When my dog got into her old age years, I noticed. I listened to her creaky joints when she would get up from a nap. She would step out or off of one of her beds, then slowly stretch her long Husky Shepherd legs out behind her, until her toes flared. My eyes went wide in surprise, the first time I heard her joints make small popping noises like my toes do sometimes.
I had more firsts with her the next several years. Looking back now, I'm seeing her movement into old age through changes in my own body. Previously I had seen my 80 year old mother in my dog's aging process, now I see myself.
Some people are born animal lovers. My mom described herself as a "horse crazy" child. I have loved everything about dogs for as long as I can remember.
Minding our family's dogs brought out the caregiver in me, and taught me responsibility. Tender moments together when they got older gave twelve year old me a chance to learn compassion and empathy.
Experiencing the special connection that's possible between a person and a companion animal is something unique, and for many, life changing.
This year, the British Columbia SPCA is celebrating that special human-animal bond with three different ads...all heartwarming and lovely.
“Our animals don’t see our flaws or shortcomings- they love us as we are, unconditionally, which is a pretty amazing gift,” said BC SPCA general manager of community relations, Lorie Chortyk.
We cannot deny how dogs and cats have moved into a very special place in our lives. Honestly, given the stresses in the world today, companion animals play an even greater role. They can provide a necessary, healthy balance to what worries us.
This unique bond we share is fascinating, made more so, because of the increase in scientific studies being done. People want to know how dogs work, how they understand the world, how they learn, and why do most of us in the western world consider them as family.
However, if we're already a dog lover, I think most of us are happy with our human and dog symbiosis. We don't need scientific research to tell us why we feel so good when we cuddle on the couch together, or play ball at the park. We only care that our best friend is healthy, and content.
Maybe it's my own old bones talking, but I care a lot about senior dogs. At first, I thought my feelings were due to having my own old dog at home but she passed away almost two years ago. Then I thought it was because of my own rapidly aging parents, and watching their approach to life. But with all of them gone now my caring about old dogs hasn't diminished at all, in fact I care even more!
Why Caring For Old Dogs Matter
When I spend time with an old dog, my empathy for their lumps and bumps is real. If I see one dealing with poor vision, I find myself cleaning my smudged glasses in solidarity. Take an old dog for a walk, and savor their slow and measured pace. It's the perfect balm to impatience.
Bonus from Volunteering
When an old dog smiles with joy it feels like you just won a special prize. If one is feeling grouchy because of an ache, you'll find out fast. Old dogs are very present with their emotions. Spending time with them each week, I benefit from these mini-lessons and go home a better person.
When we care about, and for, old dogs, our lives are enriched as much as theirs. It's that simple.
It's never too early to learn kindness and compassion towards each other, and for animals. Young children are often first exposed to animals through their first toy dog or stuffed bear. As they begin to learn reading skills and watch educational programming, it's a good time to show them the differences between the pretend care of their toy and real caregiving for their family dog.
Having a young child aware of what it means to care for another living creature, especially a beloved family pet, can help grow their empathy. A very popular children's character has been tapped to help educate youngsters in a new book series.
Photo Credit: Brian Blanco/AP Images for Bayer Animal Health
Bayer Animal Health has partnered with the iconic storybook character Clifford the Big Red Dog to create custom “Clifford Goes to the Doctor” books, which features tips for families to prevent bites from fleas, ticks and mosquitos which can carry diseases, such as Lyme disease and Ehrlichia, also known as companion vector-borne diseases (CVBD).
To celebrate the limited-edition book, Bayer Animal Health Veterinarian, Dr. Dan Carey joined Clifford at a local elementary school in Miami, FL to read the book to first graders and share important pet care tips.
Bayer Animal Health also donated more than 1,600 copies of “Clifford Goes to the Doctor” to elementary schools throughout the Miami-Dade School District.
This is Danny, a very clever senior dog from Muttville. Without me saying a word, he walked up during my recent volunteer duty, and put out his right paw. It was still pretty early on this San Francisco morning, and I needed another cup of coffee, but this little cocker spaniel was intent on showing off his tricks.
Unlike my big old Shepherd Husky, Danny didn't need to sit down to shake hands. He also proved he is ambidextrous by offering his left paw a few minutes later.
Volunteering at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue every week brings me in close contact with old dogs. All of my desire to help them get another chance at love and affection with a new family is satisfied by the end of my shift.
This week I had the unexpected additional pleasure of spending time with Patricia, a shepherd with the looks and personality of my heart dog who passed away almost two years ago.
Instead of feeling sad about my loss, or reminded of the hole she left behind, I felt joy. I felt gratitude for having some time with another dog who enjoyed my company so much she dozed off on my feet, and stuck close to me every chance she got. I even got a very sweet smile reminiscent of my angel girl. Her soft eyes and fur are an elixir and soothing balm to noises in the world.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, come see Patricia for yourself and find out what I mean! From the Muttville posting:
Wherever you are, wherever you travel, around the block, or across the world, be kind to animals. Your heart will thank you, and if you're like me, you get a sweet puppy kiss from an Anatolian Shepherd in the Turkish countryside. Now that's my kind of Turkish Delight!!
This week the American Humane Association invites us to be kind to insects, rodents, bats, and all animals! As a self-declared dog lover, I find that this week is a wonderful opportunity to focus on young adults and children getting a compassionate and humane education. Raising compassionate children is a key to improving the lives of animals, and reducing the homeless pet population.
When you welcome a roaming dog while on vacation..
You don't have to get a puppy for your child to teach them about life, or to build empathy. Exposing young people to senior dogs is a great way to have important conversations about life, compassionate care, and respect for our elderly citizens.