Embracing those senior years.

And I’m speaking of our dogs as well as me!

Whether we like it or not, time flows in one direction.

I find it almost as difficult to know that I shall be 72 years old in November as I know that dear Pharaoh will be 13 on June 3rd., a little over three weeks from today. Both of us most firmly now in our senior years.

This introspection was generated by something that was read recently over on the Care2 site: 7 Steps to Help Your Senior Dog Be Happy and Fulfilled

Knowing that dozens of you dear readers will have dogs that are also in their senior years was the motivation for me republishing the article; as follows:

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7 Steps to Help Your Senior Dog Be Happy and Fulfilled

1381516.largeBy: Lisa Spector May 8, 2016

About Lisa Follow Lisa at @throughadogsear

I can hardly believe that my yellow Labrador, Sanchez, is turning 13 next week. I count my blessings that he is in good health and still enjoys our twice daily walks. But, I’m also aware that he can’t keep up to his activity level from even a year ago, let alone in his prime. I’m always looking for ways to provide mental stimulation to his environment without physically taxing his body.

1. Alone Time Together Daily
It’s not always easy having a multi-dog household. But, it’s important to make a priority of having time alone with your pets daily. Since Sanchez was an only dog for the first seven years of his life, he particularly appreciates this. It means walks take longer (walking Gina separately), but it’s well worth the time when I see Sanchez’s smile of contentment.

2. Keep Training
Dogs love to learn, no matter their age. I still spend time training every night with Sanchez. If it gets late, he starts whining and begging for his training time with me. The bonding time is precious and it stimulates him to keep learning and being challenged. He has no complaints about his yummy rewards either.

3. Give Him Attention in Creative Ways
Gina is a high-drive dog. We spend a lot of time retrieving and tugging. While it helps alleviate her pent up energy, Sanchez used to look neglected when she was getting the extra attention. So, I started sneaking him small treats while tugging with her. At night time, I often play ball with her inside, having her run down and up the stairs, chasing and retrieving the ball. I include Sanchez in the game by discreetly tossing him small treats while she’s running back up to me to deliver the ball. It not only makes him feel included, but it also engages his senses as his nose has to search for the tossed treat.

4. Reward. Reward. Reward.
In the video above, I am training both of my dogs together. Even though Gina is doing all of the physical activity, Sanchez is getting equally paid for staying calm and still while she jumps over and goes under him. Good Boy, Sanchez!

5. Pay Attention to New Behaviors
It’s not unusual for senior dogs to develop anxiety issues later in life that seemingly come out of nowhere. They can include sound phobias, separation anxiety or resource guarding. There are some that I just accept, such as tearing tissue out of the bathroom waste basket. I call it his puppy behavior returned. I just make sure that I don’t put anything in the trash that could be harmful when chewed. Other behaviors will only get worse if ignored, such as separation anxiety or food resource guarding. Tips for Separation Anxiety are here. For all anxiety issues, consult with your veterinarian and/or a positive reinforcement dog trainer. Ignored, they will only escalate.

6. Keep The Safe Physical Activity
Sanchez and I used to enjoy musical freestyle classes. He would weave between my legs, spin and jump on my arm on cue. While that would be too taxing on his body now, we have kept in what is safe for him. He still loves to “go back,” lift his left and right paw on cue, and show off his “downward dog.”  Of course, he is well paid for his behavior.

7. Engage The Senses
National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW™) is the official sanctioning and organizing body for the sport of K9 Nose Work. It is a growing popular sport, and it’s great for dogs of all ages. K9 Nose Work is built on scent work where dogs use their nose to search for their prize. Sanchez loved his K9 Nose Work class. Now, at home, I put pieces of liver into a mixed variety of cardboard boxes. He is told to “find” the liver. Boy, does his tail ever wag when he is searching!

Dog training should always be fun for both 4- and 2-leggeds. Get creative with your senior pup. Because you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Mark Holtuhusen

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This strikes me as very sound advice.

I will close today’s post with a photograph of dear Pharoah and me, both well into our senior years, taken just a few weeks ago demonstrating that both of us are old dogs learning new tricks!

TIMOTHY BULLARD/Daily CourierPaul Handover with Pharaoh, a 12year-old German Shepard that he uses on the cover of his new book about man's best friend.
TIMOTHY BULLARD/Daily CourierPaul Handover with Pharaoh, a 12year-old German Shepard that he uses on the cover of his new book about man’s best friend.

On second thoughts there’s a much better way to close this post that reflects on those precious years before the end of our days. That is by offering you the poem by John Oldham,  A Quiet Soul.

A Quiet Soul

Thy soul within such silent pomp did keep,

As if humanity were lull’d asleep;
So gentle was thy pilgrimage beneath,
Time’s unheard feet scarce make less noise,
Or the soft journey which a planet goes:
Life seem’d all calm as its last breath.
A still tranquillity so hush’d thy breast,
As if some Halcyon were its guest,
And there had built her nest;
It hardly now enjoys a greater rest.

John Oldham

30 thoughts on “Embracing those senior years.

  1. Pharoah is such a darling. Pippa, our cross GSD/husky, lived well into his teens. Slowed down, but perked up at the sight of cats and suddenly became young again. Similarly Prince, our GSD, was also a teenie when he died, so we can still expect a few more years from our lovely animals.

