What can having an older dog in your life teach you?
- Stay playful. You can still take delight in simple things.
- Don't be afraid of lumps and bumps, but be observant.
- If your vision or hearing is going, don't stop exploring life.
- Even if you're moving slowly, keep moving forward.
- Live for today, don't live for the future.
With each ailment, Cleo is teaching us to accept the aging process. If anyone can do it, a dog can. Dogs make natural teachers. Her diabetes diagnosis, and need for daily insulin, has gotten me over my fear of giving injections. She couldn't be a more calm patient.
We have learned the importance of not only monitoring her diet closely, but keeping her meals regular. The similarities to her behavior and needs as they relate to diabetes are incredibly close to those of my elderly diabetic father. He has collapsed in the past from not paying attention to his activities and their impact on his blood sugar levels. With our dog we've learned to watch her behavior closely. Some mornings we'll give her a treat before taking her out for a pre-breakfast pee break if we feel she might need it.
Two sides to the human-dog bond. The deep connection felt between Cleo and I makes our time together bittersweet. When we first adopted Cleo, she had the energy and playfulness of a puppy. Today, her energy comes in bursts and is tempered by slow moving joints and muscles. But you know for all the extra attention she needs as an old dog, she still gives back more than we could ever expect.
Cleo makes me a better person. She has shown me how to still play just not so rough and tumble. There are ways to gently groom around her lumps and bumps. Eating healthier doesn't mean you can't savor life and enjoy food. She has shown me the value and beauty in a slower pace.
My old dog shows that it is possible to age gracefully. I will have to get back to you later about my progress when it comes to my feelings about our inevitable demise. I'm learning that if I live in the now then how can I carry regret. She is helping me learn that it can't be so bad if we're surrounded by loved ones when it is time. What I struggle with is how much her presence is integrated and woven into our home and my life. Can I prepare for the time when this massive spirit is gone? Should I? Is this what having a dog in my life means, or an unintended consequence of having Cleo in my life?
What has been your experience with an old dog in your life? I'd love to hear and read your thoughts in the comments.