Life with a Geriatric Dog

Good morning everyone!

Tyra on the couch

I watched Tyra last night as she was walking up the stairs from the back yard to the porch and realized, as I have realized other times over the last six months, that we are beginning life yet again with a geriatric dog.  It is an inevitable part of the life cycle of the special friendship that you acquire with a dog.  The last years with a geriatric dog have their own joys as well as their special sorrows but I still wouldn’t trade them for anything.  Part of owning a dog is that eventually the dog will die but the joy I get from being with the dog throughout its life far outweighs the sorrows. 

Shadow asleep on the bed when she was 15.

Tyra will be our third geriatric dog.  Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will probably remember that Shadow and J.P. Wooflesnort (Woof for short) were the other two. 

One of my favorite pictures of Woof as an older dog.

At our house, geriatric dogs get special services.  These include elevator service onto beds, couches and any other surface aged hips and paws can’t quite reach any more, (although when it is Mandy’s turn, there will be a lack of elevator service for counters on which she currently likes to graze!), first dibs on any table scraps or snacks that are handed out and help with maintaining the spot of primary dog in the house.  Tyra gets the special perk, because it is a special joy for her, of being taken for a ride periodically in the car while the other two dogs are left in their crates at the house.  The other two don’t mind so very much, but the look on Tyra’s face as she saunters out is priceless – it is very much an “I get to go and they don’t!” look. 

Tyra basking in the sun in the backyard.

Older dogs, at least the three we have had, mellow out a little bit.  Woof was seven years younger than Shadow.  Once Shadow was 12 and beginning to get quite deaf, Woof would often get quite excited about something that Shadow couldn’t hear, and go get Shadow to check it out; Shadow would investigate the situation and come back and tell Woof everything was okay and just to chill.

Shadow in her prime riding in a boat on the local lake

Older dogs do not lose their intelligence as they get older.  I can remember very close to the bitter end, once we knew that Shadow had kidney trouble, being told to feed her a special kind of dog food.  To break her into it, we were told to start by mixing her regular dog food with this (apparently much blander) wet dog food to encourage her to eat it.  Shadow would have nothing of that; we had about a week of her carefully picking out every dry piece of food she could find while shredding through and leaving all of the wet dog food she didn’t like. 

Woof, a few months before she died.

I would like to say that older dogs get sweeter as they age, but I haven’t really noticed that.  Shadow kept that hint of ginger in her temperament that endeared her to us.  She loved us, but had the gumption to get irritated with us if we broke her “rules” about things, like if we were playing with a dog toy and she felt that we weren’t letting her get it often enough, as well as the facial expressions to let us know it.  Woof stayed as sweet as ever.  In fact, I have to say that Woof was probably the most flexible geriatric dog I know of, since she adjusted well to Shadow’s death, Tyra’s adoption, Kayla’s adoption and Mandy’s adoption all in the space of about three years, although she did nearly have a nervous breakdown the time that Kayla, at age 5, pulled Woof into the bathtub with her in a moment when I wasn’t looking.  She never again let herself be alone in the bathroom with Kayla, that was certain!  Tyra’s temperament appears to be holding steady – sweet and sane. 

Tyra Waiting on the Sofa

For our household, Tyra has just arrived on the leading edge of geriatric status (Shadow died when she was 16 and Woof when she was 14) so hopefully, at age 10, Tyra has several years left to enjoy being queen of the household.  But she reminds me, as Tyra and Woof did each day as they aged, that each of our days together is a gift, and one I need to remember to appreciate. 

But then, isn’t that true of all of our relationships?

Have a great day everyone!


18 responses to “Life with a Geriatric Dog

  1. What a lovely post, Nancy. Our pups are so special to us, aren’t they? Here’s to a several more good quality years with Tyra.

    PS. I didn’t realize Kayla was adopted. Have you wrote a post on that before?

    • I don’t think I’ve written about Kayla being adopted, although I may have mentioned it in passing. I’m not sure I’m ready to write about all of it, although going from no children to one just barely three year old child in three weeks was a pretty wild ride! (Getting the room ready and other things was not difficult; speaking three-year old took about two more weeks after the first 3.) Besides, her adoption is just how God brought our daughter to us, so I don’t really think a lot about her being adopted.

  2. Oh I know what you mean. We also have an old dog, well it is Johns dog, he found him abandoned, and wired to a fence when he was tiny, terribly abused. The dog is now about 12 I think. he will not come inside AT ALL. he hates to be inside. So i have sown blankets and will make a mattress out of left over sheeps wool and I tuck him in every night out there in the barn with the cows. He likes it out there. He stay tucked under his blankets all night, just loves it.. lovely post.. c

    • It makes me so angry how people treat animals (and children for that matter) sometimes. There is just no excuse. I love the idea of you tucking your old dog to sleep outside in the barn every night. I bet it’s something! Thank you for the compliment.

  3. Oh, Nancy, you have touched a soft spot with me. Your Woof looked just like my Kayla when she died last year. Don’t know if you have read my post about her — “God Answers Prayer…Even With a Puppy” — but the picture at the bottom of the post was taken just a few days before she died. I love my babies, and it was heartbreaking to lose Kayla; but the years I got to spend with her were filled with such love and companionship. Thanks for sharing this.

    • I don’t remember if I read your post about her or not; understandably, harm to any creature named Kayla is a thought I shy away from! If your Kayla looked like Woof, then she was a beautiful dog indeed! I’ll try to find the post later to read it. Every dog lover has soft spot for his or her dog(s); we just can’t help it!

  4. Our fur babies mean the world to us at any age 🙂 Great post!

  5. We have an eighteen year old cat. We do make special accommodations – we lift him to his favorite sleeping spot, and we now have little steps up to the bed. And he gets a saucer of half-and-half every morning. But cats may differ from dogs in one respect – they certainly DO get senile! I love him, but man, he is annoying (walking in circles, waking me at 3am, etc.)!

    • Woof used to wake me every night at 1 a.m., not because she was senile but because she had gotten to where she couldn’t go the whole night without having to go outside to take care of …um…business. I got quite adept at waking up enough to let her out and back in without waking up all the way and then falling quickly back asleep. It sounds like you take really good care of your cat. You’re lucky; I think they normally live longer than dogs. Thank you for stopping by. Come back and visit again soon!

  6. Hi, I’m Bones. I’m a Border Terrier puppy and I’ve just found your blog and really enjoyed reading it. Your dogs are so lucky to have a good home and you to care for them. I look forward to your next post.
    Love Bones

  7. I enjoyed this post! I have a yellow lab who I will experience this with in the not so far future! My children have grown very fond of our dog, Bama, so I think going through old age and the death of a dog with them will be even more emotional.

  8. Great post Nancy. A reminder that we will all need a little extra care and attention and understanding as we get older – dogs, cats and humans!

  9. We have two 2-year-old goldens who are all puppy. I am looking forward to having middle-aged dogs. Maybe then I’ll be able to get out of bed without having two dogs sneeze hysterically for five minutes. But I do love them

    • Golden retrievers are wonderful animals. At least your dogs are sneezing when you get up, not sneezing to get you up! I have one who jumps on the bed four or five times when she is ready for me to get up, and if that doesn’t work, she walks on my hair. My dogs tend to sneeze after a rough (or not so rough if Tyra is involved) game of wrestling or “bark.” “Bark” is a game with rules I have yet to determine besides the fact that the three dogs form a rough circle and all of them bark at each other at the top of their lungs without stopping or any apparent cause. “Bark” is particularly popular with them when I am on the phone trying to have an important conversation.

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