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How my old dog brings my grandmother alive

Living with my old dog has me wondering what it would have been like if my grandmother was still around. Every day I need to help my dog with age-related health issues. She struggles with stairs. She has lots of different prescriptions to manage. I imagine holding my grandmother's arm as she got into the passenger seat, each time I hold my dog's harness and gently guide her into the car for a ride.

There are habits my dog has that are quite familiar to the over sixty-five crowd. The parallels are actually quite funny, and had me thinking more about what lessons an old dog can teach you.

Senior dogs are the perfect stand-in for grandma 

The only grandmother I ever knew passed away when I was about ten years old. I have fond memories of her, our conversations and times together. Over the years, I have periodically wished she was alive so we could speak about life, and experience the world from her point of view. Today, living with my first old dog, Cleo is turning out to be a great stand-in for my grandmother.

There are lots of senior citizens out there who love a good crossword or a warm park bench. To them, a big eventful day is going to a store to buy something, and bring it home. They like naps, and for many ladies like my grandma, they loved getting their hair done.

My grandmother had a drawer full of little bottles filled with supplements or prescriptions. She also stopped frequently to use the ladies room whenever we were out together. My grandmother knew where all the nice restrooms were in town.

Grandma would mention her achy back, and how certain joints hurt more during rainy days. We walked at a glacial pace when we went shopping. She would tell stories at the dinner table about all the foods she used to eat when she was younger that were no longer on the menu. Besides her dentures never fitting properly, she battled with tough crusted bread and rich sauces. Her diet had changed to accommodate the damage done by decades of saturated fats and sweets. Now she enjoyed smaller meals, and nibbled on three bites of whatever pot roast or pork chops were served.

Scoops of fiber and fish oil

Cleo my dog is going through a similar lifestyle shift as my grandmother experienced. Since Cleo moved into her golden years, the signs of her aging process are appearing everywhere. She naps more. We're lucky to walk all the way around the block. She moves slowly. Picking up the news is still important to her, but her slow pace is due to poor vision, uneven sidewalks and stiff joints. Before we head out the door on any walk, I make sure to give her a warm up massage.

We spend more time together just visiting.

As my grandmother slowed, we used to play a lot of card games and Scrabble. It was a way to quietly visit. With Cleo, she and I have more quiet time when I pull out one of her brushes. She enjoys the frequent brushing. It is soothing, and sometimes it will cause her to doze off. Her Husky blend likes the brushing, because she produces a lot of fur year-round. Her undercoat practically jumps off of her at least twice a year. I use the time to also check her for lumps and bumps. Like a doggie mammogram, I look for anything that shouldn't be there or if I already know it's there, if it changed in shape, size or color.

Cleo's back and joints ache, and she walks with a hitch now. I make sure she gets every chance to rest when she wants to, even if we haven't gone very far. I am her cane, and her walker with tennis balls on the feet. She has her own cabinet shelf with rows of supplements and prescriptions. I make sure we get the best deal we can find on insulin and needles. We add extra fiber to her food, and make sure she eats her fruits and vegetables. Cleo doesn't have dentures like my grandmother did, and with many of her teeth long gone, Cleo works hard to with the ones she has left.

Empathy & our Elders

Having Cleo in my life today has been a wonderful opportunity to experience some of the situations I may have had with my grandmother. I am learning a new level of empathy for our senior citizens. Dogs hold a unique place in our world. They have a connection to humans unlike most other mammals or animal species. In my opinion, they offer humans a chance to become better - because of them, we are humane.

It has been decades and I still miss my grandmother. I know when Cleo passes, I will miss her for decades too. However, thanks to my time with Cleo at this late stage of her life, I now feel like I have had a sense of what I missed with my grandma. That time is no longer a complete mystery.

Once again, Cleo demonstrates the Grouchy Puppy motto, and why we believe dogs, "Give Fearlessly. Influence Positively."

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