How to cope with the emotions of watching your senior dog age
If you read my newsletter last week, you know that an air porter baggage handler accidentally hit Skai in the head with a 60-pound suitcase and he was temporarily unable to walk.
Since we came back to Vancouver, in addition to my care, chiropractor, Dr. Patterson (aka Auntie Lana), a specialist at the rehab center at CanWest Veterinary and Dr. Sharpe, a neurologist have seen Skai.
It turns out Skai suffered a cervical disc injury from the impact. He is getting a little better each day, but is still very slow. It’s hard to know exactly how much his 16-year-old body can recover, but I’m happy to report he’s still interested in saying hi to the ladies on his strolls. He’s always loved women and some people joke he has many girlfriends around the world.
We have received many emails and messages from our community and they mean a lot to us! Thank you! Some of them mentioned Skai was lucky he has a vet at home – me. It’s true, but despite providing support and a long and happy life, no one can stop the natural cycle of life. It’s the hardest pill for any dog lover to swallow.
I fluctuate between gratitude that things are not worse and sadness to see him this way.
There is a mandarin orange tree on our neighbor’s property. In December, it was full of sweet juicy oranges. By early February, they started to be dry and over-ripe and by April, they all fell to the ground.
The truth is, no matter how much we look after the tree, no matter how healthy and nourished it is, eventually, the oranges age and fall to the ground. There’s no way to stop the process.
Living with dogs is no different. We do our best, feed them well, love them and clearly extend their lives with our care, but no matter what we do, they’ll eventually get old.
My experience is we dog lovers often blame ourselves and ask what we could be doing better. In reality, aging is an inevitable process, not anyone’s fault.
I am writing these lines because I don’t want to give your the impression Mr. Skai is some sort of super dog that doesn’t age or have injuries. He is a super dog to me, the same way your dog is a super dog to you. But for mother nature, our dogs are part of the cycle of life. The hardest part is seeing that, while we can get the extra years with our dog by looking after them well, similar to the mandarin oranges, no one can stop our dogs from aging forever.
The beautiful part of the process is the love for our dogs gets stronger and brighter as they age and the sad part is that living with a senior dog is like living with someone who is terminally ill, no matter how healthy or sick they are.
I’m so grateful we have each other. You have been there for me and I hope I’ve been there for you. Thank you for all the messages of love and support. I’m sorry I can no longer reply to each of you personally, but I’ll never forget your kindness.
I’ll definitely keep you posted on Mr. Skai and hope he will continue to recover. I’ll also make sure I channel the learning of this week into more work and learning materials for you.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM
About the author
Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.