Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Growing Older Gracefully

This past weekend, we were glad that we got to get out on Sunday and hike.  Saturday morning, Bunny and Morgan were both champing at the bit when they recognized the routine that signalled that neither Mr. Taleteller nor I were going to work.  We had planned a hiking expedition with family, but it turned out to be bitter cold with windchills that weren't safe to be out in.  Since the treat jar was empty, we bundled up ourselves, Bunny, Blueberry and Morgan and made a trip over to the dog bakery in town.  The girls were happy to have an outing, but it wasn't the leg stretch that they were hoping for. 

Sunday, we figured that we'd better get the two youngsters out of the house for a little bit and so we headed to the nearest state park for a hike.  We approached this with trepidation, because it had literally been cold enough the day before to take your breath away.  I guess that's why God invented Cuddle Duds and Smartwool socks.  Since we weren't quite sure what to expect when we got there temperature wise, we decided that only Bunny and Morgan were going and that if it got too cold, we'd go back and call it a day.  At least we'd get a nice drive in if nothing else came to pass.  It turned out to be a really nice day for a hike.  Crossing the frozen creeks were a little challenging, but I found myself regretting that we hadn't brought Blueberry along.  I knew she wanted to go as she stood in the kitchen, her head vibrating with excitement.

When we got home, I was surprised by the display of affection Blueberry put on.  She was leaping on the couch and doing yoga poses of bliss as I scratched her head before she collapsed in the nest of blankets she's arranged while we were gone.  She can be affectionate, but is usually a bit more reserved.  As I sat down, she curled up against me and was gazing at me in total adoration until I got the camera out.  I made up my mind right then that next weekend, she has to be included, provided the weather permits.

It's so hard not to feel guilty when you have to make a decision for your pet that's in their best interest and against what they so obviously want.  I admit that since her cancer diagnosis in November I feel the need to treat her like she's made of glass.  Another factor in the issue is that she's actually not a young dog anymore.  She was barely two when we first met her and now we realize her ninth birthday will be in a week and a half.  Where did the time go?   The woman at the dog bakery was giving all the girls treats, but making them sit before she fed them.  When it came to be Blueberry's turn, she said "You don't have to sit!  You're an old lady!"  Blueberry promptly displayed the prettiest Greyhound sit ever executed which looked particularly charming while she wore her pink coat.  It was as if she and I both had the same outraged thought at the same time.  I can't think of her as old. 

Since having that thought, I realized that I have to start being a bit careful with her, but not treat her as if she's old.  Lilac is fifteen -- that is old!  Blueberry is still ready to go.  It will require some planning on our part to be sure it's challenging enough to take the edge off Morgan's energy, but not so challenging that we have to carry Blueberry back to the van.  There will still be times when it's not in her best interest to go, either because the terrain is too treacherous or the weather is too extreme, too.  Still, I am hoping we can find a happy medium that works for her.

My question to others out there is how do you do things that include your aging dog?  What do you do to help him or her make the transition to old age?  What are some things that your slightly older dogs enjoy doing?

Blueberry Types for the Blog
Bookmark and Share


  1. I'm not quite there yet - the dogs are close enough in age that most everything works for all. That said, Truffles can hit snags with her leg and slow down at times.

    Might you have Morgan carry them? ;)

  2. It is hard to have older and younger dogs at the same time. The older dogs get their own walk and the younger dogs go hiking or biking. The older dogs are still asked to do something for their treat and I will ask for routines or behaviors they already know-retrieve on the flat or drop on recall or recall and they get their reward. Then I train the younger dogs for whatever I want them to learn at the lesson. The younger dogs of course get a longer training session than the older dogs.

    I also play games in the house with them. For instance one thing my dogs like is the "Find It" game. All the dogs sit outside the bedroom with the door closed. I hide the number of chewie treats that I have dogs. Then I open the door and tell them to "find it" in an excited voice. They have to use their nose to find the treat. When a dog has found a treat they are excused to go chew it. The remaining dogs keep looking and so on until the last dog has found the last treat.

  3. That must be a difficult situation to be in. I truly can't imagine having four dogs and only taking two out on an excursion, even if it is in the best interest of the older ones.

