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Living with an older dog

By Sue McCabe

Living with an older dog.

I remember years ago when we decided to keep several foster dogs and cats all of a similar age, my partner’s only reservation was that we would end up with many old animals together. This would potentially bring high medical costs but most of all, heartache if they fell ill and we had to say goodbye to multiple animals within a short time. I have been reminded of this conversation recently, not because of any one incident or the ill-health, but more in general as I begin to realise I’m living with, not one, but two older dogs, with a third not exactly in the prime of youth either..

My German Shepherd X Collie is thirteen and still loves her walks more than her dinner. She will not be left at home and takes any opportunity to get to the front door first when it’s time to go out. However, I’ve started to notice her lag behind, especially at the start of the walk before her old joints and muscles have warmed up. Now those of you who know me, will know I have a lot of energy and nothing I do is done in a slow manner so I have to keep reminding myself that my old girl is just that…an old girl. I have to slow my pace down, allow for stopping so that she can keep up and make allowances for the fact that she’s not being awkward or disobedient, she’s actually going deaf. When she gets home, we are reminded again of her age when she tries to get up after a snooze, as she’s often stiff and slow.

Now to make things even worse, we’ve noticed in the past 6 months that my GSD, who is only eight, has begun to slow down considerably on walks. He is always keen to start off, but when he’s tired, he plods behind us, at our heels, as all good, loyal shepherds should. Still we’ve noticed this happening much closer to the beginning of the walk, rather than the end as it used to be. Again, he can be stiff and slow getting up after a particularly long walk.

I have always hiked with my dogs, cycled with them, entertained them on walks by throwing toys and playing fetch. I’ve joined in dog sports and really included them in our active lifestyle. During the summer months my dogs swim almost every day to keep fit and cool down. With my youngest dog still a very active collie who enjoys great fitness levels, I am going to have to rethink my schedule and try to accommodate all levels of ability and fitness. This may take some getting used to but will certainly be worth it if it means we get a few more years of enjoyable walks and fun out and about with my beloved furry friends.