon going to go through. I think as a society we have become so free with "expressing ourselves" that the gates of sensitivity no longer work. Your examples of insensitive comments fall into the same category as telling someone who's mother just died that "she's in a better place" or "well, at least she's not suffering anymore." It would seem to me that a society that has gotten so good at expressing their thoughts, they would have found a better way to handle what is obviously a delicate situation - be it animal or human.

Submitted by Shannon | December 20 2011 |

Thank you! I am blessed to have two geriatric dogs in my family, Brandi, my 16-year old bulldog mix, and Bennie, my 14-year old beagle. I dread taking them to the dog park with my two younger dogs, because everyone looks at me like I'm torturing them. Even though she has a degenerative spinal cord condition, Brandi walks every inch of the park, first along the fences and then diagonally across the center. Bennie pitifully walks up to people, looks up with her big, hounddog eyes, and solicits as much attention as possible. I've even seen her feign a limp for sympathy.

Brandi wears boots which help her with traction on the wood floors at home and which keep her legs in proper alignment, keep her muscles working, and protect her nails from being dragged. Everyone who sees her feels that it's necessary to first talk amongst themselves about why she might be wearing them and then drill me with questions. I've even had people comment that she must not like them, because she is walking funny in them. I always say, "She's walking because of them. She might not be able to walk tomorrow."

Brandi is also thin, always has been, but now that she's older her face is bony. She is a strong, muscular dog, but has never had much of an appetite. I have actually sat on the floor and handfed her kibble (and canned food) one piece at a time. I have been asked why she's so thin and whether I feed her enough. Really, people????

I can't explain Bennie's need for affection at the dog park. It seems to be a skill that she just developed on her own. She's not particularly needy at home. She has some physical signs of a harsh youth. I rescued her at about 2 years old, nearly bald from malnutrition, heartworm positive, and with bone deformities from either a birth defect, malnutrition, neglect, or abuse. People have asked what's wrong with the way she walks when she occasionally limps or bunnyhops. I've stopped explaining the whole situation and just simply say that she's in no pain and receives regular veterinary exams.

Bennie also has a large fatty tumor on the side of her ribcage. People have pointed it out to me and asked if she had cancer. Again, I've gotten tired of explaining that the vet did a biopsy and confirmed that it was fatty tissue and needed be removed as long as it didn't bother her or impede her ability to walk. In fact, the vet doesn't suggest putting her under general anaesthetia for a non-life threatening lump. But, alas, I am a bad owner for allowing my old dog to become lumpy and bumpy, and even more so for bringing her out in public looking like that.

Needless to say, no one but me notices how much my two oldies enjoy the trips to the dog park. None of them know that they would be upset if I left them at home. They don't realize that the exercise is good for both of them, and that the change in routine is great for their moods. I would love for someone to just hug them or to note how fortunate I am to have had so long with them, or to compliment the dedication that it takes to keep an old dog healthy. I love my dogs more than anyone could ever love a pet. I would give anything to give them back time from their youth, and I cherish every day that I have with them. So, as long as they still love going to the dog park, I will continue to put up with the stupid and insensitive looks and comments of other people

Submitted by Anonymous | December 20 2011 |

Thank you for writing and sharing this. We just had to say good-bye to our 13.5 year old Siberian Husky on Saturday after a slow but steady decline in her health. Making the call about when to let go is difficult and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to letting go. The general assumption that old means uncomfortable, out of it, or in pain is so wrong. Living with a geriatric companion animal is difficult but so very rewarding. They do indeed grow sweeter and more adorable as they age. We could not have loved ours any more, which is why we found the courage to let her go.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 24 2011 |

My heart goes out to you. As a veterinarian, I often say just what you said, about there not being a one size-fits-all approach. I applaud all pet lovers who find the courage to make the difficult decision to have a pet euthanized. It takes great courage, and in my experience, can be one of life's most painful and personal experiences. I frequently tell my clients to listen to their hearts as they try to make a decision about when, where, and how their pets will die. Choosing whether or not these gentle friends will die isn't really our choice to make, but we do have choices about the circumstances of death. Nobody wants to make that choice a single minute before they must. But nor do they want to do it after they should have. To me, this article is about exactly that - pet lovers deserve so much patience and compassion as they tune into their own hearts. The final months, weeks, and days of a pet's life can become the most precious of memories, if one can but make peace with the fact that our beloved pet cannot walk our entire life's journey with us. It just can't hurt that bad to say good bye if it hasn't been really, truly wonderful to have had the pet in the first place.

