“Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson
Age does funny things to us human beings. We wither up, we forget things and we drive bigger cars at much slower speeds – except when we’re backing out of the driveway.
We’re sometimes neglected, peering through wrinkled eyelids at a world that seems to have passed us by, and we’re sometimes pitied.
Age also does funny things to our canine counterparts. We watch them hobble around and struggle with vision problems. Their eating habits change and they may have trouble making it outside to go to the bathroom.
They have less energy than they did when they were wee pups, so they’re sometimes neglected and sometimes even pitied.
Alarmingly, up to one million out of the four million dogs taken to shelters each year are dropped off because their owners claim they’re “too old.”
If you think about it, this has a lot of similarities to how we drop our older members of society off in nursing homes and facilities when they become too “difficult” or hard to manage.
Much like older people feel abandoned and discarded when they’re taken to nursing homes, older dogs feel the same way when they’re taken to shelters.
In the case of dogs, it could be argued that the decision to plunk an aging canine in a shelter is more heartbreaking and neglectful than the same decision regarding an elderly man or woman because the dog has grown dependent on the care of humans. This is perhaps the most shameless way to discard a companion imaginable; a surefire way of demonstrating the audacity of “pets as entertainment.”
Yet our pets should be so much more than just entertainment or conversation pieces, shouldn’t they? If we value our companions, we value their aging process as they grow old alongside us. They grow old much in the same way our children do; they face new challenges and accomplish new things just like we do.
Because of this, our pets need love, affection and attention as they age perhaps more than ever. It may not be as much “fun” to look after an older dog and it may seem more enjoyable to take cute Facebook pictures of a puppy, but there is value to age and, as Tennyson said, “honor” in it.
In further series entries, we’ll explore how to grow old gracefully with our canine companions. We’ll explore the sadness and joy of getting older and moving through the latter stages of life with dogs, focusing less on practical matters and more on the holistic journey of getting old with our pooches.