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Free Therapy Sessions: Coping with loving a senior dog

Having a senior dog in your life is like having free therapy sessions. You experience many strong emotions, and you have a lot of questions that you need help answering. And like a good therapist, a dog can get you to stop, listen and be in the moment. We have a senior dog, my first. I've already experienced a lot of emotions, from the first night we adopted her.


Our dog Cleo, has been a force of nature. She has demanded that we participate in her life, and in return, she etched herself into ours. Now, six years after we brought her home, Cleo is slowing down and showing signs of age. Though I can't imagine my life without her, my brain keeps directing my eyes to stories about "the end". Because I feel that to honor Cleo, and all the hard work she has put in with us, it is my duty (and only fair) to be prepared for the inevitable, and to read those stories.

Coping mechanisms. My go-to coping mechanism for grief and fear is humor. When I first started thinking about euthanasia, my brain immediately brought up an image of some cute Japanese kids in Tokyo. We lived there for three years, so "youth in Asia" visuals is still pretty easy me to pull up.

Humor helps for a moment, but it doesn't stop reality, and in reality, the word euthanasia is upsetting. At this stage, I am trying to say it out loud and embrace it, so I can take away my fear of it - like smiling at a bully in school. Cleo deserves a strong pack leader who will fight for her, even at the end. She has given us so much, and when it is her end, we need to show her that we learned how to give fearlessly, just like her.

Grouchy Puppy lives on. When it is "the time" I want to demonstrate that Cleo's positive influence was truly felt, and that when she needed it herself, we could wrap her in positive influence. Cleo is the muse behind Grouchy Puppy, and my goal here is to educate and inspire you, like she does me, and everyone she encounters.

Worry less, live more. Dr. Betty Carmack, spoke at the Senior Dog Seminar held at the San Francisco SPCA. She counseled us about preparing now before the end is near. We should build our network of friends and family, and of groups who can help us when the time comes. Unless Cleo crosses the rainbow bridge in her sleep, my hope is that we get the option of having her pass - cradled in our arms at home (there is no denying she is a big girl so my husband and I will get to share this experience).

Vets that have seen Cleo have been very nice, but we know about her stress from that "moving bed" known as the car. Just in case it comes to this, I searched for home-based euthanasia services in San Francisco. My initial search has led me to Furry Friends Rescue, a Bay Area volunteer non-profit dedicated to the rescue, sanctuary and adoption of companion animals. Their site has a list of veterinarians that will perform Home Vet Care & home euthanasia in the San Francisco Bay Area, when needed.

I'm trying to focus on living in the now, and not worrying so much. Cleo is amazing, and I wouldn't change a moment of having a senior dog in my life.

With Cleo's birthday next week, it is hard not to think about her age. However, because she is the muse for Grouchy Puppy for a reason, Cleo continues to remind us that she demands immediate attention, and immediate action, for her right now. She wants to play, to touch, and to go for a walk. She wants to be that grouchy puppy in the morning and at night. I will bookmark the Furry Friends Rescue information, and hope that I don't need to look them up - for a very, very, long time.



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