When you look at an old dog, what do you see? Do your eyes go straight to any obvious deformities or unusual features, the grey muzzle, or white whiskers?
Is your focus on what they look like, or who they are? When I see an old dog my impression is built from the ground, up.
Starting at their feet, I'm checking out their mood and posture. Does their body language tell me that they want my company, touch, or attention? My first impression begins with their attitude. Like older people, old dogs don't have time to waste on stuff they are not in the mood for, and will not pretend.
If they prefer a nap to a walk, you know.
If they want you to stop by for a visit, you know.
My approach to spending time with old dogs is similar to the "glass half full, or half empty" analogy. Rather than starting the conversation with asking, "What happened to them, why are they here?" My first question is, "what's his/her name, and who wants to go for a little walk?" A little fresh air is a wonderful way to begin a conversation and get to know someone, including an old dog.
When you are with old dogs, rather than starting at a place of sadness, begin with joy. I'm happy to discover a new personality each week when I volunteer at Muttville. It's fun uncovering an old dog's individual nature.
They are all unique, just like people, and like older people, the dogs have years of creating their own personality.
It's buried treasure, and I get to dig it out! What's better than that? My own furry forensics business.
I don't feel sad when I look at old dogs, and I don't feel sorry for old dogs, because I only see potential animal companions. My immediate reaction is a feeling of compassion for their aches and pains, and empathy for any signs of aging. Both of these are responses I'd like someone to have when they see me.
When I'm with old dogs, I see experience and years of life lived. They each have a rich story inside of them, and if you're lucky, they might share some of it with you. In the few hours I'm at Muttville each week, I've been very lucky to make some old friends just by visiting with them on the other end of a leash.
The next time you see an old dog, take a minute and consider what filter you're using to see them through. What would happen if you removed that filter and embraced the dog as they are, today. You might be surprised by the colorful experience. One that I bet you'll treasure!!