Nov. 16 World Series Champ Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation Honored
When dogs get too confident

What a senior dog can teach you about life

I'm happy to be again contributing to the Pet 'Net Adoption Event 2011 sponsored by This is the fourth year Petside is linking bloggers together celebrating pets as part of the family, and encouraging adoption. This is the first year Petside is in a partnership with Iams on a social media donation campaign, but more on that later. 

This year the event follows a recent celebration of my dog Cleo's sixth year with us. She is now truly experiencing her golden years. And her obvious aging is cause for some adjustment on my part, because she is my first senior dog.

As a Baby Boomer, with my own signs of aging, I have been learning a lot about life with every passing year from my senior dog. As of this year, I am now the Editor-at-Large for LIFE+DOG magazine, writing on a monthly basis much longer pieces than my average blog post. Dogs played a part in my childhood development, and now an old dog is helping me at this later stage of adult life. All of these ingredients have me sitting at my computer, with Cleo nearby, contemplating our time together and what it has revealed. 

Last year I wrote about how adopting a dog can be a gift, and it is still true. Cleo is a treasure and rare dog. Adopting a dog opens your heart. I've found I'm now more receptive to the rollercoaster of life because of my experiences with Cleo. What is also true, is that a senior dog can teach you a lot about embracing the life we have, savoring the small accomplishments, and enjoying a good nap.

IMG_4041November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month, and if you've thought about getting a dog, consider adopting, or during the winter months, even fostering, a senior sweetheart. There is a lot a senior dog can teach you about life. Cleo has been a great tutor, and I am determined to be the teacher's pet in return. Therefore, let me start with the obvious reasons why you would want to have a senior in your life: cute traits that senior dogs possess.

Senior Dogs Five Cutest Traits

  1. Happiest of smiles, made more so if missing teeth
  2. Often are more vocal and talkative
  3. Content to hang out with you longer, rather than jumping at the door knob to go out
  4. When out walking, if more likely to greet other dogs calmly & with a slow, low wag
  5. They love sleeping in whenever you do

A Grouchy Puppy reader wrote, "Senior pets are happy to cuddle on the couch - especially on bad weather days... they don't care about going out and playing.."

Buddhist Buddy
Besides being as cute as a puppy, a senior dog has the slow pace and zen demeanor of a canine sage. If you let yourself, it is easy to be still with an older dog. Because they don't have the excited nature of a puppy, it is possible to have long periods of quiet with them.

I can be with Cleo, as she is dozing off, contemplating her current physical issues and state of mind. It doesn't take long before I find myself contemplating my own physicality and mental state. Senior dogs can teach us simple, universal truths.

Senior Dogs or Senior People: Five Universal Truths

  1. Easy does it
  2. Stop and smell the roses
  3. One can never stretch or walk too much
  4. Trust is earned
  5. Naps are our friends

What has been wonderful during this process of aging with Cleo, has been finding others who are on the same road. One Grouchy Puppy reader wrote in with this thought, about their life with their senior dogs:

"Both old, beat up, and very slow. We were made for each other. We are specifically tuned in to each other as we go through the process of getting old. We both hurt, we both have "bad days" and we both spend a lot of time at the doctor's office. He and I have a very sedate lifestyle together. As a family, My Wife and I read a lot about canine nutrition, exercise, and health. We are able to provide a fine environment for the four of us that is as healthy as possible, stress free, and safe. Senior People and Senior Dogs going through the education of life and old age together and helping each other "Get through" it."

Walking a senior dog, keeps you both healthy! 

Living in San Francisco, the hills make it easy to get daily exercise. At the start of her walks, Cleo jogs down the street, before taking a sharp turn straight up a steep incline. This daily exercise helps maintain her weight at a steady 85 lbs for two years in a row. As a senior dog, it is important to keep excess weight off so we don't put any additional stress on Cleo's joints.


For me, as a Baby Boomer, getting out and exercising with Cleo, keeps my weight down and is a great way to have both of us connect with our community. Our neighborhood has lots of local businesses, and walking with a large Shepherd-Husky dog is a surefire way to start a conversation.

There are many reasons to include a senior dog in a senior household, and the benefits are mutual.

Caring for Cleo's diet now that she is a senior dog, makes us more health conscious. As we focus on reading labels to avoid food we know Cleo is allergic to, we also become more aware of our own diet. I have gotten into the habit of trying more gluten-free products.

Besides being a motivator to get us out of the house, and walking, our dog Cleo has gotten us to slow down and appreciate the everyday human-dog interaction. We enjoy watching her behavior, and mannerisms as she picks out a toy to greet us, or when she decides it is playtime.

Aged to perfection A senior dog, like a person, has gone through more and has a richer memory to draw from. Cleo is no exception, and her personality and interaction with us reflects her age, and her trust. She is far more dynamic and multi-faceted than even one year ago.

Beauty and Brains Cleo has been a great teacher. She has convinced us to lighten up, learn to appreciate the simple things in life and to not be afraid of what is behind that door. With every passing day, Cleo remains a gift, that keeps on giving.’s 2011 Pet ‘Net Adoption Event marks the first in a partnership with Iams on a social media donation campaign. 

This post is a part of Pet ‘Net 2011! Help me get a $500 donation to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue by clicking on that link and voting for this post!

Want to learn more and help animals? Here are some ways! By taking any of the steps below on November 16, 2011, Iams Home 4 The Holidays and their Bags 4 Bowls initiative will donate bowls of food to local shelters in honor of Pet 'Net 2011!

READ AND LEARN about shelter adoption on’s comprehensive one-page hub ( With links to over 20 pet-centric websites, visitors can easily navigate from site to site and read articles on topics ranging from the benefits of adopting a senior pet to personal stories of strength.



1. Tweet @Iams with the Pet ‘Net hastag #IHeartShelterPets and Iams Home 4 The Holidays and their Bags 4 Bowls initiative will donate 25 bowls of food to local shelters.

2. "Like" Petside's Facebook Page to earn 25 additional bowls of food AND...

3. Share your adoption story on Petside’s Facebook Wall for the chance to be featured on as a Happy Tail story!

4. VOTE for your favorite blog on Pet 'Net 2011 Hub Page! Petside will donate $500 to the winning blogger's shelter of choice. That's me! If you enjoyed my story about what a senior dog has to offer and why we still love our Cleo so much, please vote for Grouchy Puppy and ask your friends and family to as well. Thank you!!

For all the current information related to the social media donation campaign, please visit




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