Submitted by Lisa | December 20 2011 |

This article and many of the comments really hits home with me. I am owned by 2 great danes and they tend to draw a lot of attention and after the "that dog needs a saddle", "how much do they eat/poop/weigh?" the next statement/question is always "they have short lifespan don't they?" I try very hard to be nice and say that average lifespan is typically lower than smaller dogs but some danes live to be 12-14. Instead of letting it go, many people insist that is not the norm and then ask how old my danes are now as if gauging when my dogs will die in front of me. It truly breaks my heart and the older they get (my male is 3 1/2, my female almost 3) the more these comments will bother me. I know the health issues, lifespan averages, etc because unlike many dog owners I did my research on the breed before adopting one. Please don't treat me like an idiot or my dog like dead-dog walking.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 20 2011 |

This story is so heartfelt and true. I deal with this on a day to day basis. I have a great dane that recently turned 6 years old. She is mostly black and her gray started showing early on her face (at about 3 years old). Even before the gray started showing people would randomly say "but that breed doesn't live very long". Now seeing as I work in a vet clinic and have had great danes before, I am well aware of their lifespan but do you have to point it out??? Now when I tell people she is 6 the comment is "oh she probably won't live much longer". Really?!?! She is my baby and I have had her since she was 9 weeks old. I don't need people reminding me that she is getting older.

Submitted by Lisa R-D | December 20 2011 |

As I sit here waiting on word from the surgeon about our rescued dog, I am touched by such an article. Our dog was told to be four. She is visibly older but I don't care, I love her anyway. I was so upset to have someone tell me that I was fooled into getting bag of bones. Why would such a person say that to me? I love our dog and she is having surgery to prolong her life.
She breathes heavy because she was left on a tight chain that left her larynx short and tight and she will get surgery to fix this.
She looks old because she was underfed, she is now 15 lbs heavier than when we got her.
She is losing her fur? No, actually she had no fur when we got her but thanks to The Big Dog Ranch, she is getting medication and the fur you see is new fur.
So I wish people would consider this when they say such rude things ...thank you for this article. I needed it.

Submitted by Talitha | December 20 2011 |

What a touching story and how recognizable... My girl is a 2 year old Great Dane and I have been getting comments from litteraly day one; 'what a shame she won't get old'. Saying this to someone walking a 10 week old puppy is about the dumbest thing I could think of!! How about ' what a cure puppy'! And now that she's two, a comment I recently got was; 'aha, she's two now? So she's almost at half time'. People can be a disgusting breed!!

Talitha from the Netherlands

Submitted by Rhonda | December 21 2011 |

I have an 8 1/2 yr old gigantic 210lb great dane. He is in great health, except for his hips. He suffered a knee infection at 6 months and consequently, his rear legs were underdeveloped, in addition to genetic hip dysplasia. He has a greyed muzzle, and gets around very slowly. He is obviously a senior dane. We lost his lifetime girlfriend (also a great dane) last year at 7 1/2 years after treating her for lymphoma with chemotherapy. I have heard all of the comments. Yes, I am aware that Danes have a short life expectancy. And yes, I did know that when I committed to chemo treatment (which is not cheap for a 120lb sweetheart!) It broke my heart everyday to know that the end was coming. I did not need to hear that I was crazy for spending that much money on "a dog". I have searched relentlessly for a harness for my big guy to help him up off the floor, which gets harder for him everyday (I finally was able to get one custom made..it just arrived yesterday!) The comments I hear about the money we spend, or the fact that we will not kennel him just so we can take a weekend trip, or "you know they don't live very long don't you???" just amaze me. I have chosen to have dogs instead of children. I would never ask someone with a handicapped child how long they expected him to live, or if they really thought he was worth the money.

Submitted by Pup Fan | December 21 2011 |

Absolutely wonderful post - from my experience, people do not think before they speak, and I think this is a much-needed reminder. (Also, I got teary reading all of the comments, and wish I could hug all of my fellow dog lovers.)

