A senior dog is loosely defined as being over the age of 7. If we were to apply that definition we would have 6 dogs who fit in that category. Although to see some of them in action you would have no idea!
The oldest dog in the house is Molly, who is 19, had an entire blog post dedicated to her and her antics. She has had several strokes and kind of does everything to the right. She is a force to be reckoned with and most of the other dogs are afraid of her.
The next oldest dog is Mabel at 17. She has also been the subject of several blog posts: here, here, and here. Mabel continues to do quite well. She is our little despot. She still sleeps most of the time in the laundry room – entirely her choice. She has many beds to choose from and she does rotate through them all. Lately we have had to evict her from the laundry room for short periods of time so that Tucker can eat there and she gets seriously pissed off. She will immediately voice her displeasure and go and pee on the floor even if she has just been outside. She continues to bark to go out, come in and eat. Her daily ‘constitutionals’ around the yard are back and she can successfully find her way back to the door. What is really funny is that Mabel doesn’t know when the door is open. Sometimes we don’t close it and sure enough, when she is ready to come in she will bark in front of the open door. Mabel is a little deaf, a little blind and a whole lot stubborn!
Madison is our next oldest dog and she is 15. We adopted her from the Animal Rescue Foundation about 10 years ago. Madison often takes the role of mother to the little dogs no matter how old. She can often be seen cleaning them especially the pug. Madison has much in common with Eeyore. She is sure that no one loves her and everyone hates her. She greets new visitors with the hope that maybe, just maybe, they will really love her! Madison is a loved and cherished member of our family. Unfortunately some dogs are never able to overcome their pasts. Madison went through several homes in her first five years of life. She became somewhat aggressive after being tormented by a 12 year old boy. We were the perfect family for Madison because there were no men in our household. Over the years, Madison has mostly been desensitized to men and can enjoy their company. Young boys are still problematic – she is unpredictable and can be aggressive. Luckily she has never bitten a child and we are highly vigilant. Many people (see here and here) feel it is just fine to re-home a dog and that it really does not affect them. For many dogs, instability in their ‘pack’ cause irreparable damage that the dog may never overcome.
Tucker is a foster dog from SAINTS. He is 15 years old and spent almost all of his life in a pen. He is a very good dog. There are serious consequences for a dog who spends his entire life, by himself, in a pen. He was never socialized with other dogs. For him this means that he has never learned how to be with other dogs or what it means to be a dog. He is now slowly learning, at 15, how to interact with other members of canine society. He is realizing that humping everyone is not the best strategy. He never learned to hold his bladder. If you live in a pen rather than a house toilet training is not a priority. It means that Tucker is incontinent. He may have been incontinent at 15 anyway but we will never know. Tucker has an incredible need to be touched and loved. After 15 years there are not enough people or enough hours in enough days to make up for what he has lost. It is very sad. This insatiable need for affection contributes to Tucker’s anxiety. He is always concerned that he is going to miss something and he is always on alert. Tucker is also mostly deaf. As a result he devises strategies to know if the humans he has now fallen in love with move. He will lie so that he is touching my chair so that I cannot possibly get up without him knowing. Another consequence (and one that is simultaneously amusing and disgusting) of his lack of socialization is that Tucker never really came into contact with female dogs. Enter our little hussy, Piper the pug. On several occasions now I have seen Piper laid out, on her back, like Miss September and Tucker enthusiastically ‘cleaning’ her. That is all I will say on the subject.
Kirby is our next oldest dog. He is 10 and he also came from ARF. Kirby was painfully shy when he came to us as a foster dog. He had this unique ability to blend in with his surroundings and stay perfectly still making it very difficult to find him. Although, who, in their right minds, takes a brand new dog to the park and lets him offleash? Well, we did. It was dumb. It took us a long time to find him that first day and he was right by us. Kirby was so timid he was almost euthanized at the vet’s office where he was dumped. He was saved by a very eager and talented vet student who had done his neuter. She could not handle the fact that he was about to be put down and she contacted ARF. It was clear immediately, to Deb anyway, that he was not going anywhere once he had arrived. Almost 10 years later and he is a treasured member of our family.
Mackenzie is about 8 years old and she has lived with us for all but about 4 months of her life. She started her life being tied up in a yard and left to the elements and the loud noises. This has affected her greatly. She is very scared by thunder storms and fireworks have made her seizure from anxiety. She was also kicked to maker her aggressive and into a watch dog. They succeeded on the aggressive part for sure. She was human aggressive when we got her and has remained dog aggressive. Mackenzie has been the focus of a great deal of soul searching and agonizing about quality of life. She lives in a multi-dog household and this means that she must be separated from everyone else as her aggression, while predictable, is severe. Mackenzie spends a lot of her time in Deb’s office. She gets lots of exercise and for the most part seems to have a good quality of life.
What is clear from our seniors is that there are real and palpable consequences to how dogs are treated. Dogs who spend their lives on the ends of ropes or chains outside become fearful and unpredictable. Dogs are pack animals and need to be with their people. They are social animals who need to learn to the cues from both other dogs and humans if they are to navigate their way in society successfully. Having the pleasure of having a dog in your life comes with serious responsibility. Dogs can be expected to live between 10 and 20 years and if you are getting a dog you need to be aware. Dogs require good quality food and regular vet care. Please if you are thinking of getting a dog make sure that you do your research into breed characteristics and learn something about training. Many dogs lose their homes because their people did not research the breed adequately. If you get a Border Collie you need to know that have to work or they will become destructive. Pugs were bred to be companion dogs – they need to be with their people. Northern breeds have high prey drive. While not all dogs of all breeds will display all of the breed characteristics it is good to at least be aware of the potential. One last request, if you are thinking of getting a dog please check out your local shelters, rescues and pounds. Please don’t support a puppy mill.
Edited to add: I just saw this post from Turtle Gardens with some more discussion about consequences for dogs brought on by human failures. Excellent post.