    I do know how you feel about treating her like she's made of glass, though - I'm very much like that with my 12 year old cat, Layla, who has had health problems galore. I guess it's all about finding balance between keeping them safe and keeping them happy.

  4. Silver is our oldest and she's 7 and I haven't changed much with her routine. She has a lot of life left. The biggest difference is that she's begun to mellow out more. Doesn't play so rough anymore, but does sleep more. I still can't think of as old either, but her muzzle keeps getting more and more while on it with each year. It's hard not to notice.

    I know making choices about our dogs can be difficult and you can't seem to really explain why they can or can't do anything, but they still seem to understand.

  5. You pointed out such a heart-wrenching dilemna we sometimes have - with our pets or with kids for that matter! What's good for them, vs what they'd like or want (us too!) It hurts, you just have to go with what you feel is best, it's all in love.
    Our beloved Sasha (now gone) didn't require any special treatment as she got older. We let her decide, but she still did the same activities as when she was younger. Guess it depends on the individual!

  6. Love Blueberry leaping in her pink coat! I say take a cue from Wilf -- or rather take a cue from Blueberry herself. Maybe she decides at least the length/duration of the activity. And I still think individual or sub-pack time /walks is OK, it just needs to be equal as much as possible.

    I LOVE Smartwool socks!!

  7. Most of our dogs are over 8, I can't call the seniors until they hit 13. Roxy, the grand dam of the gardens turned 14 in September. At 12.5 she was still hiking with us, but now I see age taking a toll on her body.

    I really think it depends on the hound. Since we have an acre, a daily romp is a must for most of them and I think the exercise has helped them all transition into seniors.

    I hold my breath every time they run. I want to put a glass bubble around all of them, but there is a part of my heart that understands their joy when they cut loose.

    At the end of every journey (and believe me, we've been through many) I know I have done right by them when I let them take the lead and do what they want.

  8. It's quite tricky when you have different age of dogs especially some are very young and some are getting more and more mature.
    It was a clear mirror for us to see when Eva was a puppy and Laura was 10 years old. One is full of energy and one prefers not moving around. However, it is also sweet to see them together, be with each other and somehow, the young ones entertain the old one.
    I guess you just have to follow your instinct. If the hikes are too tough, take the young ones there but remember there will be a soft hike for the big sisters the next day. I think they will understand and appreciate it too.

  9. Elaine here, AKA The Lady Of The House. Winnie's having a morning nap on a really comfy big cushion I've found for her so I've snuck on the computer (she doesn't know I know her password - shhhh!!)

    Winnie will be 9 this year too and I do worry about her a bit as I know she had a very long racing career.

    When she's been asleep you can see she's sometimes a bit stiff (same goes for me to be honest), so we're both taking a supplement for mobile joints (but not the same one).

    She can still leap around like a youngster when she know it's walk time - and she does great zoomies in the garden.

    She's an only-dog (her choice, and recommended by the Retired Greyhound Trust) so we can fit everything around her.

    I thought that was a lovely post and I think you do a great job of juggling the various needs of your four girls and you should never feel guilty when you decide what you thinks best because it's clear that they all know how loved they are.

    Loved the description of Blueberry sitting in the dog bakery - I could just picture it. What a star!

  10. Having both young dogs I haven't had to cross this bridge yet. However, each dog does better than the other in different types of outings, like Sherman is better to take to my parents house becuase he is more subdued, where as Leroy would just be way too excited.
    I at times feel quilty when I only take one of them somehwere, but try to do my best to make up for it later.

  11. We have these same issues with Pip. He wants to be included in all family activities, but the heat and the cold bother him so hot summer days and very cold winter days are out. Plus he can't walk that far anymore (don't tell Bunny). We have a wagon that he likes to rid in and/or sometimes he rides in our daughter's old stroller. He LOVES to be included. The other issue is his stomach when he gets nervous or stressed he tends to have issues so we have to keep him on a bland diet of chicken and white rice on family vacations, etc.

    Your pal, Pip

  12. I really liked this post. Blueberry still runs with such energy and style, it is hard to think that she is almost nine years old! It looks like she has many years ahead of her. And I guess that's the thing, how do you make sure she enjoys those years while still keeping her healthy and strong? It's a balancing act. Especially when you have two young dogs pushing to go harder.

