My old dog Lizzie is almost 15 years old. She’s a big dog (75 pounds), so 15 counts as pretty darn old for a dog her size.
I’ve had several dogs in my adult life, but none have lived to a ripe old age like this one, so I’ve not experienced this canine aging process. It’s not much fun, but I’m grateful for every moment with her, and for what I’ve learned along the way.
Enjoy your youth; we grow up quickly
Lizzie at 10 weeks old, just a little bigger than my shoe.
Lizzie at 12 weeks old, almost too big to fit in Rosie’s lap.
Lizzie and my kids, one year later. She’s enormous, beautiful, and no longer a puppy.
Make a fuss when people come to your house.
Our dogs make us feel like it is the greatest moment of the day when we walk in the door. What if our families jumped up, hugged us, smiled, spoke to us, and even got a little vocal and crazy when we walked through the door?
Dress for the occasion.
Wear your tiara. Support your team. Don’t be afraid to dress for a celebration.
Enjoy the mornings.
Dogs wake up grateful for every morning, and don’t mind getting up early. They aren’t cranky or tired, and are always happy to be with us for that early cup of coffee.
Never turn down a trip to the lake.
Lizzie loved our trips to the lake: sitting on the dock, going on the boat, and rolling in goose poop. She didn’t need perfect weather for it be a perfect weekend.
Lizzie loved to ride on the boat, fast, and let the wind blow the hair out of her eyes.
Let your friends lean on you.
When Lizzie was about 5, we got a new puppy. He immediately loved her and needed her, and thought she was his mom or aunt or new best friend. She wasn’t thrilled to have a puppy climb on her, chew on her, and want to play constantly. But she put up with it.
Whenever Lizzie was laying down for a much-needed moment alone, Bo would find her and snuggle in. She never instigated it; it was always him. But she was gracious and kind. She seemed to know he needed a big cool friend to take care of him.
Go to sporting events, and play with a ball every opportunity you get.
Play with your kids; they’ll grow up before you know it.
Lizzie’s been in our lives for 15 years; my kids were 6 and 4 when we got her. They’re in college now. The days of children playing with puppies passed very quickly.
Rest when you’re tired.
Go, dog, go. Have a lot of fun, run all day. But when you’re tired, lay down, shut your eyes, and take a rest.
Take care of your teeth, and personal grooming is important.
As we age, personal grooming can become embarrassing and even uncomfortable. But we still need to do it.
At 15, Lizzie’s teeth are a mess, and she’s too old for a cleaning due to the risks of anesthesia. Her breath is bad.
Find a comfortable and appropriate place to go to the bathroom.
And on the other side of the coin, avoid the inappropriate places to go to the bathroom. Enough said on that one. And thank goodness I have no photos for that.
Sometimes it’s ok to just curl up in a blanket and watch movies.
Go outside and walk around, even when it hurts.
These days Lizzie has a hard time getting up, and she often slips and falls. But she still goes outside and stands in the sun, and sometimes even runs around a bit.
Beauty is fleeting.
Lizzie was truly a remarkably beautiful girl when she was young. As she has aged, you can see it on her. Her skin has weird warts on it that itch and get infected. Her hair, her eyes, her teeth — nothing is as beautiful as it was.
But there is still a kindness behind those rheumy eyes. And she still stands tall and elegantly, even though I can see that it hurts her.
Find a nest that makes you happy.
Lizzie was always social when she was in her prime. She was the ultimate extrovert — greeting every guest, inserting herself into the middle of the group. But for the last year she has decided that she is happiest in my closet. Do I want a 75 pound gassy dog living in my closet? Certainly not. But what you’re seeing here is a sweet tired dog who needs a safe place to rest her head. This is away from noises and people coming and going, and it must be comforting to her.
A few times a day she comes out of the closet and hangs out with us. She rolls on the carpet and gets some good loving. Then she happily returns to her quiet and safe closet.
Your friends will be there for you.
Earlier pictures showed Bo (our little black dog) hanging all over Lizzie when he was a puppy. She stoically put up with it. Now, ten years later, they still wrap around each other. Whenever she’s out of her closet, he comes and lays down with her. When he was young, she was his big cool friend. Now he looks after her.
Lizzie seems to have been hurting a bit more recently. She’s having more trouble getting up and down. She can’t get into the car anymore, without me lifting her up into it. She’s got a big cyst that I’m worried about. Her eyes are clouded with cataracts, and I don’t think she can hear us.
She is diminishing, and Bo seems to know it. Bo has always slept on our bed, at my feet. He would hop up there every night and wouldn’t move until morning. But this week, he has started splitting his nights between me and Lizzie. He starts with me, and then he hops down in the middle of the night and goes into the closet and wraps around Lizzie. He must know that she needs him now.
Lizzie’s retreats from her closet are getting less frequent, and we’re so happy when she joins us in a bigger room for some social time. I try to greet her the way she greeted me everyday for manyyears, with exuberance and true joy. And when she doesn’t want to come out, we go in the closet and lay down with her there. It’s our turn to return the gift of unconditional love.
For more about getting older and friendship, see In Praise of OLD friends.