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Gingersnap
02-03-2010, 02:50 PM
The last word: Why old dogs are the best dogs

They can be eccentric, slow afoot, even grouchy. But dogs live out their final days, says The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten, with a humility and grace we all could learn from.
The Last Word•Friday, October 17, 2008Comment Print Email They can be eccentric, slow afoot, even grouchy. But dogs live out their final days, says The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten, with a humility and grace we all could learn from.

Not long before his death, Harry and I headed out for a walk that proved eventful. He was nearly 13, old for a big dog. Walks were no longer the slap-happy Iditarods of his youth, frenzies of purposeless pulling in which we would cast madly off in all directions, fighting for command. Nor were they the exuberant archaeological expeditions of his middle years, when every other tree or hydrant or blade of grass held tantalizing secrets about his neighbors. In his old age, Harry had transformed his walk into a simple process of elimination—a dutiful, utilitarian, head-down trudge. When finished, he would shuffle home to his ratty old bed, which graced our living room because Harry could no longer ascend the stairs. On these walks, Harry seemed oblivious to his surroundings, absorbed in the arduous responsibility of placing foot before foot before foot before foot. But this time, on the edge of a small urban park, he stopped to watch something. A man was throwing a Frisbee to his dog. The dog, about Harry’s size, was tracking the flight expertly, as Harry had once done, anticipating hooks and slices by watching the pitch and roll and yaw of the disc, as Harry had done, then catching it with a joyful, punctuating leap, as Harry had once done, too.

Harry sat. For 10 minutes, he watched the fling and catch, fling and catch, his face contented, his eyes alight, his tail a-twitch. Our walk home was almost … jaunty.

Some years ago, The Washington Post invited readers to come up with a midlife list of goals for an underachiever. The first-runner-up prize went to: “Win the admiration of my dog.”

It’s no big deal to love a dog; they make it so easy for you. They find you brilliant, even if you are a witling. You fascinate them, even if you are as dull as a butter knife. They are fond of you, even if you are a genocidal maniac. Hitler loved his dogs, and they loved him.

Puppies are incomparably cute and incomparably entertaining, and, best of all, they smell exactly like puppies. At middle age, a dog has settled into the knuckleheaded matrix of behavior we find so appealing—his unquestioning loyalty, his irrepressible willingness to please, his infectious happiness. But it is not until a dog gets old that his most important virtues ripen and coalesce. Old dogs can be cloudy-eyed and grouchy, gray of muzzle, graceless of gait, odd of habit, hard of hearing, pimply, wheezy, lazy, and lumpy. But to anyone who has ever known an old dog, these flaws are of little consequence. Old dogs are vulnerable. They show exorbitant gratitude and limitless trust. They are without artifice. They are funny in new and unexpected ways. But, above all, they seem at peace.

Read the whole thing.

The Week (http://www.theweek.com/article/index/89914/The_last_word_Why_old_dogs_are_the_best_dogs)

aerojarod
02-03-2010, 03:01 PM
When ever I read articles about dogs like this one, it totally rips up my heart and leaves me venerable to cry the rest of the day. But thanks!

Apache
02-03-2010, 03:13 PM
Oh jeez, I miss Boxer...:(

Gingersnap
02-03-2010, 03:47 PM
One time I adopted a little old guy that I named Rusty. We already had a dog named Dusty but since Rusty was stone deaf, we figured there wouldn't be any confusion.

Nobody wanted Rusty. He was old, deaf, blind and demented. Rusty could get lost in a corner and often did. His feet got infected all the time and he had to wear baby socks. In a rare display of ingenuity and accuracy, Rusty once bit me using dead reckoning when I was eating a steak. Every single afternoon after work I had to clean out Rusty's area in the laundry room because he'd poop randomly and then track it everywhere. I usually had to clean Rusty himself off at the same time. Nobody was going to write a book or make a movie about Rusty.

But I fell in love with him anyway. He depended on me completely and he trusted me completely (aside from the steak issue). He got as much joy out of bumbling through the grass as any puppy and he was secure knowing that I'd never let him get lost. He liked to lay on my feet when I read a book or watched TV. He followed me around the house relentlessly and happily. I was sorry to send him over the bridge when it was time. Mr. Snaps never "got" Rusty but I sure did. :)

hampshirebrit
02-03-2010, 03:49 PM
Great thread and follow-up post, Ginger.