    I can just picture her expression at the woman's words in the bakery. "Old lady?? *snort* Hardly."

  13. It is difficult to have dawgs that are of different ages.

  14. this post made me so sad! I don't think that nine is old for a doggie...I agree with Priscilla who said to use your best seem to know exactly what to do!

  15. My sisses and I is pritty close in age. Dixie will be 12 this year, I will be 10 (those we is pritty sure of, gib or take a month) but with Sydney we had no idea at all of her age, only that the surgeon who operated on her brokened hip and spayed her when she comed out of the shelter sayed she had LOTS of litters, one efurry heat, so she woz gessed as 5 at the time. That puts Sydney in the middull of me and Dixie at 11 rite now we is gessing. So because of Sydney's surgeries she has nefur been able to hike-she be luckee to be walking on all fours. Dixie used to hike but had to retire 2 years ago because of muscle wasting in her back legs. So Sydney and Dixie can walk 2 miles tops and they usually get a cuppull of walkies a week with either mom or the boy but with the snow they has not gone at all coz there do be no place to do walkies around here in the snow. Efurrything be full of salt and mom duss no let us walkie on salted places. (They salt the paths in the local park - ugh.) So that werks fine fur us and Sydney and Dixie duss not get upset when I go hiking - they just go back to bed and is happy to do that. And I is not acting like a 10-year-old on hikes so fur now, full speed ahead fur me! The V-E-T has been saying fur 2 years that I has Arthur Itis in one knee but I dussn't feel it. I do take the glue cosameen stuff to hold it togedder. Mom dussn't want to think about wot she is going to do when I start showing my age. She hopes that will nefur happen.

  16. Our vet has always preached that we need to keep our older dogs as active as possible to keep them strong. It's always a tough phase, figuring out how to do that when they can no longer run with my husband or bike with me. We add extra hikes into our routine. With all our older dogs, our rule of thumb has been that we take them on a one hour hike two times per day. We bring all the dogs on those hikes - so it means that the younger ones get even more exercise than when everyone could run or bike.

    Now, of course, our vet adds the caveat that we have to watch very closely to see when this routine starts to be too much for our older dog. However, it's rarely been too much, except if the older dog gets sick.

    Our vet talks about exercise helping keep arthritic joints limber and helping keep muscles strong. Labs tend to lose strength in their hind end as they age... and this routine seems to help slow that process.

    The most heart breaking part of the whole process is the transition from the older dog being part of the running/biking routine to being limited to hiking. I've just gone through it with K over the past 4 months (although I hope she'll be back to the normal routine soon as she's only 7). My vet predicts that, if K stays healthy, she should be able to bike with me through 11 or 12 years old, although I'll have to scale back the distance and speed as she ages. I hope that the vet is right!

    I agree - Blueberry hardly looks like an "old lady". I hope that Blueberry snorted out loud at the bakery woman!

  17. As my dogs get older, this is something I really worry about (especially after Charlie's attack). Charlie's nearing ten (TEN!) and he definitely can't run as long as he used to, but he's definitely a very fit and athletic ten-year old. I think it's a Poodle thing. He LOVES swimming and fetching in a river near us, which is great, as it's easier on him than running on land, so when the weather permits (which isn't any time soon) I try to make that our primary exercise outlet for him. It also doesn't involve weird jumping and landings that might hurt him. Emma (who's age I don't know) is generally super relaxed and doesn't run around or play much, but when she does, she's a nut! I let her do whatever she wants exercise-wise, but because she's so slow, I can't ever expect her to go beyond a nice trot.

    Thanks for such a great post!

  18. Wells you threw a doozy of a question dis morning and I don't particularily like to think on Tues (or Monday, Tendesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday). But, furst, I always thought Blue was made of glass...hehehe!

    There is a BIG difference in age between me and da sibs. I is 2 and they is 8 and 9. Mum don't worry to much right now, except fur Albert's back. But him knows what he can and can't do and by golly he ain't gonna do it if he can't.
    Yous a smart lady so go by what you think is best...only you know your dogs and you knows 'em down to a T!

