|'Til Death Do Us Part
This piece was written by Alex Bury from PETA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior dogs have so much to offer us, and they need our care and love so badly, yet they are so often ignored. How can anyone not melt at the sight of a sweet old dog's face with those big sad eyes and fur that's gone white?
The biggest problem is when human caretakers lose their patience, just as they do with puppies. There are a lot of similarities between baby dogs and grandpa dogs. Both need to sleep a lot, they might have special dietary needs, they're most likely not completely housetrained, and they don't seem to respect you. Puppies just haven't learned your language yet, while old dogs are often hard of hearing or going blind so they don't know you're asking them to "sit." They want to sit, they love you just as much as they ever did, but they need a little patience and extra TLC from you.
Anytime I visit an animal shelter, I see gentle old dogs shivering in the corner of their kennels, curled up, afraid and painfully confused. They gave all the love and loyalty they had to their people, but when they became a bit "messy," they were dumped at the pound. How could any decent human being do that?
Other folks might not dump their old dogs, but they yell at them for peeing in the wrong place, jerk them impatiently on the leash to make their tired legs go faster, and stop giving them attention because their breath isn't puppy fresh anymore.
If you adopt a dog, please plan ahead for his or her golden years. Make the commitment now to stick with Fifi until the very end and give her the love and loyalty she'll give you for all the years of her youth. There are ways to make it a happy time for both of you.
Accident-proof your home. If old Blue is becoming incontinent but not suffering in any other way, then just deal with it. First, of course, you must take him to the vet to see why he's having little accidents after years of being housetrained. If there's no medical issue that needs to be addressed, then you simply have to treat him like a puppy again. Let him out more often, arrange for more dog-walking visits, and roll up the expensive Persian rugs. The difference is that you're not going to try and train him like you would a puppy. Remember, he can't help it and he's not any happier than you are about it. I'll never forget my old Daisy Mae's face when she had an accident in the house—she was mortified. She knew it was wrong, but she couldn't control her body as well as she used to—there is no way I could ever have yelled at her!
Get creative. If Fluffy is too slow to take on the usual walks, you don't have to choose between forcing her to go too far or leaving her at home. The sweetest dog in the world spent a good 12 years hiking up mountains with me, but during her last couple of years she just couldn't do it. I was frustrated. I didn't want to give up my personal exercise, but I had to find time for two walks—a strenuous walk for me and then a slow and easy walk for her. A PETA coworker tipped me off to the perfect solution, and I purchased a secondhand bike trailer for $30. I had to make a couple of adjustments, and she wasn’t too sure about it the first time I put her in it, but treats and praise won her over. She and I ran miles and miles with that buggy―her inside it and me behind it. She loved it, and everyone we passed by just melted. Those walks are some of my all-time favorite memories.
Stop whining. How would you feel if you were in a car accident and you needed a lot of help during your recovery? Help walking, eating, going to the bathroom, getting to the doctor … would you like to have your caretaker yelling at you? Impatient with you? Ignoring you? Letting you wet your bed? Skipping your food or meds? What if your caretaker was someone you had always loved and who had always loved you but was now treating you like dirt? Not such a nice thought. Imagine how old Max feels, when he can’t even express his sadness and confusion to his caretakers. Or his needs. He needs for you to be patient and compassionate. Just a few changes in your daily schedule can make things work when your best friend gets old. Trust me―it will be worth it all when the time comes to say that final goodbye: Your heart will still be aching, but at least it won't be aching from guilt. You'll know that your dog had the best life he or she could possibly have had up to the very end because you did everything in your power to make your old dog comfortable.
You are the world to your dogs, and you're all they have. Don't let them down when they need you the most!