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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 Suzanna Tuesdai | February 22 2011 |

Near the end, while sitting reading this article in a public cafe, I teared up. As a previous owner of a very geriatic golden retriever, and friend of a couple who ONLY adopted geriatic golden retreivers, I encountered this situation everytime I let someone in my house. I knew she was old everytime she took a little longer than the other younger dogs to get up and hobble over for attention from the visitors, and I definitely didn't need them to remind me of the differences between her and our two year old australian shepherd. I miss her every day, and look to the future with our 3 and 2 year old dogs with some trepidation, but know the heartbreak is worth it for all the years of laughter, love and comfort.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 27 2011 |

I guess I'm lucky or maybe it's because I'm usually in dog parks with other dog owners but I've never heard anything but kind wordsnin relation to my 14 and a half year old staffordshire boxer mix. Comments such as wow, she's doing great, she's so cute, and discussions about her arthritis and what to do about it are all I've heard. Hmm, maybe the operative phrase here is "other dog owners." those who get it, that is.

Submitted by Cathy | February 22 2011 |

Our dogs don't get old. They're just young for a very long time.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 22 2011 |

Thank you for that insightful article. I hope I am never one of the impolite people who say that about someone's dog because I know how it would make me feel. I try to be sensitive about what I say about old animals and old people. Just months before my Mother died someone asked in front of her just how long people in her family live and did I think she would make it. Cruel people. I love my dogs and wish they could live forever, but alas, they don't even live as long as we do so our hearts will be broken many times.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 22 2011 |

Very interesting post. I have had just the opposite experience. Wonder if geography has something to do with it? I live in a very dog-friendly (dogs are part of the family) location. I just lost my older golden last September, he was almost 17. I did get comments asking me how old he was, but I looked at it differently. I was proud that my dog had lived to be old enough to be asked that question. And, invariably, the response was "Wow, that's great, especially for a big dog, you must take really good care of him." Yes, the underlying sentiment that the dog isn't going to last much longer is always there, but is it there because people say it or because we fear/know it, or both? Just a thought. I started fearing that when my golden reached 10, and I had almost 7 more great years.

Submitted by Geek Hillbilly | February 22 2011 |

My dog Sugar was just shy of 18 when she passed on,in my arms where she wanted to be.For years I have been caring for her as I knew that she had outlived any other dog I ever had.
An older dog requires more care,but it is worth the effort.Anything less would be a betrayal of the loyalty & trust given by the dog over the years.
Now with a foundling Chihuahua who gave birth to 2 of the tiniest puppies I have ever seen,my life is again filled with the joy of having a dog in the home.

Pictures of all my dogs can be found on twitpic

Submitted by Tiffani | February 22 2011 |

I have an old dog and she is not my first. When I see someone with an old dog (or cat), I will ask them the age. And then I always say "you can be so proud of that". It's meant as a compliment to the owner for taking such great care of the pet and loving it no matter what it's age or physical condition.

Submitted by S | February 22 2011 |

My dog, a rescue Italian Greyhound-Jack Russell mix who has 3 legs (her front right leg was injured beyond repair prior to our meeting) is also a lovely senior dog. Your article really struck a chord with me because we get all sorts of comments out on walks - things I would never think of saying to people and/or dogs. When I get angry about the stupid things that stupid people say, I remind myself that our veterinarian tells me that I'm doing a wonderful job keeping her healthy. I wish people had better manners...like dogs...dogs have excellent manners at all times!

Submitted by pointypix | February 23 2011 |

I saw a link to this via the oldies club on facebook and just got totally choked reading it. We have two young dogs (1 & 1/2) and i hope we have them for many many years yet but even now i sometimes find myself stroking Reuben's hesd as he sleeps on my knee of an evening and feeling my heart sink at just the thought of the day when he or hie wee sister, Brodie are no longer there. Ultimately most dogs are nicer people than most people.

Submitted by Geek Hillbilly | February 23 2011 |

In case you want to see Sally's pups and my other dogs,here is the url

http://twitpic.com/42zih1

Submitted by Marie / Muttvil... | February 23 2011 |

I am proud to say that the organization I work with, Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, understands this story completely and we have made it our mission to educate people about the wonderful benefits of adopting older dogs. We're happy to report our success stories, almost 900 seniors rescued and adopted to date!