    Puddles...with no help at all

  19. I guess Blue just wants to be included when you guys go out... but you would know best if the hike is too much for her.

    Dogs are sometimes like kids too... once you leave them out.. they feel sad. I know mine will wail once i leave the house with the other dog. *LOL* Seriously.. he does.

    Don't treat her like glass. She should have a life well lived. She still have loads of spunk... and life. One day at a time.. just like Wilf.

    Just my two cents :D

  20. That's something I'm still trying to figure out 11 Bubbles has slowed down significantly, but she still loves car rides, so weather permitting I'll let her ride along. Getting out at strange places still makes her nervous now but she's fine with hanging out in the car until I make an appearance again.


  21. I think it's great that you have dogs of varying ages - the pups always seem to keep the older dogs active & "younger" somehow. That being said, Mason has had the patience of Job dealing with the boundless energy of two Frenchies. I think that when I take them for walks, Mason is just as happy to have time to himself on the sofa as opposed to coming along. His needs have gotten simpler as he has gotten older - just some loving, feed him a couple times a day & comfy place sto nap. We got stairs to help him get up on the bed, but otherwise he has thankfully aged quite gracefully!!


  22. C&L are at a same level as far as exercise goes. However when popeye was here i would take him on mini walks.. He wanted to go, but didn't have the stamina to keep up with Cooper.

  23. As our yellow lab has grown older and now suffers with bad hips, we try to include her for short trips out to do chores. It really breaks my husbands heart to take the black lab & beagle hunting and not Poe, but she just cannot run like that anymore. Also, extra hugs helps I think!

  24. Hi Girls and Mom! That is a hard question. Dillon and I are both seniors and Dillon has very bad arrthritis all over himself so he doesn't get to go for walkies very much. When he does get to go he always wants to go too long and then he can't get off his pillow the next day! Mom just takes him for a walkie around the field nearby and then makes him come home. I'm plump and out of shape but I still can go and go around the field because there's so much to sniff, but Mom can't take me on the sidewalk anymore because I chase cars. I'm not sure why! Mom is also uncomfortable walking all around the neighborhood without Dad because there are some doggies that aren't in their yards or with their mom or dad and she is afraid we might get hurted. We do love walkies, and Mom can't take us both at once so whoever of us has to go second gets very sad and howly!

    Barks and Wiggles,


  25. Every dog I've had that got "older" decided that lounging around was the most fun. Buddy used to "patrol" our yard, but gave that up mostly for staring out the window and barking.

    I think they tell you. If Blueberry wants to go, let her go!

  26. Hi Bunny's mommy! Some of our older dogs still enjoy a nice long walk with the younger ones. I guess we just take them less often. But then we don't have snow and the like. I think what your doing is best! If the weather is too extreme maybe Blueberry should stay at home. Whatever you think is best.

  27. Chloe, my parents' dog, is 12 now and she still keeps up with Riley for the most part. Riley is WAY more active than Chloe but Chloe does like to be included in the action. Chloe also is content to sleep the day (and night) away on the back of our love seat. I really think it's up to the individual dog. It sounds like Blueberry will let y'all know her limits.

    I had to send a friend of mine a link to your blog on Facebook because she's the only other person I've ever heard talk about "Cuddle Duds." I went to college with her and she said something about Cuddle Duds one day and we all said, "Huh?" We just always called them thermals or thermies.

    Elyse (and Riley)

  28. That is a really good question. I guess we're lucky that our 2 are so close in age that it hasn't been too difficult. They also have similar energy levels, though Miss M enjoys going out on walks with the potential to meet people and not get left out while Mr. B just loves to run. It will be interesting if their energy levels change as they do get older.

  29. N&B are still young and full of energy, I can't imagine them being any other way! I hope they never grow old, but I guess everybody has to?

  30. Fab photos as always.

    Song will be 8 next month and she's not slowed down at all yet.

  31. Hi! It's me, Buddy's person:
    I loved your story! It is very touching! You can tell you love them very much and I can't imagine you won't be led to do the right thing for them! They are magnificent.

