Old Dogs & New Tricks
One day you’re bringing home a roley bundle of fur and suddenly you realize that same soft muzzle is turning grey. That little bundle of energy is just a little slower to get off the bed than he used to be. Watching our pets age is one of the hardest parts of loving them and yet they seem blissfully unaware of their own mortality. With my own Yukon finding his way to old age, I found myself thinking more and more about the senior pets & their people I have known over the years.
Perhaps one of the best ways to help your pet cope with age starts when they are still tiny. A lifetime of good solid nutrition will help the battle with time. Ask your vet for recommendations or consult a pet nutritionist. There are a lot of options on the market and the most expensive may not always mean the best. However, the money you may save by buying the cheap stuff will probably be spent on later vet visits. Think of your pet’s nutrition the way you think of your own. Read. The. Label. Talk to your vet and do your research. Find a food that’s designed for your dogs need, breed, size, and age.
As your pet ages keep a close eye on that waist-line. Even a few extra pounds can add stress to aging joints. Again your vet is going to be your go-to to help you monitor your old guy’s health.
Expect to spend a little more time with your vet and make it someone you trust. Pay attention to the little things. Talk to the doctor about any new lumps or bumps. If Fido is a little slower to get out of bed it could be arthritis. While aging is inevitable there are many supplements & medications which can make your furry friend more comfortable.
Don’t feel sorry for your aging pet, accommodate them instead. The first time Yukon missed his jump into the backseat of the truck and ended up on his butt on the ground my heart absolutely broke. It was a jump he had made a thousand times and this time he was a little weaker or less coordinated. It was tempting to spare him ever missing the jump again but then he would also miss going for rides. So instead I changed my approach. I’d stand close behind him and as he jumped I put my arm under his haunches to give him a little extra boost.
Exercise and mental stimulation are as important as ever. Walks may have to be a little shorter but it’s so important to keep those old joints moving and supported by strong muscles. Swimming is a great option if your pet has sore joints. Here in Denver we are blessed with a variety of options including public dog-friendly pools. CRCG is dedicated to canine rehabilitation with public swims as well as physical therapy, even an underwater treadmill! Don’t feel silly about making your home more accommodating as well. Ramps and doggy stairs to help little ones up on the bed may save you hundreds in vet bills and save your little one a lot of suffering.
Capture the memories. I have had the honor of photographing many pets in their last days. Not long after leaving Tucson I returned to spend a weekend with friends when I received a call from my manager. A family had some bad news for their beloved Bruno, they only had one weekend left to spend with him. I didn’t even have my camera with me, but I borrowed a point and shoot from a friend and headed to meet them at the park. We spent the next couple hours rolling around in the grass with old Bruno and his family. A few weeks later I shipped them an photo album knowing it would arrive after Bruno was already gone. I received a letter back telling me how it brought them a bit of comfort to have.
While every shoot is important, these are especially close to my heart. It’s a time that is so personal to a family and I am honored any time I am asked to be a part of that.