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Improve traction by tacking a piece of outdoor carpet to slippery stairs and using nonslip rugs inside. If you have a neglected yoga mat rolled up in your closet, it can also be used both inside and out as a traction aid; it’s easy to cut to size if you don’t need the entire length or width.

Rearrange your furniture, as much as you’re able, to facilitate your dog’s movement around your home. Keep debris off the floor, as even a stray magazine or slipper can trip up an arthritic dog. Block areas where he might get stuck.

Doggie steps and ramps are available online and in pet stores. Be aware, however, that many older dogs are reluctant to change their habits, and high steps and ramps might scare them. Never force their use.

Towels are great tools. You can use them to wrap your smaller dog up when you carry him outside, or, if your dog is a big guy with mobility issues, you can use a large towel as a sling. (You can also purchase slings at pet stores and online.)

Keep It Clean

During our dog’s last summer, we kept a plastic storage bin filled with water in our yard. The sun warmed the water, and it was always there to rinse him off if he soiled himself. That having been said, keep in mind that your old dog is susceptible to changes in temperature. If you’ve had to get him wet, dry him and warm him as quickly as you can.

Keep rags, rags and more rags handy at all times and check out your local pet store for special drying towels. Your elderly dog can’t shake off the water like he used to and these thirsty towels are a great help.

Believe it or not, there are such things as doggie diapers, and you might want to try them. Other products intended for housebreaking puppies can also help with your elderly dog. Housebreaking pads provide a comfortable bed if he’s having accidents in his sleep; washable waterproof pads are also good for this use. (Get several so you always have one or two clean; medical supply stores and children’s bedding outlets often carry them.) Odor removers will help keep your house livable.

Your dog’s last weeks, trying though they may be for you emotionally, can be a gift. They are an opportunity for you to reach a consensus on hard final decisions and to share your feelings about the approaching loss. Even more important, they give you one last chance to show the best dog in the world how much he or she means to you.
 

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 68: Jan/Feb 2012

Photography by Julie Vader

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Submitted by Toni | January 30 2012 |

Great Article!!! Our 17 year old Lab just passed away a few months ago. It was our honor and pleasure to take care of her during her senior years. It was amazing to watch my 18 year old son lay down on the floor with her and just be there, She took care of him growing up, time changes. She was at home in my arms when she crossed over at 3:20 am one morning. We did all the things you wrote about and gave her lots of love!!!

Submitted by Kathy | February 12 2012 |

It's a complicated time, isn't it? Awful and also precious.

Submitted by Jean Andolsen | February 12 2012 |

Kathy Ewing's article about the last days of her family's dog, Shucks, was sensitive, supportive, and filled with good tips for this difficult time. Shucks lives on in their memories, and now in print for all to benefit from.

Submitted by Kathy | April 12 2014 |

It was a nice thing to write about Shucks one last time.

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