Thank you Susan for this beautiful piece you've written, thanks for speaking for the older dogs, and we hope that we might have the opportunity to align our efforts to spread the word about how wonderful senior dogs are!

Submitted by Shelah, Happy H... | February 23 2011 |

Beautifully and timely written!

As the proud mom of a senior dog, and a canine massage therapist, I see the effects of aging on our companions every day. As senior dog 'parents' or caregivers it's easy for us to point out others' faux pas and say tsk tsk, but here you've given some compassionate and constructive ideas for how people can deal with their own discomfort (and hopefully unintended) ignorance.

Thank you!

Shelah Barr
CMT/ABW/SAMP
www.HappyHoundsMassage.com
Shelah@HappyHoundsMassage.com

Submitted by Carolyn | February 24 2011 |

Very moving piece. My little dog is about 11 years old ... and now has heart disease. She coughs a lot and moves more slowly. Each day is precious.

Submitted by Bumper's mom | February 25 2011 |

Great article! We lost our beloved Bumper in August to Cancer. She has a spindle cell tumor that grew to the size of a basketball on her back. There were times I would come home crying from the people who would stop their cars to stare at us while we were walking. Bumper loved car rides, so we'd take her to local pet stores.... And almost always some rude customer would make a totally inappropriate comment.....
Bumper and our new doggie love Frankie are pit bulls - and their breed is also a common point for stupid comments from strangers!
Thanks for showing we're not alone in this!

Submitted by CHARLOTTE PERMENTER | February 25 2011 |

My neghbors where I live dont like me because I am the proud loving Momma of 5 Staffys, they consider my dogs vicious simply because of their breed, Im am so tired of peoples ignorance, my 6month old puppy ran outside the other day because med transport was here dropping Grandma off from dialysis and my baby wanted to greet her with lots of love and energy, as my puppy is jumping and licking my Mom the neighbor comes outside and shouts "YOU NEED TO CHAIN THAT THING UP BEFORE I CALL THE ANIMAL CONTROL!" Are you kidding me? chain my dog up? so my reply was " why dont you mind your businss and get inside, if your so scared why did you come outside?" I know the answer to that question already,its because my dogs are "pitbulls" and for that reason my family is public enemy#1, we are subjected to ignorance and criticism whenever we step outside. we paid over 400k for our house but Im ready to move to a place that is more accepting of my family.

Submitted by AnnS | February 25 2011 |

Charlotte, I am so sorry you have to contend with such ignorance. Some people are just plain stupid and believe everything the media dishes out.

Submitted by Jim | February 26 2011 |

What idiots you have for neighbors. If I were your neighbor, I'd be bugging you constantly to play with your staffies. What wonderful, loving dogs!

Submitted by Julie | December 9 2011 |

Charlotte, I'd welcome you in my neighborhood anytime. I have two pibbles as does a neighbor down the street. We have trained our dogs to be great ambassadors and they know no enemies in this neighborhood. Everybody loves our dogs! Any chance you live in Northern California? There are a couple of houses for sale around here..... ;o)

Submitted by Sarah B | February 25 2011 |

On the other hand, when my sweet basset mix was almost 16 and had just had surgery for a malignant tumor, from which I knew he would ultimately die, strangers who saw his scar often shared their own tales of love, aging, and loss in the dog world. It was a great comfort to find so much company in the sad, but wonderful last few months of Ralph's life. I made some great friends and had some deep conversations about the nature of life and death and love.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 27 2011 |

Thank you for your response. It made good sense. Death is part of life and we might as well treat it as such and not try to pretend there ought to be some special exemption in conversation about an aging animal. For the most part, people want to say the right thing, but they might not. They shouldn't be condemned for striking up a conversation.

I'm not sure I understand the point of the article. As animal guardians, we have to live with the elderly, sick, or infirm creature. People are going to ask questions. Some people understand because they've had experience and some people don't because they haven't. Some people are just plain ignorant. But to expect people to say exactly the right thing about an animal or say nothing at all is unreasonable. If one is so easily insulted, maybe staying away from people who might ask questions is the only solution.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 2 2011 |

As the owner (slave?) of well-bred, well-trained, well-behaved Dobermans, I completely sympathize with the author of this article -- regarding both the joy and heartbreak of living with an aged companion, and the reactions of some people to that companion. One gets so tired of ignorant or ill-meaning remarks. One does NOT expect strangers to "say exactly the right thing about an animal," but a little thought before saying something downright rude -- or saying nothing at all -- would be appreciated.