Gingersnap
02-03-2010, 08:54 PM
Bumping for dog lovers. :)

Gingersnap
02-03-2010, 10:19 PM
Suck it up and post some thoughts about your old dogs. I can't believe CUers have no amusing or bittersweet stories about their old dogs. Half the board probably has a dog over 8 years old.

Rockntractor
02-03-2010, 10:25 PM
Suck it up and post some thoughts about your old dogs. I can't believe CUers have no amusing or bittersweet stories about their old dogs. Half the board probably has a dog over 8 years old.
I had a dog named Einstein who would sit in the doorway and howl when I played Kathleen Battle.

Gingersnap
02-03-2010, 10:36 PM
I had a dog named Einstein who would sit in the doorway and howl when I played Kathleen Battle.

When you played Kathleen Battle for what? Money? Sex?

Rockntractor
02-03-2010, 10:38 PM
When you played Kathleen Battle for what? Money? Sex?
She has a beautiful voice but he didn't think so. He liked most new age but he didn't care for opera!

SaintLouieWoman
02-03-2010, 11:00 PM
There's something so special about old dogs. The local greyhound groups always have special programs for adopting them. Sadly, particularly in this economy, people will adopt the dogs and then return them when they're old dogs. It's tough finding someone willing to accept an older dog into the family.

SR and I have older dogs. Blue is 10, wll be 11 in Aprl. Xena will be 10 and Darlene is 7. I guess the average lifespan of a greyhound is from 10-12 years. We are in a happy time with our little doggie family. Blue stumbles around as the meds he takes for his epilepsy weakens his rear legs. But he is happy. There is indeed a peace about him. His biggest joy in life is to cuddle up to SR and me. They all get along and all seem to be at peace.

I realize that this is a happy time, a time to treasure with our pooches. We know the inevitable sadness is looming, but enjoy every minute with the hounds, even when they play their little game of pestering us and waking us up to go out at 2am.

Thanks for posting the article, Ginger.

Gingersnap
02-03-2010, 11:07 PM
Thanks for posting the article, Ginger.

I think there are plenty of CUers with older dogs. They just get too sniffly to post. ;)

Rockntractor
02-03-2010, 11:15 PM
I think there are plenty of CUers with older dogs. They just get too sniffly to post. ;)

Well that and it takes too long to type stories with one finger and than when you get done you get your grammar corrected.

patriot45
02-03-2010, 11:25 PM
Touching story.
My little boy will be 9 in april. He is a big dog at 110 pounds but he still has that yellow lab goofiness! He does get tired pretty fast retrieving things but he has fun while we do it. His best times are when the pool is open, in Florida thats about 8 months! :D
We have a deck right up to the pool edge and years ago I had bought a wedding cake step for in the pool, he can come and go out of the pool as much as he likes, and he loves the pool. Ever since I got him at about 6 weeks old he has gone evrywhere with me, since I had my own business, he went to "work" every day!
When its his time I'll miss him like family!

Atrain!
http://i73.photobucket.com/albums/i230/patriot45270/food/thanksgiving002-1.jpg

MountainMan
02-03-2010, 11:54 PM
Suck it up and post some thoughts about your old dogs. I can't believe CUers have no amusing or bittersweet stories about their old dogs. Half the board probably has a dog over 8 years old.I put down my 10yr old German Shepard, Luther, just over a year ago now. It tears at my heart everyday.

Unfortunately this Friday, we will be putting down our third pet in three years, our 15yr old cat Jeep. He contracted feline leukemia this past December and went downhill fast.

Constitutionally Speaking
02-04-2010, 12:20 AM
I think there are plenty of CUers with older dogs. They just get too sniffly to post. ;)


I just lost my best buddy about a month ago - and you are right.

Buck was my best buddy, but before him, I would never have thought I could possibly even like, let alone love a dog of his breed.

He first came into my life when a sibling brought him home on a rescue attempt. She worked in a pet shop, and small breeds especially tend to go through their blood sugar rapidly when put under stress or when they get too excited for a long period of time. This causes them to go into a hypoglycemic shock - which can be fatal if not treated right away. The cure and prevention is simple - just add a bit of honey to it's drinking water for tha first couple of weeks and you don't have any problems.

Unfortunately, the people who purchased him, ignored this bit of advice. My sister brought him home and he was just about lifeless, but after a day or so he was up and at 'em. We stuffed an athletic sock with other worn out bits of cloth to form a toy for him. He was so tiny that when he shook the toy, he actually did all of the moving, and the stuffed sock stayed stationary. That did not matter, he was really into playing with that sock. You could tell, way back then, that this little mutt had some character. He soon recovered and was re-sold to another family and that should have been the end of this story - but we were soon to cross paths again.

