Marine Cassoret, PhD
Old dog days
Days are ruled by our pets, whether we like it or not. Chickens need to be fed and spoken to. The horse needs to be exercised. The cats need to be fed a dozen times throughout the day (and played with).
And the dog - the dog needs more. And less.
There are acupuncturist appointments and trips to the vet clinic for regular check ups on his renal disease and ailing hips. Short, frequent walks instead of long ones. Short physiotherapy exercises spread throughout the day. Regular snacks and search for food hidden in the snow to keep him engaged.
Pain meds, Flexadin, and Novifit tabs. And some cooking, too. Sticking to the renal disease recipe.
Gone are the days where he needed training, socializing, and a lot of exercise. No more hour-long walks preceded by a 6km bike-joring run just “to take the fizz out”. In his prime, he could maintain a stunning 14km/h trot. Malamute power at its best. I would never had dreamed of walking him off-leash. He’d have disappeared into the sunset, eating every forest inhabitant in his path.
He’s 13 years old and the clock is ticking.
Now the 10 minute walk around our street takes 15 to 20 minutes. But we enjoy every step, every smell, every occasion to stop and say hi to neighbors and dogs. Not that he much cares for most dogs. Except Maggie.
I enjoyed his independence and self-confidence. Now he seeks proximity. So we doubled the number of dog beds and added extra rugs so that there’s always a spot on which to lie down comfortably near us (and yes he frequently lies next to them and uses them as pillows). Sometimes things are done in the house according to whether he will need to move or not. He also watches us leave. For the past three years, we’ve shared the house with Harry Potter audiobooks - sometimes all day and late into the night , earning Alizé a 100% average grade in english. But because the sound of the books meant we were home, I now leave them on when I leave - so Stephen Fry can keep Neo company until I come back.
An old dog life, like an old horse life, are I think the best part of your relationship with them. You had a hell of a ride, cleared all the obstacles, and now look back and reflect on how far you’ve gone. And your reward? Drop all the rules.
The rules are gone. That is the best part of having an old dog. For years I asked that he walked without pulling. That he sat to ask for stuff. Now I just don’t care if he walks by my side or zig-zags across the street. Where he wants to go, I follow. He also bangs on the french windows if we take more than 10 seconds to realize he wants to come back in, and we don’t care if he sits to ask. We don’t care if he asks out again 5 minutes later.
The rules are gone. He begs at the table, leans on your arm so heavily you can barely reach your mouth with your fork. And he gets food from the table.
The rules are gone. I would ask him to back out if he got too close to the counter when I cooked and now he’ll attempt to lean his chin on it. And I also added 2 non-slip mats where he is most likely to lie down in the kitchen. So he can still check on every thing I do and never miss an opportunity to catch whatever I drop. If he doesn’t see the food, I just push it closer to him with my foot so he doesn’t have to get up.
The rules are gone. Dogs were not allowed upstairs except for emergencies. He kinda has emergencies during the night and on the evenings when he is very stiff, I spare him the climb and sleep downstairs on the sofa, listening to his snoring (and farting). Sometimes he won’t be bothered to negociate the steps down the deck and so he pees on it. Whatever.
The rules are gone. He always slept against the door, making me trigger the alarm on two occasions because he just couldn’t be bothered to get up fast enough when I came home. Now it’s not that he doesn’t care - he can’t hear us and has trouble getting up. So we cleared the side-door, and use it to spare him the move.
What a ride we had together. One day he’ll be gone and my canine love-story will be over.