Maybe I am the only one that has irrational, obsessive thoughts about my dogs. I adopted my boys from a Tampa, Florida animal shelter when they were young. Brickle was actually six months old, and when we adopted Digby, he was about a year and a half. From the moment we welcomed them into our home, I had that irrational, obsessive thought. How long would I have with them?
Like many, I had loved and lost…lost other furkids by the passing of time or illness. I found myself comparing every moment I had with Brickle and Digby to the furkids before them. And I knew this was unhealthy. Yet, as many circumstances do to us in life, they affect us. And I couldn’t push these thoughts away.
So that was about seven years ago. Now, my boys, Brickle and Digby are nearing their ninth birthdays in 2018. It literally seems like yesterday that they came into our lives. Yet, why can’t I remember my life before them? Where does the time go?
I know this sounds odd, but even though I have always tried to prepare myself for their aging process, I never could have prepared for the feelings I have now. I look at them, and I don’t see any senior dogs. I don’t see any old dogs…although so many people make comments when we walk by them like, “Oh, look at those old boys”. At first, I wonder who they are talking about. My dogs? How can they be old?
When did this happen, and why do I even care about their ages? They are healthy and happy. And it is just the plain and simple truth that as each day passes, well, I get older too. Do I think about this everyday? No. So why should I obsess about it with my dogs?
I know the facts, or at least the facts as I have been told by vets and research online. There seems to be some magic formula that when your dog reaches seven, that he is now a senior. And there is all kinds of research on how long each breed can live. I could spend all of my time reading this and taking my dogs to vets. Wow, would that be a lot of time wasted with my dogs. And so, now, every time that I am told I have “some old dogs”, I feel proud. Because although they are getting older with each passing day, and I am too, I feel compelled to tell others that their worth grows day by day as well.
If we let numbers or terms dictate how we live our days, are we not living for others and their standards… not our own? I see my dogs and their gray hair. I see their slowing strides and longer naps. But I also see that with care and devotion, the time we can spend together will be as long as we can make it. That means not giving in to an age or a standard. What it does mean is taking responsibility as their person to give them the best life and the most healthy life possible. Exercise, travel and eating right are part of the routine in our house. And I won’t change that no matter what age they are.
If we simply give up on our dogs by just calling them seniors or old, it will rub off on them and their worth. I know this to be true. Treating them differently because they are old emotionally isn’t healthy for them, and it is not healthy for us. When I changed my attitude, and my thoughts from concentrating on how long we had left together, to making the time we had now special…well…it changed our relationship. And I saw a little more spring in their step. I saw their happiness. And that is because they saw mine.
Yes, I am a crazy dog person. A dog mom. But I wouldn’t change anything about my life, because my dogs are in it. I appreciate the times I had with them when they were young, but I could have appreciated the time more if I had not been obsessed about the future. I won’t make that same mistake now. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.
So they tell me I have a “senior dog”. Well. That’s awesome.
-Rachael Johnson, Girl Person, 2 Traveling Dogs