Submitted by Anonymous | December 21 2011 |

Omg. I never respond to these articles, but I'm in tears. I have older German shepherds and the comments people make sometimes floor me. I'm rarely rendered speechless, but comments about my dog's age stop me in my tracks. Come on you people..be nice. They know what you're saying. They're smart. Thanks.

Submitted by Diane McGregor | December 21 2011 |

Thank you for sharing this - having just been through the 3 mos long ordeal of watching my elderbull die of liver cancer, your last paragraph really said it straight: "The last years and months we share with our geriatric dogs are among the most bittersweet times in a dog lovers' lives...." The dog itself, being the wise and sensitive soul that it is, knows that he/she must leave soon, and I think the dogs are torn up about that -- they don't want to leave their family unprotected. My dog hung on as long as she could, and then we had to do the right thing and let her die with love, peace, and dignity. God, I'll never forget her!

Submitted by Melanie | February 3 2013 |

I just lost our beautiful golden retriever of 14 years. At the end you could tell our sweet Georgia was so torn about leaving us. She followed me around, however looked for a small dark place to die. I miss her so much....I cry about her loss everyday. I think I see her and hear her....I know her spirit is still with us.

Submitted by frankie michell... | December 21 2011 |

My border collie just turned 16. One week after her birthday I found out she is in renal failure. It's hard enough for us to face the inevitable truth that our furkids must die too early for us - but then to hear the ramblings of people who just don't understand. I wish people would do what I do = When I meet an elderly dog I simply say to the owner "what a graceful old lady or man" and give them a gentle rub on the ear.

Submitted by Mom of 4 furkids | December 21 2011 |

All I can say is I've been there and AMEN!

Submitted by www.petelf.com | December 21 2011 |

Very beautiful article! I lost both of my dogs in the last couple years, and heard many of these remarks. Thanks for the reminder that a little compassion goes a long way. And your remark about them getting sweeter as they get older is so true. I still miss mine daily, and it's been 2 years for my sweet lab, and 1.5 years for my sweet border collie.

Submitted by snickdog | December 21 2011 |

Way to make me cry, really.

We have a houseful of geriatrics and are facing so many passings lately I can't stand it. What makes it worse is that our crew still LOOKS young - genetics and good care are not only helping but hurting, as medical issues are not as aggressively investigated by vets (because, DAMN, they look good for their age) and admonitions to other pet owners while walking ("she's NOT a hampy canmper, please call your dog before she takes his face off") are met with incredulous looks.

Vets need to heed our "there IS something that's not quite right" calls so we can catch things -people need to understand that there's way more under the surface sometimes ...

Submitted by Anonymous | December 21 2011 |

We had a dog. She was born in our home after a poodle came to visit our purebred female Lhasa apso who was tied up.
She wiggle her way in my mom's heart at 5 weeks old by demanding to be let into her bed while she napped.
Mom Warned her as she picked her up that if she peed in the bed, she would be one sorry little puppy.
She never did. After that, she was mom's favorite.
I was 11 yrs old.
I'm now 28(less then a week from 29).
Said puppy passed on just 3 weeks ago.
Until the end she loved life to the fullest.
She was my sister, not our dog.
In the end her sight was blurry from cateracts, so mom left things the same so she learnt where things were.
Her hearing was gone, but she still found mom when she had to.
She was old, slept a lot, ate little, but loved with all her heart.
People use to comment. The one that pissed me off was "don't you feed her?".
See, she started "wasting away". Vet said she was in no pain but eventually her body would just tire out.
It finally did.....in the arms of the woman that welcomed her into bed 17yrs ago.
The woman that,that dog, would of gave her life for.
My mother was her mom and that dog was her child.
We lost the mom to a car after she escaped my lease when her baby was only 6 months old and she 2.
But she gave us the greatest gift, the love of a lifetime.
People say to be happy we had 17 yrs. That it could have been shorter.
But at the end of the day......no time is ever long enough.
Thanks for the article. It gives honor to those that deserve it.

The ones that spent their lives loving us unconditionally.
Grey snouts and all.

