Saturday, September 14, 2013

Life With A Sixteen Year Old Dog


Here is Mama Pajama this morning. We celebrated her sixteenth birthday in June. She was born on June 29, 1997 into my hands, so we are not guessing her age. Her sister, Jessie, is also thriving in Baltimore and loved by her Linda. We lost their brother Fat Charlie just this spring. Good genes.

Those of you who have shared your world with a Very Old Dog will understand. You'll nod and your heart might feel a bit full and for a moment you'll have to think about breathing. In. Out now. In again. Okay.

It's that juxtaposition of one moment you're staring hard: oh please! Are you still with me? And you see your old dog's ribs moving and yes everything is fine. You go back to getting dressed, or doing the laundry. And the next moment your old dog is looking at you through her cloudy eyes and wagging her tail. She smiles at you, which makes her sneeze. You laugh. You scratch her neck and she's not sixteen, she's just your dog like she has been for sixteen years. More than half of your thirty year marriage. Feels like she's been with you forever.

Mama Pajama is particular. She always has been, in her quiet little way. She will not sleep in our bed. Will not. We have seven crates in our bedroom. Mama Pajama's "crate" is the first soft-side (mesh) I ever bought, back in the '90s. The zipper broke somewhere around 2001, so the flap stays open 24/7. She has always been an upper-berth-er. No bottom crates for her. Which means she still jumps in and out of her crate. Which means I try to help her every single time and every single time she sees my approach, gets a stubborn look on her face, jumps in or out by herself, and then turns around and tells me told you so.

We have - mostly - come to an agreement concerning stairs. She agrees to wait for me, unless she is absolutely positive she doesn't need my help, in which case she launches herself willy-nilly and I have a heart attack every single time.

There are more agreements. I give her a nightly all-over massage. She gives me one kiss at some point during said massage. I stick to her schedule. You can't have a Very Old Dog without sticking to their schedule. And even though I stick to her schedule like it's Velcro and I'm dog bed fluff, I understand there will be Accidents and the Accidents are All My Fault. You have the immense privilege of a Very Old Dog in your life? You pay for that privilege with clean up. That's the deal and it's a great good deal.

 I feed her her very favorite food, until she decides it's poison, then I find her new very favorite food, and feed her that. She holds up her end of the bargain by licking her bowl of Grape-Nuts and goat milk, or boiled meat and oatmeal bread with the sugar snap peas cut up into indiscernible bits shiny clean. Woo-weeee now that is some happiness: the shiny clean bowl of a sixteen year old dog!

Sometimes, because I am only human, I do not live up to an agreement. Last week I forgot to turn on my bedside lamp in the evening. We were watching TV in the other room and I thought, "Crap! I forgot to turn on a light for Mama Pajama." I spilled all the dogs who were using me for extra cushions and ran in to our dark room and flicked on the light. I found Mama Pajama facing the back of her crate, staring hard with her filmy eyes and special ears at the wall, wondering why on earth I had shut her in. "Oh honey, I'm sorry!" I told her. "Here!" I clapped my hands. "Here! You're not closed in, you're just backwards, sweetheart!" Because she is not only human, she forgave me.

She has forgiven me for so much in 16 plus years. Only dogs and God are capable of that. All the nail dremelings, tooth scalings, late dinners. The getting left behinds, that whole nightmare of her illness, the accidental toes stepped on, the empty water dishes. I mean really, as you know, it's infinite.

But after all of that, with all of my disappointing shortcomings, she is here, welcoming me home.

And I am the luckiest person on earth.

Hug your hounds...


42 comments:

  1. Oh Patience I love this post! And there is nothing so heartwarming as a Very Old Dog with the zoomies. My Very Old Dogs have all passed on now, and I have just a youthful ten year old sheltie and a 12 year old Bichon Frise, and I rather miss that Very Old Dog love. But, of course, it will come again, probably all too soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Jean! Hug your 'youngsters' for me.

      Delete
  2. We've had a couple of Very Old Dogs and one VERY old cat share our marriage and family with us. And even though we love our not so young terriers, I am kind of looking forward to our coming very old dog years with them.

    By the way...life with a Very Old Dog sounds a lot like life with a Middle Aged JRT. Teka has us in training now for the long years ahead.

    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Teka is an honorary whippet. Can't wait to see you all!

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Helene! I've missed writing, oh Lordy have I. I hope the writing gods will hang with me for a while.

      Delete
  4. Look at that girl move in her video! You go, Mama Pajama!
    What a wonderful post! Seniors are the BEST ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sue! I think of your sweet angel Maggie often. Aren't we so lucky to have had such wonderful dogs in our lives? Hugs!

      Delete
  5. I remember life with a Very Old Beagle well. Trying to give her medicine (and the resulting need to go out), trying not to startle her when she could no longer hear, etc. Every day was a labor (of love) and a gift.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Old dogs are so special, and Mama Pajama is the queen of them all. I'm lovin' her from afar:) Thanks for the update!

    ReplyDelete
  7. As usual this made my hear swell to near bursting! As the loving mother of a VOD I totally get it. Hugging my hounds!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you DebFox! Please give your Very Old Dog an extra little treat from me <3

      Delete
  8. That makes me smile and cry at the same time.....now I'm going out the door, sniffling, with my tissue in hand.... and that's what Mama Pajama and great writing will do to us humans!!
    xoxox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (this is my BBFF and I paid her to say this, heh heh heh!)

