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Senior dogs make us better kids: Why old dogs are the best dogs

This essay "The last word: Why old dogs are the best dogs" was written in 2008 by the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten. I've read it several times, and for me, it still rings true.


"Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog." - Sidney Jeanne Seward 

I used to worry that Cleo wouldn't come to trust me, or bond with me. She was already an adult dog when we met and adopted her. I worried that I would not be able to set her up for success, and would do everything wrong. Today, as an old dog, she wears her heart on her "sleeve" or furry leg. She is my number one super fan.

Only now that Cleo is old, do I feel that we've had enough time together for me to believe, what she was showing me all along. Trust. Love. Joy. It has taken her getting old for me to learn that dogs can't fake that stuff. And now that she doesn't hesitate a moment to choose me over a stranger offering her a treat or promises of some love, how could I ever repay her loyalty with anything but my own love and loyalty in return.

Senior dogs deserve our love and loyalty to the very end.

Weingarten says, "Unlike us, old dogs lack the audacity to mythologize their lives." They seem to remain satisfied with a simple day-to-day life and it is me, who wants to give Cleo more. Cleo isn't asking for more, but out of my respect for her age do I want to ensure she never loses her confidence in our life together. I see some of my care-giving for her, as an example of how I could care for my aging mother when the time comes.

The lesson of letting Cleo be the dog she is, is meaningful. She doesn't worry about the future, or dwell on the past, she lives in the present. She never promised to be more than she is. It reminds me of when I finally realized my father was not a mythological creature, but my father, and a man. A man with his own issues, flaws, and wonderful traits.

Acceptance of who they are. Sound advice for a better relationship with my aging parents.

It has been me who has needed to accept Cleo for who she is, not the other way around. At every stage, it was up to me to embrace her as the dog she is. I needed to play to her strengths. Once I learned that, we were on the road to a successful relationship. Now as an old dog, Cleo is still teaching me a lot, only now rather than building up my confidence, she is showing me that being old, isn't so bad.

She makes me see the humor in having a stomach that gurgles loudly. We both laugh when she looks at her butt after passing gas. She has the most offended look on her face when she bumps her nose, as if the table leg ran into her. Her pace is slower, and on our walks she'll look up at me with my mother's "slow down!" expression. I admit that conversations with my parents are more frank, and funny -- and I give Cleo credit.

Cleo reflects my life today as I adjust to having older parents. Being with her now, in the midst of her aging, helps me be a better daughter. Yes, old dogs are the best dogs.

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