Submitted by Lynn | December 22 2011 |

What a wonderful article. I have an 11 yr old boxer x mastiff who suffers from epilepsy and cushings. Yes life is hard sometimes, but I would not change it for the world. He means everything to our family and in alot of ways he is the cornerstone of the family. We will do everything in our power to keep him around for as long as possable.
When we have been invited to anywhere that requires us traveling any distance we refuse because leaving him for anything over 2 hours would be to much. I know extended family wonder why we do this, but I just don't care I would rather spend time in his company than with people that will not even try to understand how much he means to us.

As for walking, well because of the cushings he needs to pee an awful lot and one insensative neighbour wrote in chalk on the pavement (she obviously does not realise that she does not own this) no dog pee
to which my boy saw it as a target and well you can guess the rest. We always clean up the number 2 but don't quite know what she wants us to do with the pee, maybe walk around ghost buster style with a jet wash straped to our backs. But for the most part all our other neighbours are lovely and always comment on how lovely it is to see him, as much a part of their routine as it is ours.

Submitted by Crystal Davis | December 22 2011 |

This actually made me cry. We lost our dog about about 9 years ago and me and my husband both cried for days. He was 11 years old but list his beautiful hair and had a tumor growing from his liver that filled his body so much he got to where he couldn't walk. This killed us and we still hurt over it. We now have four dogs a golden retriever, Australian Shepard, Pomeranian and my little 11 year old yorkie. All four dogs are our kids and all four sleep with us. I dread the day we lose them. My yorkie has had bad allergies since she was one year old and we have spent a fortune in medicine for this and had to watch her suffer from scratching the medicine helps somewhat but not completely so I put itching cream on her and a little shirt that is soft so she doesn't rub her belly raw. Some people think that due to this problem and the cost we should put her down. But I will not do that until she she can't go on and I will continue to love her and go into debt to make her comfortable. Some do not understand how we can do this. We love our dogs and got them because we live animals so much and you would kill your children because they had expensive medical problems. Our dogs greet us with excitement when we walk into the house. They give us live and joy like any of our kids. People need to think before they speak and understand we love our dogs as they are our family. Thanks for the artical even tho it made me cry for my lost dog and how so many animals are abused

Submitted by Maureen and dav... | December 22 2011 |

We have a 17 years old Lhasa Apso who is deaf, blind and senile. It's very sad to see her walking around aimlessly, knocking into stuff and not recognising us anymore. People have told us to put her to sleep but I have been tempted to ask them..."Would you put yr mum/dad/grandparents down if they are in this situation?"

We recently lost our 13 year old maltese to kidney failure in August 2011 after 1 year of intensive daily subcutaneous infusion and medication (enough to open a small pharmacy) and spend lots of time with him before he passed on.

It's easier to take the easy road out, put them down, many have done that in these situations but our 2 dogs have given us so much joy when they are young, how can you abandone them when they need us most.

Thanks for writing the article...yes there are a lot of insensitive non-dog people out there.

Submitted by kristin | December 23 2011 |

I love your article. Very touching and sensitive, and made me realize that those comments bring out the sarcastic in me, yet I say nothing. These people, that say stupid things like that, are more concerned with appearing to be experts on observing the obvious, than they care about the pup, or their two legged momma or poppa.

I've endured many stupid comments like that too: comments about putting boots on them in the winter because people oversalt the sidewalks, or putting a jacket on them in minus 40 because they don't have the body fat they used to have to keep them warm. I was tired of explaining that I'm not a lonely childless woman who is trying to make up for not having children.... I love the fact that my dog is a dog... and I have assumed complete and utter responsibility for them....that includes recognizing their mortality from day one.

I think that once my two rowdy girls get old, if someone says something to me about it, I may just say "yeah.....so????"

Submitted by Anonymous | December 23 2011 |

When was the last time any of you read an article or anything else for that matter that didn't involve dogs? Just because your dog gives you un conditional love without a word does not mean they are not suffering and you keep them that way WHY??? Think about it!

Submitted by Dick C. in Mobi... | December 24 2011 |

My son and I 'share custody' of his dog who is just a mutt he saved from sure death almost 16 years ago. He (the dog) spends about half of each week with me and half with his 'Dad'. As I sit here and type this I look over at the chair beside my desk and there he is, sound asleep. As I look at him the one thing that immediately comes to mind is how precious he is and how much I love him.

Thank you for this article.