      Delete
  9. Oh that is so touching...as the above poster said, it made me laugh and it made me cry! It was clearly written by someone who has an infinite and endless love for her old dog and knows her old dog inside out! Beautifully written with passion and humour...it touched many chords with me as I too have a VOD sharing my life, my beloved Diesel...long may they both live and thank you for writing such a lovely, positive post about your VOD <3 <3 <3 xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words, Deborah! Please give Diesel an extra scratch in his favorite place from me <3. What a blessing!

      Delete
  10. My Scottie Otis made it to 18 years. The only thing that stayed the same in him was the big streak of stubborn he had since puppyhood.

    Cheers and nice to see you back!

    Jo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eighteen years is AWESOME!!! Good for you Jo. It's good to BE back, that's for sure!

      Delete
  11. this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I have one young whippet, and one almost 19 years old shih tzu. every word written here is written with love, you can see that. I can relate 100%. wishing you ad your baby lots of good days. yes, we are lucky to have our dogs. <3
    ksenija

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh hi, Ksenija! You're from the WAS on Facebook, yes? Your dear Shih Tzu must have the patience of a saint to put up with your young whippet!

      Delete
  12. Loved this, we had and almost 21 year old lady whippet who was such a dear. She and her brother greyhound slept in the kitchen where I papered the floor with towels every night and moped every morning. My kitchen floors have not been that clean since she went to the bridge! I still miss her everyday and she has been gone for years. Thanks for sharing Mamma's story with those of us who miss our old dogs.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Loved your story and related to it so well, thanks. Going to give my Whippet, Daisy, an extra hug tonight. Tayra

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Tayra! Give Daisy an extra extra hug from me, please.

      Delete
  14. I love it. Oldest dog I ever met was a whippet who was almost 22, a race track rescue brought to Canada from England, so Mamma could be with you for years yet!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Bless her, hope you have many more happy years to come. What a fab young lady she is and you're very right about them been so forgiving!
    I've rescued 3 greyhounds my 1st, Candy was taken in jan 09 by cancer, at just 9yrs 7months. My 2nd, Flashy had always been a poorly boy with many problems and was brought back to health and fitness after a severe spinal injury that left him temporarly paralysed in april 04, he got back to full health but after all his problems and getting artheritis young his back end completely went in april 09 at just 9years 2months. My 'youngest' of the 3 is now the sole survivor and older now at 10years 9months than what either of his siblings made. He's a nervous boy but has come so far since I rescued him from death row at 15months. Hoping he lives to a grand old age. It was devastating losing candy and flashy id be totally lost without bud.
    Thankyou for sharing your story x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Jo, thank you for sharing that. Nearly eleven is very good for a greyhound, yes? Please give Bud a gentle squeeze from me, bless him.

      Delete
  16. I, too, had a Very Old Whippet Dog. He had to leave me at 15.5. I miss my Old Man so very much. Thank you for sharing Momma Pajama with us! My new Old Man is 12.5 and I am hoping he makes 15!

    ReplyDelete
  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  18. What a beautiful article...I am the mother of an 13 and 7 month old border collie, who is suffering from vestibular disease. It has been my privilige and joy to raise her from a puppy, watching her grow and thrive, and now I will do anything at all to make her comfortable and happy. She too is getting deaf and I try not to frighten her as I walk over her in the middle of the kitchen or up the hallway. She is on special meds for various ailments but is happy, cheeky, loves her food - any food but lettuce - over the years we have travelled and gone away for weekends or weeks, with her 9 1/2 year old sister Penny....I have been truly blessed to have them in my life...please give your beautiful girl a big hug for me....Alison, Kelsie and Penny - couldn't work out how to publish so had to press anonymous :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had to deal with senile vestibular syndrome in Mama Pajama's uncle Giacomino (the original Very Old Dog) and her brother Fat Charlie. We managed Giacomino's by maintaining him on a daily low dose of meclizine, which was sooo helpful. Please give Kelsie and Penny some extra special treat from me. Your name is quite special to me, and gave me a bit of a start, as it's even spelled the 'right' way! I think if you search this blog for your name, you'll see why :-)

      Delete
  19. I loved meeting Mama Pajama in this post.
    I love her zoomies and I had a feeling I recognized the ever-tighter circles!

    Her loving gaze must be incredibly heartwarming in person.

    I feel it is such an honor to have my pets (cats now) as happy as possible as they age. Marbles my tortie is 16+

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, her gaze can turn me into a blob of mush in an instant! Go Marbles!!!

      Delete
  20. Oh she reminds me of my Greyhound, twirling around like that and also miss independent. This was a great post, I can totally relate. I also have a Rottie who is get up in years...I love babies and will do anything for them.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Of course I cried when I read this, same as I cried the night that wonderful litter was born. Hugs sweet pup pup puppies, Mama PJ and Jessie too.

    ReplyDelete
  22. As I read this post I find myself nodding with tears trickling down my face. My Morgan will be 14 next month and we go thru so many of the same things. This morning when I got out of bed I couldn't find Morgan. After a moment of panic I found her sleeping happily in the shower. I don't know why she was in the shower and I'm pretty sure she doesn't know either, but it's all good. I'm hugging my hounds.

    ReplyDelete
  23. What a lovely girl! The video is amazing... Hope mine will also live such long and with good health.

    ReplyDelete

Love your comments! Love them we do. Don't be bashful! Thank you for visiting :-)