    1. Pharaoh is becoming very weak in his rear hips but otherwise is still very much a functioning dog. It won’t be long before we will have to purchase a harness, or wide carry strap, to help him get up onto four feet. It’s going to hurt terribly when he comes to the end of his days.

      1. My GSD had hip dysplasia too, Paul – if that’s what you’re alluding to with Pharaoh. He still was able to die a natural death though, as his rear quarters became paralysed with the dysplasia and he felt no pain. There were plenty of other problems resulting from his immobility, but I wouldn’t have traded those difficulties and the incredible communication we shared as a result of them, for anything – his last few weeks were some of the most powerful and precious of my entire life.

      2. Hariod, your compassion and feelings just pour out from your words. Going to read aloud to Jeannie what you wrote in a few moments. Did you write a blog post about that ending? If so, I would love to republish it.

      3. Ah. Typical GSD prob :(. Not helped by the breeding. Both Pippa and Prince succombed to that. Pippa more actually. It’s a quality of life decision. For them, not us.

      4. Thankyou Paul, and no, I’ve not written about that experience. It was a deeply profound time for me, and I honestly wouldn’t have believed anyone had they told me what I experienced, but experience it I did. It was not the product of fanciful imagination, much as it might sound so in words. The communication between the two of us was quite incredible, and which really was empathic in nature, in the deepest sense of the word. We always had great communication and understanding, which all dog lovers do with their charges, of course, but this was another level altogether. Some might call it ‘psychic’, as if that meant something mystical and woo-like, but it just means ‘of the mind’. The question is, does the mind have the psychical power to share in understanding across physical borders? You will doubtless know of J. Allen Boone:

      5. Hariod, I have a call to make to the UK in 15 minutes and I’m not in a contemplative mood just now. Ergo, I will choose a better time to watch that video before the end of the day. Plus, I want to share it with Jean at the same time. Thank you so much for sharing what you just did – it reaches out to us here in Oregon in ways well beyond words.

  2. Very nice. I think the sayings, ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ and ‘curiosity killed the cat’ are two of the most damaging cliches ever foisted upon us.

      1. I think if you keep up your regular exercise, you can stop it from deteriorating and possibly regain some.

  3. Wonderful post Paul.. and having just celabrated my own B’day last week.. Another year older, I have to confess that Age is creeping up upon us all.. But we are all as old as we feel.. And some days I am like Pharaoh and like my nice soft cushion to sit upon, and then other days I am that young puppy, full of energy.. 🙂 bouncing off the wall… Strumming my guitar strings, or painting the shed.. 🙂 LOL..
    Great to be back in touch again Paul.. and Hope to keep abreast of all your posts from now on.. Thank you for your kind support..
    Sue 🙂

  4. Thanks for re-publishing Gina’s post here, I found it interesting because Poppy, my little shih-tzu is an old dame now – she will be 17 in two months time.She has developed serious separation anxiety in the last year and if I am working in the garden, she barks for me to get back inside even though my husband is inside with her – she wants us BOTH with her. She is weak in her back legs so her walks are shorter. All these signs of old age make me so sad. Just like you and Pharoah, old age is creeping up on us all.
    A special thank you to Hariod for including that video clip of J. Allen Boone’s dog Strongheart and the very special connection they had; he was so wise about Strongheart’s qualities – they never die. It really resonated with me.
    Thank you for a wonderful post.

    1. Barb,

      Again and again I am reminded of the friendship and connection that comes about in this world of blogging. Here’s me sharing a couple of items and they reach out to others who, in turn, as with you, offer back that friendship.

      Long-winded way of me saying how much I appreciated your kind reply. Indeed, it is giving me an idea for tomorrow’s post!

      1. Hariod, your comments to Paul about your GSD really touched me because I myself am in that same space now with my almost 17 year old shih-tzu. We have always had a special connection but in the last year, as her age has progressed with it’s usual complications, our relationship has moved to another level – becoming even deeper than anything I have ever experienced; so powerfully in tune with each other, it’s incredible.
        As I write this, every day she is with us is a precious bonus.
        Thank you for that link – I will definitely check it out.

      2. Barb, I am right at this moment writing up a very sad post about Hazel that will be published at the usual time tomorrow. It underlines what you are feeling.

      3. It sounds as though you know exactly what I mean then, Barb. I lost my GSD back in the nineties, and have since lost my similarly beloved Border Collie, Nellie. But the experience of those last few weeks with my GSD remain indelibly printed upon my memory, and really opened my eyes to something special. I very much hope that your beloved Shih-Tzu makes her passing peacefully, and that she is with you at the end, if indeed an end it be. My warmest best wishes to you both, and remember, as William Penn said, love is eternal.

        Hariod

  5. Our aging pets can be very troubling. I ‘ve been there and done that many times in about 60 years and even in my years before I left the farm to attend school. It doesn’t get easy and I always hate watching my pets age. It is devastating to lose them. I love the photo of you and your GSD. He is quite handsome.

    1. I’m sorry for the delay in replying to you. There are no favorites in our ten dogs but there are some that are more open in expressing and returning affection. It seems those dogs in particular tear us apart when they die. In Pharaoh’s case at least he will live on both in the book and here in this place.

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