Submitted by The Barney Dog | December 26 2011 |

Thanks for this. My older sister, Tomodachi, is 11. I am 10. Fred is 9 and the baby sister, Yuki, is almost a year. I was diagnosed with cancer last March and when the vet said "We can understand if you opted not to treat Barney," my dad said "We will sell everything we own before we let this dog die." That felt pretty darn good. The chemo? Not so much but I AM in remission. You can read my blog here - http://fightingk9lymphoma.blogspot.com/

I know the cancer will come back someday. It's lymphoma. It'll be back. I only hope that if it's not worth it for me to get up every day, to stroll through the backyard (I don't have to be able to run), smell what I can, and play with my siblings, that my parents will do what they know is right. If I am in too much pain, they'll know. If they keep me alive because it'll make THEM feel better, that'll be hard to take. But I know they'll do the right thing. Because they love me. I can feel it.

Submitted by The Barney Dog | December 26 2011 |

Thanks for this. My older sister, Tomodachi, is 11. I am 10. Fred is 9 and the baby sister, Yuki, is almost a year. I was diagnosed with cancer last March and when the vet said "We can understand if you opted not to treat Barney," my dad said "We will sell everything we own before we let this dog die." That felt pretty darn good. The chemo? Not so much but I AM in remission. You can read my blog here - http://fightingk9lymphoma.blogspot.com/

I know the cancer will come back someday. It's lymphoma. It'll be back. I only hope that if it's not worth it for me to get up every day, to stroll through the backyard (I don't have to be able to run), smell what I can, and play with my siblings, that my parents will do what they know is right. If I am in too much pain, they'll know. If they keep me alive because it'll make THEM feel better, that'll be hard to take. But I know they'll do the right thing. Because they love me. I can feel it.

Submitted by Melissa from Bu... | December 28 2011 |

Beautifully stated. 6 days ago, I lost my best friend of nearly 16 years. I feel as if my heart died with him. Leary didn't look his age at all, so we were lucky not to have to endure the "your dog sure is old" comments. But we did have to deal with the "maybe you should put your dog down" comments, mainly from those who barely knew him and/or had no pets of their own. These comments usually came from uninformed people who couldn't comprehend why would would give up traveling or putting ourselves first over the past couple of years while we cared for a geriatric canine. Leary had many of the ailments that accompany old age, but he did not suffer. When he did eventually begin to show signs of suffering from a tumor he'd developed on his spleen, we called our vet, who came to our house and let Leary go while we held him in our arms. He got loads of treats and everything he wanted in his final hours, and through our grief, we somehow still feel a flickering glow of happiness at the joy he brought to our lives. Many people don't understand the extra love and stress that goes into caring for a dog in its final years. As you said, they are some of the most bittersweet times in dog lovers' lives. Since Leary's passing, I especially remember and am grateful for those who practiced compassion rather than judgement.

Submitted by Katzenwoofers | December 31 2011 |

Thank you. I lost my best friend of 13 years last week, and you've described our experience perfectly.

Submitted by Barb | January 4 2012 |

I lost my 17 year old Westie in August. I took her everywhere. I bought her a buggy and she would ride when I took my two males on our walks. I never left her home. She enjoyed life up until the end. She would have died sooner if I hadn't kept her going.

You wrote a beautiful article. Thank You!

Submitted by Carrie | January 4 2012 |

I have a dog that was born blind and from the beginning people asked why I didn't put him down when he was born. Horrible thing to say. My blind baby is now 7 years old and a great joy. I have an 11 year old also that I'm starting to worry about but I would endure the comments as long as it meant I still had time with him. I lost a dog of 6 years suddenly 2 years ago. He stopped eating and 3 weeks later he was gone, we never even found out what was wrong. I miss him terribly everyday still because we didn't get to grow old together.

Submitted by Kane | January 19 2012 |

Hi Carrie
I totally understand when you say that you're worrying about your 11 year old dog. I'm also worrying about
my 11 year old guy. I think only dog people can really understand how we truly feel. Some days he's doing really good, playing with my other two dogs, 3 and 8 yrs but I do worry that he's in pain and not letting me know, it's hard. I think that we're harder on ourselves thinking that we're not doing enough for them. They probably say listen you have given me this great life and taken care of all my needs so relax and enjoy our
days together.

