The daily decline of an old dog

A friend of mine sent me a text yesterday.  “We had to put him down.”

I sent back “I’m so sorry.”

We both have (had) old dogs.  Large dogs.  We both rearranged our lives and have made significant changes to our plans to accommodate our dogs as they age.  We share the deep feeling of responsibility that comes with taking on responsibility for another life.   We love them.


Is it heartless of me to occasionally begrudge how slow Honey walks these days?  I wanted to hike into some forest service cabins in Chugach National Forest–I thought it would be perfect even for Honey, because the longest distance between cabins was six miles.  My husband demurred all winter–Honey can’t make that, and no way, she won’t sit in a cargo sled!

Four years ago, we started feeding her glucosamine and fish oil pills twice a day.  Three pills each, morning and night.  They helped, all the way until this winter.

From one day to the next, two summers ago, she stopped being able to jump into the backseat of the car.  Now we lift her in.

She needs cushions to sleep now.  She used to hate them, but now her bones creak and ache.

She gets cold–she used to sleep in piles of snow at -40F, and refuse to come inside.

Her right cheek has swollen and is hard to the touch.  It isn’t an abscess, or allergies, or anything we can fix–just a thing that happens to older large breed dogs like her.  It doesn’t hurt, or it doesn’t seem to…

Just a few days ago, she peed in Resurrect Art Coffeehouse, our favorite dog-friendly haunt. The owners forgave her, I quickly got her outside, and cleaned up the mess–but it wasn’t the first time.  She started needing to pee more and more and more frequently this winter, and we’ve had two other incidents in the coffeehouse within the last month.  I won’t bring her back to one of her favorite places, because she can no longer be trusted.  This seems like one more painful way for us to watch her decline, and I felt that dry, achy pressure in my chest I associate with grief or sadness, during the walk home and the rest of the day.   I brought her into the vberth last night, she likes the extra attention but really it was so I could reassure myself she was still here, still her, and still happy as she lolled in boneless relaxation while I had my hand over her heart and drifted to sleep.

Today, she stopped climbing the ramp onto the boat–probably due to the wind bobbing the boat a bit, but I can’t help but see it as more evidence that soon we may have to make a hard choice.

All the more reason to bring her on this big trip.  We may know the end is coming, but we can’t say exactly when.  Let her skid into the finish line, after yet another madcap adventure.

2 thoughts on “The daily decline of an old dog

  1. These are hard times as our wonderful dogs grow older. Our time with them is so precious.
    I have one small suggestion that may help with the incontinence. It’s fairly common for female dogs who are spayed (especially those spayed young) to develop estrogen-related incontinence. On the advice of my vet, I started giving my dog with the same problem two tablespoons of tofu every day (she was a 35 pound dog).
    Tofu has estrogen-like content and it can eliminate the incontinence. It did for my dog. You might want to give it a try. It’s a cheap fix and if it doesn’t work you’re only out about $3.


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