Submitted by Robin | December 21 2011 |

I am currently the slave/Mama of 2 Dobermans myself and I have had to deal with insensitive comments from all sorts of people over my dogs, I lost a Doberman who was just over 2 yrs old to DCM (I had to release him) but during the time time that we were trying so hard to save him, I was continually disgusted by the remarks I got about what a sin it was to spend what we were spending on him... At the same time as we were dealing with his issues my 21 year old beagle boy was failing, and had become incontinent, yet he still loved his food, pushing his subjects (dobermans) around and dancing for Mama when I got home.... The last thing I needed was for all these (not) so well meaning people to tell me how much easier it would be to just have them both put down. I knew far better than they did that I was going to have to deal with the loss of my babies soon and that it would be my duty to trade their pain for mine.... sometimes I hate people!

Submitted by Anonymous | July 2 2012 |

One day I saw a woman asleep in front of the local laundermat. I woke her up and asked if she was ok. She replied yes and went back to sleep. Hours later I passed her again and she was stumbling down the block and intermittantly leaning against the wall. I called 911 immediatley. Where were all these wonderful caring people who make comments about my beautiful geriatric dog every time I walk him? It's sad that people make comments about a dog who is being cared for but will completely ignore a situation where their response could be life-saving. Genuine concern for other living creatures and nosinenss are indeed mutually exclusive.

Submitted by Larry A. Tilander | February 25 2011 |

I know how the author feels.

Dreams

He hunts through forests filled with game and tracks down every deer
No buck can move too quietly, the slightest sound he'll hear
He runs through brush and over swamps, he leaps o're fences high
Up hills and down his feet so swift he often seems to fly

My ragged, matted, crippled Butch beneath the table lies
His mouth all full of rotted teeth, while goo drips from his eyes
He writhes and scratches at the floor, then whimpers from the pain
But I know in his dreams, as mine, we hunt as one again

For old I am, and ravaged too, all bent, and stiff, and lame
So I just sit and watch the youths go out in search of game
They say, come let us shoot the mutt and end his misery
But when I see him chasing dreams I'd rather they shoot me

Submitted by Dee | December 14 2011 |

You made me cry Larry...Yep I'd rather they shoot me

Submitted by Essie | September 12 2013 |

Thank you. Beautiful.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 25 2011 |

thank you

Submitted by bettina | February 26 2011 |

WONDERFUL article! THANK YOU for this.

I had an old dog. I lost him 7/16/09 at age 16 and 7 months. We battled glaucoma in one eye, vestibular disease, cushings, and then lymphoma. I know how insensitive people can be. People thought I was crazy for all the care I gave, and money I spent. Some made comments about me treating his cushings, and even worse, that we treated his lymphoma (which got us 8 cancer free GOOD months). He was old... they didn't know why I would bother or why I would "put him through" that. I made choices for Niko that I believed he would have made for himself. His quality of life was the most important thing in the world to me... did they not consider that?! I knew where to draw the lines, but with excellent vet care, acupuncture, and a homemade diet, my 16 1/2 yr old dog walked over a mile each evening, until the last week of his life. Those passer-byres were astounded to learn of his age.

I lost my heart the day I lost my Niko, but am forever grateful for having been privileged enough to have spent all his years with him, including the senior ones where I was finally able to 'give back' to him for all he gave me.

http://rememberingniko.wordpress.com/

Submitted by Jessie | September 12 2013 |

Niko's site is lovely. What a handsome boy; thank you for sharing.