Have a nice day Carrie :)

Submitted by Megan & Caleb | January 4 2012 |

When you live with gereatric pets you develop a love and appreciation for all thier wisdom and grace. I have a soft spot for old souls and whenever someone tells me about their aging animal or we meet one out and about my comment is always the same "what a lucky dog to have such a caring human in their corner he/she looks great". I believe that is the only appropriate response.

Submitted by Clare Metcalf | January 4 2012 |

Thank you for this insightful article. I teach Animal Communication and the very first thing I insist upon at the beginning of each workshop is unconditional and total loving respect, first & foremost for the wonderful animal teachers who agree to help them learn, then for the humans who accompany them, then for each other (There's no such thing as a stupid answer) and finally for me.

If a complete stranger walked up to us and said "You look really old" or "you are too fat to be healthy" we'd be incensed. It's time we all took a stand on behalf of our animal friends, until the whole world can hear their own replies!

They're not old, they're experienced!
Much love
Clare

Submitted by Angie | January 17 2012 |

I love tis article. Right now my little best friend of 14 years is recovering from eye surgery and vestibular disease. This is the first sign she has exhibited that she is getting up there in age. My Rat Terrier still acts like a puppy. I don't care what people say about spending money for surgery, running home from work just to put drops in here eye. If I hadn't done this she would still be suffering. Now the only thing she suffered from is the cone collar, boy she hates it. But, it is protecting her, I can live with that. I have had her 13 years. She is my baby, my best friend. I agree, she has gotten sweeter with age. Anyone who hasn't had this kind of love from a dog, just can't understand, they don't get it. I too but a pet buggy to take her out when she got sick, but I don't think she is going to need it, not just yet. She getting better.
Back to the topic, I got her from my boss at the Nursing Home I worked at. Years later I saw the boss, she said, "I can't believe you still have that dog" Chyna remembered h wanted to see her and she basically looked the other way, ignored her. I was hurt by that, can you believe it. I wanted her to be happy to see her and fuss over her. She didn't and I was hurt. Silly? - NOT; I thought she was rude. But I didn't say anything, kept it too myself. Needless to say I won't be taking her back to see her.
Thank you for your article

Submitted by allie | January 22 2012 |

I just recently lost my 16 1/2 year old rescue German Sheperd/Chow mix named "Billy" on 9/11/11. He was such a strong, brave boy and he was himself until the end except his body was starting to show signs of slowing down, arthritis, trouble with going up and down stairs, incontinence (losing control of bladder).
He was still the wild & crazy ol' boy he always was just a little more mellow. His body was slowing down but his mind was razor sharp, he still found joy in all the usual food, walks, hugs, car rides, playing with his toys, etc.
I had to put up with insensitive people for the last year or so of his life. I couldn't believe how rude people were with their comments - oh aren't you selfish- he lived a long life, etc,. My response to them was if your mother or grandmother was having trouble going up and down stairs and had trouble holding their bladder but still ENJOYED their life would you get a gun and put her out of her "misery" NO!!!! I had one final way to shut them up for good - i told the insensitive jerks - I would rather clean his poop a few times a day for the rest of my life if i had to -just to have him as long as I possibly could. Because once he is gone I would be wishing to clean up his "accidents". People would do anything to have just have one more minute with their beloved pets once they are gone. I also do not have children - he was my son. They knew how much he meant to me. I was so upset by these insensitive souls, but actually I felt pity for them - for they will never experience a true, deep love like that. I think they are selfish and would never understand what it is to sacrifice - to take care of our babies in sickness and in health and not abandon them in their golden years.
I think the people caring for their geriatric pets are so special - we have a true bond and we will be by their side until the end. Also, another thing that really ticks me off is the shelters full of geriatric pets, the ones that selfish people give up on because it is too much "work" to care for a geriatric pet. They are disgusting human beings. I think all of us who care/cared for geriatric pets should hold our heads up high and be proud that we are responsible pet parents and we put the needs of our pets first.
After all, it is easy to adopt a cute, lively, fluffy puppy but people need to realize that one day that puppy will grow up and become a senior. Some people do not want their "puppy" when he reaches adulthood and surrender them to overcrowded animal shelters. They are disgusting excuses for human beings - they seem to be the ones who question us that care for our elderly pets. They are way to SELFISH to ever understand why we do what we do.

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