Liam the pug lives to go for walks. He always has. In fact, when he was a very tiny puppy, he insisted on going for walks with his older brother dog--and he refused to let me carry him even one step. He uses walks to investigate the world around him, and he never gets tired of reading peemail or searching for hidden berries and snacks. Walks make him happy.
But lately, Liam has also been showing some troubling signs of arthritis. He wobbles and hobbles a bit when he first gets up out of bed, and when he does go for walks, he seems to tire quickly. Sometimes, he even lets me pick him up and carry him on the way home.
It's possible that he's still dealing with the after-effects of his summertime back injury. If so, this might be an issue that could be resolved with medications and therapy (which I will be discussing with his veterinarian post-haste).
But it reminds me that Liam is aging. Even if he gets up to 100 percent this fall, there will come a time when he will simply not be able to go for our 2-time-per-day walks. His body will wear out.
So how can I help him to stay connected with an activity he loves so much, even when he's unable to engage in that activity?
There are a couple options.
I could use a cart to help him go on walks. I have a little stroller I used this summer when Liam hurt his back, and while he prefers to walk over being pushed, he did seem to enjoy the opportunity to be out in the fresh air in his cart. I could work on training him to accept that cart more fully, and I could pop him in that cart on days when the walk seems as though it's too much to bear.
I could also work packing as much into a walk as I can while shortening the distance that we walk. Doing scent work by tossing treats into the grass and staying in place while he looks for them could help to engage his mind without making him put so many miles on his feet.
And I may also consider looking for more engaging toys to enrich his home life. Food puzzle toys, tug toys and chew toys all help him to use his body without walking long distances. They also give his mind a workout, which he might enjoy.
I know I'm not the only one out there with an aging animal, and I'd love to hear how you help your pets to stay active and engaged when walks become a little less than ideal. Share your comments, won't you?