Submitted by HubbWash | March 4 2011 |

I have a 24 year old tea cup poodle (DEE DEE). She is a prissy thing. She was left to me by and Old Friend who passed about 9 years ago. She was 15 when i got her and she loves to get groomed and lay around and be preety. She is lively and spunky and her new vet ( because of relocation can not beleive she has lasted so long. She has lost some teeth as we all do when we get old..lol.. but she remains to be the spunky old girl that my family has grown to love. It makes me kind of angry when she gets refused service from well know places like Petsmart etc for grooming because of her age. I was turned away and she seemed more disapointed than i was. She heard the dog clippers and got excited because she loves looking pretty.. You should have seen her face when i left my younger dog there and put her on the leash to walk her out the door... It sucked... So now i have found her a doggie spa... Thants Petsmart, she gets a full service for the same price.. I LOVE MY DOGS....

Submitted by kimbev69 | May 11 2011 |

I love your comment here...i hope Dee Dee is still enjoying her spa days...and screw that place...how sad..you would think they would understand...well better for Dee Dee ... <3

Submitted by Denise | December 14 2011 |

24? Congratulations!! That's awesome....don't ever let anyone treat your baby like crapola! I cannot believe that she was refused service! I'd refuse to ever go there again! Poor baby. I'm sure she's so beautiful!

Submitted by EllasMom | April 24 2011 |

This was a nice article! A good friend of mine had an elderly dog at the same time I did, and we regularly took the two of them out together. We practiced the buddy system when it came to derisive comments. My serene Great Dane mix, and her gentlemanly yellow Lab were the picture of dignified canine aging; we did not let anyone suggest otherwise. We'd meet callous or thoughtless comments with, "we should all age so well!," or, "you are only as old as you feel!"
We'd often do a quick tutorial on the magic of owning an older dog. We cited our dogs' increased dignity and wisdom. We'd tout the value of their 2X a week hydrotherapy sessions for physical and mental enrichment. We'd explain how fun it was to play games and find toys for an older dog who relies on experience and mental skills more than brute strength. We'd discuss how simple it was to tailor walks to keep an old dog fit. We were amazed at how many people said they stopped walking their dogs altogether when they couldn't do the walk "they always used to be able to." Several shorter walks works great! They'd have an awe struck look as we explained how all these things, most of which were simple and inexpensive, could bring dogs joy and engagement in the gray muzzle years.
Older dogs have a sophistication that many people are wont to overlook. We tried to turn thoughtless comments into openings to impart ideas for better old age for all dogs. For us, as dog lovers, and devotees of our geriatric dogs, we realized these were "teachable moment." We found people said hurtful things mainly due to ignorance.
We tried to remember that up until recently, dogs did not live so long or with such increased quality of life. Life-saving emergency care, specialists to manage chronic conditions, rehabilitation to help post-surgical animals recover, and supplemental care such as acupuncture and massage have only recently become widely accessible, and it still isn't the norm for many pet owners to avail themselves of such care.
In our society, elderly dogs (like people) are largely invisible. Owners stop taking elderly dogs out. Walks take too long, hearing loss makes it harder for owners to tell their dog what to do (which is why all dogs should learn hand single early), ramps or steps for a car ride are too much effort or expense, and they don't have the patience or imagination to operate at "old dog speed," so older dogs are left out and left behind. My friend and I tried to impart to people who made ignorant comments the "half full not half empty" theory as applied to doggie old age.
It's been several years since our beloved geriatric companions left us, but my friend and I will always remember those days in our own and our dogs' lives with deep joy and meaning....not only for what we did for own dogs and what they gave us, but for what we might have done to make other dogs' lives better.

.

Submitted by Vicki | December 15 2011 |

So well put! I agree a lot of "rudeness" is really just ignorance. People view their dogs differently now than they did several years ago. What would have been normal questions or comments that would have been deemed ok then, seem rude to us now.
I LOVE the idea of instead of getting irritated about the questions and comments, you turn it into something positive! That's helps SO much more that you may ever even know. It could mean the difference in an owner keeping an elderly dog, or not. So I really commend you for that!
I've got an aging German Shepherd, and she can't do our old walk, and the biggest problem with that is that some of the people (Kids and adults) miss getting to see her!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 20 2011 |

More power to you! I couldn't have said it better myself. As a volunteer at a dog rescue I am continually trying to convey to potential adopters the appeal of seniors and even adults over the "cute little puppy" that they think they want (even when they aren't home enough to teach the puppy manners or housebreaking). I wish more people realized the value of seniors.

