The Great Privilege and Responsibility of Having an Elder Dog

September 26, 2018 by megan

Some preliminary thoughts on the experience of caring for my elder dog... One day in the spring of 2006, when I had first adopted Lexie, and we were proudly trotting through our Brooklyn neighborhood, working on loose leash walking and looking for the right place to poop (Lexie, not me!), I was struck hard by the though that I only had about 10 to 14 years to spend with this delightful creature. I was so flabbergasted by the idea that when we ran into a neighbor we were friendly with, I cried on her shoulder about it.

Bless this woman for her kindness and thoughtfulness. A more impatient person might have said, it's a long time away, don't be silly. A person who didn't love dogs as much as she did might have said, it's just a dog (how I hate that phrase). Instead, my neighbor's face lit up, and she said, my dear! You've bonded with Lexie! Of course, you're sad that she will be gone one day--but how marvelous that you're so close with her now.

How I wish it weren't so, but I feel that we are moving toward that dreaded day that I mourned some 12 years ago. I'm mourning again now, while trying to enjoy every moment that I still have with Lexie here. We have been blessed with more than a decade of healthy and happy time together. I'm hoping for just a bit more time together, but the signs are there that nothing lasts forever. Now our idea of a good time is visitors coming to us, because traveling is hard for her. She still likes tricky treat toys and a good game of tug, but every movement is slow and careful these days. She and Moon Unit still get the zoomies, but it's an early bird special and they're asleep by 7 pm.

In more difficult developments, we are coping with increasing incontinence, periodic limps that come and go mysteriously, a cough that bothers her from time to time, and some lumps and bumps that grow and need to be drained. The other day Lexie was doing very poorly, and we got a bunch of tests done. I'm fortunate to have a veterinarian I trust to advise me on Lexie's health, and she gives me honest feedback about her quality of life. I'm so grateful my children got to meet her.

I'm a dog pro, and I know a lot about a lot of dog things, but not this. I know how to manage and train dogs and set them up for success, even change their feelings about scary things to make them happier and more relaxed. I don't know how to to cope with the sadness of impending approach of the Rainbow Bridge.