My dog Maddie turned 11 years old last month. Having experience with senior dogs, 11 has been a milestone where you know bad days are ahead. My two previous dogs each lived to 14 years old. The bad days started at the end of 11 years old, continued through 12 and 13, then, at the end of year 13, the bad days outnumbered the good days.
When I first adopted Maddie, we did many outdoor adventures. We worked on her reactivity for years and she learned to trust humans. Now Maddie is working through mobility issues. She is uncomfortable getting in and out of the boat and car. I can’t push her too hard on a walk in the park, she might be sore the next day. We are working through it, but I am finding ways to enjoy home and our yard.
Everyday life presents challenges to spending quality time with your dog. Life is busy and quality time is often forgotten. I am doing my best to not take my dog’s senior years for granted. Every good day with an older dog is a blessing and I have no intention of wasting any good days.
I have tried “really being” with Maddie. I enjoy spending time with her at her level, and take in what she experiences. My latest favorite “activity” has been spending time in the grass with Maddie. She likes to just sit and watch the canal, so I sit next to her and do the same. She loves grooming, so sometimes I will brush her and she will roll in the grass, and I will lie down next to her. I wish I had a better sense of smell and could know what she is thinking about when she sticks her nose in the air.
I love to watch Maddie’s determination in shredding a coconut. I’ll sit with her in the grass while she shows me her mouth skills. She still craves the joy of more active games like fetch. I sometimes treat her with a couple of short tosses of coconut husk, but I don’t want her hurting in the morning.
Dogs are with us for only a fraction of our lives. We love our dogs so much. It’s so important to love them and give them our time and attention before they are gone. Maddie has been a huge part of making me a better person and a better dog trainer. She deserves a happy and enriching senior life. I intend to give her a wonderful retirement.