One of the greatest fears of everything living is death. Death due to old age or due to illness or even an accident are unavoidable. But when you look at your dog, do you feel that you could give it the kind of attention and love it deserves during its old age? Its natural that humans feel a range of emotions when they see a pet they have been with for over years and some , who have grown up with them lose their life. There are kids who were 5 and 6 who had a pet and grew up with them till the age of 17 or 18 and then they see the loss of their pet. Its more or less losing someone who has been with them their whole life! We feel lost. We feel hopeless about life. But that’s life.
The question though is how do we help our pets during their old age. How do WE adapt to their needs and requirements. Do we expect our 14 year old dog to play with us with all the energy when we are 14 or 15 our self or do we spend time sitting with him, patting him. When dogs turn older, no matter how energetic the dog was during its younger days, they tend to slow down. They lose interest in many activities and don’t have the energy to perform activities they once loved or still do. It’s a task which requires a lot of effort for them to come to the kitchen for their meal. A 2 hour walk which would have still not drained their energy during their younger days is equal to a walk from the living room to the back yard.
But even then, Dogs do need a limited amount of physical activity during their old age too. A short walk , may be 5 minutes in the back yard or down the road, will not only work out their muscles and get the heart moving, but also will give them a change from the closed home environment. They get to smell the flowers again, hear the birds sing and be a dog at least in their mind, even when their physical self is not capable of being there. Their mind is probably pumped up with the happiness hormone the moment they feel the wind on their face.
Humans during their old age will spend their time reading a book with a pair of glasses hooked on their nose. But for a dog its mostly sitting alone in a corner of the house or if lucky, sit with you. Even when the dog is doing nothing, it feels the comfort and love we show and you never know how thankful they are for you being there.
As someone wise once said, All that matters is that you show up. Your presence is the most important thing for the dog. Your physical presence. If you could add to that with a pat, cuddle or a warm mug of whatever you cook for the dog, its just a bonus. But what more can you do for your dog that will give its life comfortable during its last phase.
- Exercise : Yes old dogs cannot walk too fast or too long, but they can walk and they need the exercise. Make it short; make it less or more frequent depending on their energy levels. Always make it to a different place, so that you don’t get bored and the dog gets something exciting to look at every single time.
- Activities : Yes it’s difficult to get them to do anything anymore. But still, you need to keep them active from time to time. Don’t expect them to run around or chew on everything at that stage, but still, you can expect then to probably get to enjoy certain activities at some point of time. if it cannot be active, don’t push. Sometimes the activity of sitting with you is more than enough for it. You can enjoy the company of the dog as much as it enjoys yours. An occasional pat or cuddle will warm it up and the love it shows in its eyes will be more than enough for you to feel happy if not proud.
- Music: while we all think and know that music can heal, not most of us have every put it to good use. Music is beautiful and you can be sure that the soothing notes played by a classical instrument like a flute could not just be soothing for humans, but will show a sense of peace for the dogs too. For heaven sake doesn’t play rock and roll or Rap to your dog.
- Swimming: Most senior dogs can’t workout. With conditions ranging from arthritis and other health problems, dogs will find it hard to work out on a normal way, but what is more interesting is that they can still swim. Shallow water swimming can be good to move their muscles. Don’t push them to the water. If they go in, it has to be because they did it themselves. They will get out once they feel comfortable. A toy in the water may do the trick for some elder dogs but some cannot be forced to do anything.
Most importantly, it’s about how much time you spend with your dog. IT doesn’t matter what you do, the small amount of time you spend with your dog during its last few years will count. Remember, unlike cats, dogs are animals which live in a pack. They need their pack. You are the pack leader. Do you want to abandon your pack member when its old an not capable of performing or provide and comfort it. For all the trust, the dog has given you throughout its life, The least you can do is to not let it down during its last few years of its life. You owe it that much.