Submitted by Susan B. | May 11 2011 |

My 10-yr old Corgi, The Barney Dog, was recently diagnosed w/ lymphoma. We go in weekly for chemo treatments and the "cancer dogs" report in at the facility between 7:30 and 8am. It is the best and worst time of day for me. There are some dogs doing great in remission and some bouncing along after surgery to remove a tumor or limb or organ, depending on what type of cancer it was or what organ was affected. Since lymphoma is systemic, surgery wasn't an option but he IS in remission. Barney's coping mechanism was to start a blog - http://fightingk9lymphoma.blogspot.com/

Every week there are some dogs checking in that are obviously in pain and suffering. One poor girl was shaking and drooling as her elderly owner explained that her bowel movements were all liquid in the last week. The dogs eyes looked as if she was begging me to help. I spoke to the vet after she left and she said that she'd suggested "letting go" but the woman would not have anything to do with it. The dog was her husband's and her husband died last year and that dog was the last thing she had left to remind her of him.

The Barney Dog's doing fine. If he ever has a down day and someone says anything close to "...have you ever thought about..." I'll probably hit them. As long as he has a good quality of life, I will do everything I can to see that he stays that way. I just hope that I will have the strength to know when I am keeping him alive for ME and not for him and that I will do the right thing.

Submitted by Bettina (rememb... | June 2 2011 |

Hi Susan! I'm so glad Barney is in remission. We battled lymphoma too. My boy was almost 16 when dxed. We had 8 months of remission with just 4 doxo treatments. Barney is just adorable, and it sounds like you keep his best interests in mind. :) The lady at the vet that you describe, breaks my heart. People can be so selfish. To love a dog, I think you need to be ready to break your own heart for them.
Anyway - wishing you and Barney all the best for many happy times ahead. If you ever need any good support, LymphomaHeartDog group is the best, in my humble opinion. (http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/LymphomaHeartDogs/)

Submitted by Anonymous | December 20 2011 |

Wasn't the whole point of this article not to go out of your way to pressure people into killing their own pets? Why call the woman selfish when you're not in her situation?

Submitted by Shannon's Pet-S... | December 9 2011 |

I'm a pet sitter in the NW suburbs of Chicago, IL & I specialize in areas of pet sitting that include pets with behavioral problems, medical needs, and senior pets. http://www.shannonspetsitting.net/
Old doesn't mean dead! I love my old furry friends. I have a 12 year old Stand Poodle Kayla I watch. With old age her sight has decreased & she's not as sure on her feet. So its hard to have her around people because he tends to snap at people or things that move too quickly around her. She got kicked out of the kennel for biting 2 employees. Well once I started working with her I realized it was her vision & footing. She lives a limited life because her owners don't like to take her outside of their property line. They have allowed me to work with her & I can take her for walks around the neighborhood. Neighbors stop & Stare & say "I've never seen that dog before"" All I can say is "Please keep moving" or "She's not friendly." Kayla behaves but I'm not taking any chances. She loves her outings!
I have a lot of older pets who need special care & attention. My oldest dog was Bixby who was a 19 year old Bichon/poodle. He led a simple good quality of life with MO MEDICATIONS NECESSARY!! He got around a bit in the house & leaned to go to the bathroom on pee pads. He passed in his sleep.
My oldest Kitty I watched was Booker who passed August 15 at the age of 20 years old. It simply amazes me how long pet live now a days. And its amazing how good some of them look! I love specializing in senior pets & helping keep them happy & comfortable in their senior years!

Submitted by Francesca | December 13 2011 |

People are insensative. When I see someone walking an older dog I get so happy for the dog! I know how much he is loving those steps with his owner. I pet them get down at their level and play with them. I know it's hard for them to do certain things but they love it even more and so do their owners. I will love my dogs and now cat too (he was recently found at a gas station and owners have never come forward)the same today and the same as they age. We all will walk that walk and we should all be treated with dignity.

Submitted by Dee | December 14 2011 |

That's a very beautiful article about this sensitive subject. I'm just thinking that these people are stupid and/or lack common sense. If they felt as we ( the dog people) do about our pets they would not ever say that. Personally I fall in love, just like with older ladies, with their beauty. All us old gals like compliments, why the heck would anyone not?? Didn't Mama say "If you don't have something nice to say shut up" Mine did.

