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5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Senior Dog Owner

Guest Post Friday is our series which shares funny pet bloggers, and smart dog lovers, pet industry influencers and animal advocates. With lots of fascinating people involved in making a difference in the lives of animals this is our way of sharing them across the Grouchy Puppy community. 

Today our friend A.J. from I Still Want More Puppies returns, with a list of comments and questions she hopes never to hear again about her Bella or any senior dog. Her sweet Bella is along for the ride, showing her support with two choice photos. To read more about pup culture and pop culture in A.J.'s tongue-in-cheek style, check out her blog. Her motto may be Puppies = serenity now, but don't let it fool you, she actually likes adopting adult dogs. And while you're at, read her previous post she wrote for us about the many reasons you should adopt an older dog.

5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Senior Dog Owner

Chances are that one day you will encounter someone who owns a senior dog (or you have already). You’ll innocently ask the dog’s age. Upon learning that the dog is no longer a spring chicken (or a spring puppy, I suppose), what will you say?

Bella keeps a list

People often mean well, but I can assure you that the road to annoying a senior dog owner is paved with good intentions. In order to save you from this fate, I’ve put together a quick reference guide of things not to say to a senior dog owner:

5. “Oh wow. How long do they normally live?”

Don’t get me wrong – I realize that this particular response could come from a place of pure curiosity. The question might be asked by a non-dog owner, perhaps, who is just trying to learn. However, that’s what Google is for. There’s no need to ask me to initiate a mental countdown until disaster while I’m just trying to take a walk: “Hmmm… let’s see. I guess it’s about another year until I’ll be crying hopelessly. Thanks for asking, random stranger!”

4. Are you thinking of getting another dog?”

Um, why? Because my current model is so decrepit that I should start preparing for the worst? Obviously, senior pet owners do face the question of whether to bring a younger dog into the household (which is a topic for another day), but it’s still weird of you to remind me that my senior dog’s days are numbered.

3. “That’s really old.”

You think? I assure you that I can count (even if I do it Count von Count-style for fun), and am already aware of my senior dog’s age. I didn’t really need you to remind me of it. If you do, I may secretly vow to remind you of your own aging at every opportunity.

2. “Guess she won’t be around too much longer, huh?”

Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t say that about your elderly family member, so don’t say it about mine. I don’t think you would appreciate it if I commented, “Gee, your Grandma’s sure getting up there. Guess you should start talking to Shady Pines about those funeral arrangements.”

Bella disapproves
1. “Awwww….”

This one gets me every time – it’s inevitably accompanied by a ridiculously sympathetic look. The speaker radiates unspoken pity for what he perceives as a hopelessly tragic situation. To be honest, this mostly wordless response tends to bother me more than all of the other ones put together. I know you were probably taught that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all… but sometimes the look on your face says it all anyway.

Although this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek, these are based on real interactions that I’ve had with otherwise sweet, well-meaning people. These questions can come from anyone. I’ve even had other senior dog owners say these sort of things to me – it took every ounce of civility I had not to point out their own dog’s mortality in retaliation. (And let’s be honest… it’s not just senior dogs. We could probably all use a primer on talking to people about aging and loss in any context. Not usually our finest hour as communicators.)

Anyway, if you want to win me over, just comment on how cute my Bella is, rather than focusing on her age. I can’t hear that enough.

Senior dog owners, what do you wish that people wouldn’t say to you? What should they say instead?


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