About 8 months later, my sister came home and explained that the little shih-tzu we had nurtured a while back had been returned and was going to be sent back to the supplier. I knew what this meant and could not bear to let that happen to the spunky little bugger we had brought back to health.

It just so happened that my girlfriend (now my wife) had a birthday coming up and I used that as an excuse to buy him. Now, at this time, she was not very fond of dogs, and lived in an apartment, so I ended up keeping him myself. (She was quickly won over by this little bundle of fur though.)

This little guy went everywhere with me. Camping, fishing - trips to the store - everywhere. Especially fishing. I LOVE to fish. Especially stream fishing for trout. On our camping trips, whenever I would leave camp and head down to the stream, Buck would INSIST he accompany me. It got so that I would just arrange him comfortably in the top part of my waders - facing out with his "arm pits" hooked over the top of my waders to keep him from sliding down. He LOVED it and for years he accompanied me into the streams on my fishing expeditions. I swear he KNEW the difference between when I hooked a fish, and when I simply made an errant cast and got hung up on a stick or some brush. He wouldn't give two licks when I was reeling in a snag, but let me have a fish on the line and he was at attention. As the fish got close enough for him to see, he literally shook with excitement - his eyes following every dash and zig-zag the fish would make. When I brought the fish to net and let them go - he looked at me as if I were crazy. If I was catching dinner, I would put them on the stringer and he would follow their every move.

I lived on a lake for a while and Buck was in his element! Whenever I let him outside, he headed straight for the dock to watch the small bluegills that loitered in it's shadows. He would spend hours there if I let him, and I frequently did. Once, after a heavy rain half-filled up the small boat I had, I got the bright idea of catching a few of those small bluegills and putting them into the boat so Buck could get a better look at them. Boy did he! Before I go any further, I need to explain that Buck HATED the water - baths were verboten and even when fishing, he did not like getting wet. That went out the window when he saw the fish in the bottom of the boat. He dived right in and had ball chasing the fish around in the semi-shallow water.

Years passed, my wife and I got married and he won her over quickly. It got to the point where I think she stayed with me because of him. Actually I am certain of that fact. He would jump up on the bed in the morning, lie on her stomach, and wait for her to wake up. Just as soon as her eyes began to open, his tail would go into overdrive - glad to start another day with the lady in his life.

Early on in his life, Buck had tangled with a much larger dog and one of his eyes literally popped out of it's socket. It blinded him in that eye and required constant maintenance with a moisturizing concoction of some type of oil and an anti-biotic. It never seemed to really bother him, but as he aged his other eye started to go bad also. About two years ago, he started to go downhill in a significant manner. His days were mostly spent sleeping on his bed, eating and getting his belly scratched. We knew the end was approaching but as long as he wasn't suffering we were going to make his life as nice as we could. It was about this time that I left for my annual deer hunting trip up north. A couple of days before I was supposed to leave for home, my wife called and let me know that Buck was not doing well - not well at all.

I headed home and he looked really bad. He barely could wag his tail - and this was the same dog who had mastered the art of greeting his master. We took him to the vet convinced the time was near, yet after some fluids and some medicine he improved dramatically. Several times in the last couple of years we were sure his time had arrived, yet to ours and our veterinarian's surprise he came through. It got so that our vet began calling him the wonder dog with the heart of a lion. It was all true.

This summer I took him to our favorite river and we went fishing one last time. Although he was completely blind by this time - he had not lost his ability to sense when I had a fish on and still got excited. I cradled the fish I was keeping for dinner and let him sniff them and sense their wriggling before I put them on the stringer. He appreciated the treats of fish that he earned that day on the river.

Right about Christmas - time, he was going through another bad spell - this time I knew it was his time. The Vet confirmed my fears and I sat cradling him and stroking his fur as the vet administered the first of two shots. This one pretty much relaxed him before the final shot was given about 10 minutes later. I sat there with him bawling like a two year old the whole time, stroking his fur and letting him know he was a good boy.

He was.

I sit here now crying as I type this. Buck was simply the best. He gave me twenty good years and I hope he says the same about me. Somewhere though, I know God has him in his waders chasing the wild trout in his heavenly streams. He is waiting for me, and when I finally do arrive, he will give me one of his great greetings and lead me down to the river bank where a fly rod and a pair of waders await.

http://img215.imageshack.us/img215/8739/bucks.jpg

AlmostThere
02-04-2010, 12:31 AM
That was special. Thanks

SaintLouieWoman
02-04-2010, 08:21 AM
That was very special, CS. You were blessed to have him for 20 years. That usually isn't the case wth big dogs.

