We love our elderly pets

I am sitting with my 15-1/2 year old pit mix dog who is in the last days of her life. I hope to help make it a peaceful journey. What is it about our pets that touch our hearts so much?

She started life as a throw away, dumped outside the vet clinic where our daughter worked in high school, and not even at weaning age. How could that happen?  The girls at the clinic took turns taking her home with them and she ended up being adopted by our daughter. We already had an elderly dog at home who didn’t much appreciate the high spirited playfulness of a new puppy, so we had to watch and intervene when the new puppy April was being too energetic with our beagle, Kokomo.  When April got too big for two dogs in the house, we built a nice fenced in area for her in back with a cozy dog house and she came in our house in bad weather.  She didn’t much like being inside and couldn’t wait to get back out.

After our daughter went off to college, of course my husband and I inherited her, but haven’t regretted it in the least. After Kokomo died, we had April to take her place.  We put her in a doggie training boot camp and she was there for a month to learn to be a good dog who listens to commands so she could live inside. She learned well.

At our other house, we discovered she had a talent for “mousing”. Those little suckers would sneak into the house if they could through the tiniest gap, but if she got their scent trail, she would track it down until she found it, usually cowering in a corner of a closet. We would follow her around and move things out of the way or else she would claw through herself.  She would pounce and snatch it so fast, but drop it when we told her. We could then dispose of the lifeless mouse. We usually had one or two sneak in during the changing temperatures in the Fall.

She has moved with us twice. When my husband was sick, she laid by his chair, close enough he could give a pat on her head. After he died, she would look for him. She is my eyes and ears for security; any car she can see or hear out on the road or in our driveway, she barks at, and still does, but now it’s more visual since her hearing has diminished.  She has three beds, one in the living room, one in the tv room and one in my bedroom where she sleeps at night.  We incorporated a special place in the kitchen for her food and water bowls when we designed the house so they would be out of our way and out of our sight.  She likes to walk up to the dining room windows which look out towards the driveway and road, and are the only low windows in the house she can see out of, and scan the view for anything unusual or out of place.

She’s been a healthy pet, without one bit of health concern until just a few months back and she had a bit of surgery and bounced right back.  She’s been a jumping dog and I’ve been amazed she has never had any kind of hip issues. The kennel we board her at had to figure out a cover for her kennel when she boarded.   She still likes to walk the driveway and find a rabbit trail, with some occasional pauses to rest. She loves to be outside, but is peaceful and quiet when inside.  She has never been a clingy, attention demanding dog. She does get anxious if I a getting ready to go somewhere, but settles into her kennel in the laundry room, a space we designed for her kennel and under the stairs out of the way.

Our grandson loves his “Apie” when he visits, and I’ve always been hyper-vigilant with a little one visiting in the house that she might get “territorial”, but she never did. She never once snapped or growled. She would go over to her bed and lay down out of the way and welcome the occasional loving swipe of a little hand petting her, under my supervision. He’s 5 years old now. He will miss her.

My daughter came over for a last visit last weekend.  She has her own pit mix now, that she rescued wandering the multi=level garage at her apartment several years back when it was probably a year and half old. Maverick is just the sweetest, but imposing looking, dog. An “American Staffordshire terrier”, which people still call a pit bull. He’s a truly spoiled, big baby of a dog.

This is the hardest part of owning a pet, making sure they are not in any pain or discomfort.  She’s not had any, and still is getting up and around, but has no interest in food now. Just drinks her water, goes outside, and rests quietly in her bed near me. I am surprised she has hung on this long, but I welcome each day she does.  I cannot imagine, yet, not having her here, so each day is a gift.