Old Dogs

I’ve never gone long in this life without a dog. I’m one of those people. I love snuggling up on the couch with a big ol fur ball, walking for miles with someone who is wiling to keep going for as long as I like, and being loved unconditionally. The perks to dog ownership are innumerable. Yet, losing one is a heartbreak parallel to losing any other family member. Okay, maybe not quite that bad. But close!

Our family dogs have died of various causes – weird health ailments, one got hit by a car, all of them sudden deaths between eight and ten years of age. It was always my goal to keep them alive past the ten year mark, yet they all said a crushing farewell just shy of it. Until now that it.

After years of purebred big dogs, (two labs and a golden retriever,) we took the advise of our vet and adopted two small mutts from a rescue organization in Yakima. That was fifteen years ago. Maggie and Rita have been our constant companions and dear friends for all these years. The combination of small dog and mixed breed allow for a long life with very few health issues. So, here we are, in a situation totally unfamiliar.

Our two pups are entering the geriatric years and I’ve never experienced anything quit like it. They are needy. Both are losing their hearing, Maggie much more so than Rita. Both have cataracts, Maggie worse than Rita. They have arthritis, teeth that need extracting, and a different limp from one day to the next. I give them a prescribed pain killer every morning.  One runs slow and one doesn’t run at all. They huff and puff and pant like they’ve just finished a marathon, and that’s after a painfully slow, one-mile walk, where all they really do is sniff and pee and teach me patience.

They snore. Loudly.So loudly they wake us frequently. We can’t put them in another room because they have to, absolutely have got to, sleep in bed with us or there will be no sleep for anyone. Ever. And they sleep sideways so they can take up as much space as possible. And snore.

They eat high end dog food for seniors in “small bites” size, mixed with some expensive canned stuff to soften it up and provide proper nutrition. The vet says they’re good for at least another five years. They insist we share scraps from every meal we put on the table. We oblige just to keep them from incessantly barking at us and nipping at our heals.

They spend as much time at the doctor as anyone else in their nineties. They have anal gland issues and dagger toe nails that need clipping, and ears that need de-waxing. They have joints that need lubricating and breath so bad it’s deadly. I actually gagged the other day when one of them yawned in my face.

And just to make matters worse, they’re getting bossy, these old dogs are. They are constantly losing patients with us. They demand the fire place is always going, their beds are fluffed and set in front of it, the water bowls all over the house are fresh and full, and the food never stops. They own us. They run the house. And I have to admit, the future looks a little bit scary.


Mary Ann


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