Liam the pug celebrated his 9th birthday just a few weeks ago. And he seems to be feeling his age. He's not the over-the-top-busy boy he once was. And his little face is flecked with grey. Look closely, and you can also see the beginnings of cataracts forming in his eyes.
Yup, he's crossing over into senior-dog territory. And lately, I've been thinking a little about what he might want me to know as he moves from puppy to senior. Here's my best shot at his requests, after performing a quick pug mind meld.
1. "Make time for me."During the puppy years, time seems infinite. But when dogs become seniors, there's simply more time behind us than there is in front of us. And often, senior dogs just don't have the ability to do everything with us that they once did.
Where Liam once followed me from room to room as I went about my day, so we were always together, he sometimes needs to rest in his bed. And those long hikes we used to take might still be fun for me, but his back might keep him out of the hiking group altogether.
Making time for a senior dog means meeting that dog where the dog feels comfortable. For Liam, that means we need to spend at least an hour every evening listening to the radio. He sits on my lap and gets focused cuddle time. He needs it. And when he's gone, I'll be thankful I spent time with him.
2. "Slow down."I'm a fast talker and a fast walker. That suited Liam just fine when he was a puppy. He could keep up with me. But as he ages, he just can't walk as fast as he once did. And since his hearing isn't what it once was, it sometimes takes him a few moments to pick up on the commands I toss out.
Slowing down my natural pace, just a little bit, can help his life to be a little more comfortable. And that could be the best gift I could give him.
3. "Forgive me."Liam's hearing woes, and his general pug stubborness, have added up to some pretty bad situations in this household. He doesn't hear me when I call him away from things he shouldn't eat (like snacks from the litter box). And sometimes, he wakes me up a zillion times in the night because he is a little lonely and needs company.
I could get irritated. Deep down inside, I sometimes do. But again, it pays to remember that Liam isn't going to be with me for another 15 years. Will I want his remaining time to be about anger? No. When he makes mistakes (which he will), I should try to forgive.
4. "Pay attention."An aging body isn't always beautiful. Old dogs can have aches and pains that limit their quality of life. And pugs like Liam might do their darndest to keep these things hidden. Liam doesn't want to stress me out. So he refuses to ask me for help unless things are desperate.
It's my job, as his senior caregiver, to pay attention to the subtle signals he throws my way. I need to be careful to watch for the little limp, the sudden stumble, the subtle wince the increased pant. I need to take care of him, even though he doesn't always want to ask for my help.
5. "Enjoy me as I am."It's worth remembering that dogs live in the moment. Liam has few, if any, I-wish-I-was-a-pup moments. I shouldn't inflict those memories on him, either. He is different now than he once was. And in many ways, he's still the wonderful dog that he has always been. I should enjoy him no matter how he is. This is is forever home. He deserves respect.
Do you think your aging pets would add anything to this list? And if so, what? Drop me a note in the comments. Love to hear your thoughts!