Submitted by Hez | December 14 2011 |

I think anyone should keep their dog alive as long as they like as long as their geriatric pet is getting regular vet check ups and is living pain free and comfortable. I agree it's very insensitive to say something. It's so very hard to let them go.

Submitted by Lisa | December 14 2011 |

This article is exactly where we are with our dog. I wanted a dog my entire life, and he's my first. The only thing I would disagree with as far as Othello goes is that he couldn't have gotten any sweeter than the first day that I met him. We brought him home from the animal shelter only to discover two days later that he had parvo - we didn't even know what that was! 12 years later I was appalled just the other day when someone stopped to pet him and said "Wow, he's really old isn't he?" Truly, like I hadn't noticed and like they didn't realize that the implication of what they were saying was - 'hey - do you realize he hasn't got much longer to live?'It seems every day we are assessing how bad his arthritis is and if we are in denial. It doesn't help that friends just put two of their dogs down after criticizing another friend for waiting too long. I dread taking him to their place now. But then, just today, he ran to meet my husband getting home from work, and ate more than I did! All we can hope is that we make the right decision when we have to. And I'd hate to think that any part of that decision was based on what other people think they know about my dog.

Submitted by Brittney Rivs | December 15 2011 |

Loved the article. I am so lucky to have two dogs in their twilight years. Max is a BT that I rescued when he was one and now is 11. You would never now he was so old. He still plays like a puppy. Belle, a BT mix, I rescued as a puppy and now is almost 12. She has cushings and although she has arthritis she never misses a chance to tree a squirrel. I was also fortunate to be able to see her brother and sister just this past weekend and they are all aging beautifully too. I am enjoying them in their twilight years more than when they were puppies. I don't have chewed up shoes or peed on floors. I just have a lot of pure love.

Submitted by Jenny | December 15 2011 |

Over the years, living in New York City, I decided to just be a bitch right back. When my now 13 year old french bulldog was younger and had terrible skin allergies and bald spots strangers used to tell me my dog needs to go to the vet--as if my whole waking life wasn't spent trying to cure it and make his skin better, and he wasn't being treated for it. I would reply that they needed to go to the dermatologist or whatnot if they themselves had bad skin. People would come up and tell me how cruel it was to dock my dog's ears or tail (frenchies are born with "bat ears" and nub tails). I would tell them I had a boob job or nose job (both untrue) and ask them if they wanted to talk about it. **Side note** I don't condone clipped ears or tails, but it's none of my business.

Now that he's getting up in years, and is in great health for his age, when people talk about how old is he, if I'm in a nice mood I say: "he's not old, he's sophisticated." If I've heard it too many times, or people mention specific things, I snap back and tell them "You're old. How much longer do you think you have?" If they talk about his grey muzzle, I tell them they need to go get their hair died.

I know it's mean to say those things, but if they are not going to mind their own business, why should I mind mine? And this is New York after all. . .

I also get a kick out of telling people who are wearing fur that they can't pet my dogs because I'm afraid they'll make a coat out of them. They are stunned by this. It makes their husbands real mad if they are with their wives and bought them that $25,000.00 mink coat. Haha.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 15 2011 |

Good for you, Jenny! Your last paragraph made me laugh out loud. I agree. My friends and I used to ask women (bitches) wearing fur coats if there was blood under the sleeves.

Submitted by Kim Egan | December 20 2011 |

What a horrible, ugly thing to say--and in a comment thread to an article about the horrible, ugly things people say! How ironic.

Submitted by Dez | December 21 2011 |

What, are people supposed to PRAISE fur-wearers? Big difference between hurting someone's feelings about their beloved and aging pet and giving a dose of reality to some vain person who, in this day and age, with all the publicity about fur, has NO excuse NOT to know how furbearing animals are trapped or the inhumane conditions surrounding their slaughter when they are raised commercially. Nothing but vanity at work there; people choose to ignore the suffering of furbearing animals in the absurd belief that being draped in dead animal skin makes you look "glamorous."

Submitted by Heather | December 16 2011 |

After reading this, I totally want to make out with you. Bravo!

Submitted by Scott | December 17 2011 |

Jenny, I love that last point. You are my hero for the day!

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