This morning old Blue dawg put us to the test. He kept SR up quite a bit last night. He kept standing by the bed, poking him with that long needle nose. He thought it was time for SR to get up and go to work, so he could jump up in our bed. Bless SR for keeping his patience. It was tough, because Blue was unusually persistent. I ended up getting up for a few minutes. Blue jumped up and snuggled with SR, sighing and sighing.

Had an email this mornng from one of the ladies in my silly little Dog Toy Support Group. I thought it was cute about old dogs.


An older, tired-looking dog wandered into my yard. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home and was well taken care of.

He calmly came over to me, I gave him a few pats on his head; he then followed me into my house, slowly walked down the hall, curled up in the corner and fell asleep.

An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out..

The next day he was back, greeted me in my yard, walked inside and resumed his spot in the hall and again slept for about an hour.This continued off and on for several weeks.

Curious I pinned a note to his collar: 'I would like to find out who the owner of this wonderful sweet dog is and ask if you are aware that almost every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.'

The next day he arrived for his nap, with a different note pinned to his collar: 'He lives in a home with 6 children, 2 under the age of 3 - he's trying to catch up on his sleep. Can I come with him tomorrow?'

noonwitch
02-04-2010, 08:59 AM
My dog is going to be 11 this summer, and she's amazingly active for her age. She runs around the yard, chases the cat (who is almost 13), plays with kids. She's not as high energy as she was a few years ago, but she still gets excited about snow and such. My old dog had a lot of health problems from about age 9 on.

Gingersnap
02-04-2010, 09:36 AM
Excellent stories, guys! I still carry pics of some of my old dogs in my wallet. It's always hard to see our dog friends get old and die. Hard as it is though, I try to think of it as an opportunity to make room for another dog who needs a home and a buddy. :)

aerojarod
02-04-2010, 10:38 AM
Growing up as a boy in the sticks of rural Vermont we had a chocolate lab-mutt we called Coco. We lived on a dirt road with an active beaver pond across the way that she loved to pow around in. She was a swamper. Understandably, she always smelled of mud and stagnant water but she was my dog and I loved her.

It was common to see her swimming after the beavers, never quite able to match their speed. Occasionally shed catch herself a big ol' garter snake and carry it around in the yard, dangling out either side of her muzzle like a Fu Manchu moustache, haha!

She had a dog bed in the house, but much prefered to sit in an old armchair we had in the corner. She'd curl up in it, resting her chin on the armrest as the family watched TV at night.

As a kid I was always out in the woods, building forts, exploring, wandering too far out of sight for my mother's comfort. Coco would always accompany me, watching over me. One time, as I was scaling a pretty steep moss-covered cliff face on my way to investigate a porcupine den I knew was up there, I lost my footing and slipped, maybe only a few feet... but what felt like 10 or 15 feet down the sheer rock face.
When I suddenly stopped, I looked back up the slope... with my arms outstreatched above me, there she was... Coco, with both of her front paws pressed into my hands.

Whether I stopped my fall on my own or whether she reacted and "caught" me with her paws I'll never really know. But in my childs mind, and to this day, I swear that dog saved me from serious injury.

Years passed and she got old and rickity. The armchair was too difficult to climb into so she resigned herself to the dog bed. In her final days I would sneak out of my bedroom at night to go lay with her on her dog bed, giving her some company and comfort I thought... but looking back, it was mostly for my own.

I'll never forget the look on her face as she looked back at me and her home as Dad took her on her last drive to vets. It's like she knew it was the end, and she was soaking up her last look at everything she loved and had ever known.

Miss ya, girl.

hampshirebrit
02-04-2010, 03:11 PM
Wow, now I can see why there's a Potential Tissue Alert on this thread.

Great stories, and particularly CS's. Very powerful writing and a great tribute to your dog.

Constitutionally Speaking
02-04-2010, 08:03 PM
That was very special, CS. You were blessed to have him for 20 years. That usually isn't the case wth big dogs.