  32. In the last year, Guinness has gotten a weak/wobbly back end-he can still bounce and run around the backyard with gusto, but will often just stand there in stores or on walks and before you know it, his back end leans to one side and his back legs give out. I started typing this before I went to class, and after I came home, Guinness went outside,came in, and his legs gave out, doing the splits, twice. The GSOD was loud as hell, and I had to pick him up like a baby and lay him down on his bed..Time to get a rug for the kitchen floor for him I guess. I hate watching him get grayer and age, but we adjust to his needs while we still have him around. I'll carry him outside for potty breaks if it comes to it. He used to love LONG walks, but now it's once around the block, or a car ride to the pet store now and he's satisfied.

  33. WHAT? Blueberry's not old! I can't believes that lady said that. Would she tell a person that? "Oh, you don't have to do such-and-such. You're OLD!" Gee whiz!

    Anyways, I think it's awfully good of you to think of ways to include Blueberry. And I know she prolly appreciates it a lot. And I also think she'll tell you what's too much and what is juuuuust right!

    Wiggles & Wags,

  34. It is so hard to keep up with everyone's posts and it is especially hard to keep track of all of furry one's birthdays so I was surprised to read that Blueberry is 15! Wow! She aged so gracefully! She looks terrific!
    Thankfully I don't have to think about my Daisy's old age as she is only 2 but I do have older dogs as clients and the only thing I do is to pay attention to what they want: for example, if they appear to be too tired to go further along on the walk I will simply stop and pet him/her and sit for awhile with them. I am a believer that older dogs still want to stay young (in their minds, that is) so I try keeping them as included with their siblings as much a possible.

  35. Phantom gets to go for a walk with just Mom, and he is so spoiled - he gets all sorts of pampering with his food. And he gets lots of tummy rubs when he is in the mood for them. He still has to do sit and down and stay for treats, and if he is willing to play, Mom will play some silly games with him. Most days he is content to just find a sunbeam and soak up the warmth.

    Woos, Ciara and Thunder

  36. At this moment our oldest pup inside is 4 - so we've got a little ways to go :)
    Hope you find some interesting things to do - I know some of your followers have great ideas!
    Btw, I love the dog coats - they look wonderful on your dogs!

    Rudy's Raiser

  37. I am sure you will find the perfect balance!
    I know she appreciates you include her in your outdoor activities!
    Kisses and hugs

  38. We have learned that senior Airedales, tend to act like puppies until the very end. If we see limping or soreness, we take shorter walks and slower walks, but we try to include the oldsters!

    Wyatt's Mom

  39. My lab lived to 15 and some of my fondest moments are between the ages of 10 and 15. I love senior dogs; they just seem to speak to us on a whole new level. Her pink coat is great!

  40. Pink is definitely your color! Us older pups still like swimming and going for easy (flat) walks.

    The Road Dogs

  41. For hiking, we have arrived with everyone and gone for a walk ideal for the seniors and then put them back in our van and take the younger ones for a 2nd more strenuous walk. We have crates in our van so its pretty easy in our situation... even leave with Kongs and treats if necessary.

    I also think its important to challenge old age. Don't let those rear ends get weak and shakey. Climb hills, walk through the woods and tall grass, step over cavalettis. Swim.

  42. We are facing the same issue now as Red just turned 9 and Joy will turn 9 at the end of the month. Last summer we did a 4 day/3 night backpacking trip along part of the Appalachian Trail that was tougher than either of us expected. It put considerable stress on the girls and we would never want to put them through that again. This year we have the opportunity to be out west in May so we are going to do our annual "big hike" without the girls in Zion Nat'l Park. We will miss them, but I'm sure they will be happy with all the extra attention they'll get while visiting with their Grammy & Papa - my parents!

    But I also hope that they'll be able to keep walking with me as they age. On good weather days (not too hot or cold) I try to get them out for a 3-mile walk. It's sometimes harder for Red - she has hardware in her back hock from a broken leg - but we slow down to accomodate her. I hate exercise for the sake of exercise - i.e., the gym - so walking and hiking are really essential in my life. Not so sure that either would be as enjoyable without Joy & Red!

  43. I just saw your Coffee with a Canine interview. It looks great! I love the stories of Morgan as Bunny's protector. What a sweetheart she is. :-)


We love hearing your comments!

Related Posts with Thumbnails