Yeah I know. My "baby" girl Lab is now 10 years old. She is starting to slow down too. I dread the day she leaves us also.

stsinner
02-04-2010, 08:29 PM
I adopted an old Scottie named Boo Boo in Germany, because he had epilepsy and had been given from military family to military family because everyone feared he would die if flown home.. I said, "Screw it! If he dies, it's better than getting attached to a family over and over only to be torn away.." We flew him home, and he was fine.. He had medication, but every now and then would have an episode where he would just freeze.. He would convulse in place, standing there, just not responding.. When he came out of it, he would walk in counter-clockwise circles until he could gradually go straight and continue our walk.. The poor guy lived three more years before cancer of the mouth got him... He was a good old guy-fun loving, but damned cranky when he didn't want to be messed with... Jet black and messy most of the time, I just laughed at his grumpiness and walked away.. Little trooper!

Now, I dread the dying process with my girl, Mocha.. She's a Neapolitan Mastiff that we paid $2000 for, and being a big dog, I'll be lucky to get 9 or 10 years out of her.. She's already 5..

Gingersnap
02-04-2010, 09:30 PM
Now, I dread the dying process with my girl, Mocha.. She's a Neapolitan Mastiff that we paid $2000 for, and being a big dog, I'll be lucky to get 9 or 10 years out of her.. She's already 5..

Big dogs don't last as long, that's unfortunately true. We've mostly had English Setters, Shetland Sheepdogs, and now, the Collie. Those setters lived forever. They ended up blind, deaf, and semi-incontinent but they were damn good-looking right to the end and they knew it. :D

I knew a gal in Denver who raised Scottish Deerhounds. She was resigned to the short life span they had. She felt that having the friendship of those noble dogs was worth it. :)

SaintLouieWoman
02-04-2010, 10:33 PM
I adopted an old Scottie named Boo Boo in Germany, because he had epilepsy and had been given from military family to military family because everyone feared he would die if flown home.. I said, "Screw it! If he dies, it's better than getting attached to a family over and over only to be torn away.." We flew him home, and he was fine.. He had medication, but every now and then would have an episode where he would just freeze.. He would convulse in place, standing there, just not responding.. When he came out of it, he would walk in counter-clockwise circles until he could gradually go straight and continue our walk.. The poor guy lived three more years before cancer of the mouth got him... He was a good old guy-fun loving, but damned cranky when he didn't want to be messed with... Jet black and messy most of the time, I just laughed at his grumpiness and walked away.. Little trooper!

Now, I dread the dying process with my girl, Mocha.. She's a Neapolitan Mastiff that we paid $2000 for, and being a big dog, I'll be lucky to get 9 or 10 years out of her.. She's already 5..

Bless you for taking the epileptic dog. Our Blue was diagnosed with epilepsy almost 9 years ago. We've been through tough times together, but finally he's had a reprieve, now almost 2 1/2 years, without seizures, at least the grand mal type.

SR wants a Great Dane, but I'm not convinced. I've heard they have a lifespan of maybe 6 years or less. Of course there are exceptions that live longer. I just couldn't stand saying goodbye that soon.

Constitutionally Speaking
02-04-2010, 10:37 PM
Bless you for taking the epileptic dog. Our Blue was diagnosed with epilepsy almost 9 years ago. We've been through tough times together, but finally he's had a reprieve, now almost 2 1/2 years, without seizures, at least the grand mal type.

SR wants a Great Dane, but I'm not convinced. I've heard they have a lifespan of maybe 6 years or less. Of course there are exceptions that live longer. I just couldn't stand saying goodbye that soon.



Great Dane's do have a very short life-span. Wonderful dogs though.

Rockntractor
02-04-2010, 10:42 PM
Bless you for taking the epileptic dog. Our Blue was diagnosed with epilepsy almost 9 years ago. We've been through tough times together, but finally he's had a reprieve, now almost 2 1/2 years, without seizures, at least the grand mal type.

SR wants a Great Dane, but I'm not convinced. I've heard they have a lifespan of maybe 6 years or less. Of course there are exceptions that live longer. I just couldn't stand saying goodbye that soon.
My Great Dane lived to be 13 and did just fine up to the last 6 months. Her name was Maggy.

SaintLouieWoman
02-05-2010, 02:40 PM
My Great Dane lived to be 13 and did just fine up to the last 6 months. Her name was Maggy.

We have a Dane in the neighborhood called Meg. She's huge.

You must have taken excellent care of your Dane to achieve such longevity. They're such beautiful dogs, but afraid I couldn't handle one that huge. Meg, the neighbor's dog, ended up breaking her owner's leg. The woman was taking Meg for a walk and Meg pulled so hard she pulled the woman down, then dragged her with a broken leg.