Aging Dog…Day 30

When I met my husband 7 years ago, he had a pitbull named Junior. Junior was large, strong, very intimidating, playful, loved swimming, and was a huge teddy bear. I never had any problems with him being aggressive to me ever. I came into the marriage with a miniature dachshund, Lilly, and she rules over Junior. Junior has never done anything to ever hurt little Lilly. Lilly has even attacked him many of times over a toy or a bone but Junior ALWAYS lays down submissively to Lilly.

Fast forward to today, you would not see the 80 something pound dog you once saw before. Junior has aged over the years, as we all do. But dogs have a shorter life span and with the shorter life span, I get to watch Junior go down hill. Over the past couple years Junior has lost interest in eating and all the other things he use to do. He has gone from being the dog that wanted to snatch the ball and make you wrestle it from him to being a dog that can barely stand. There are days that I call him Bambi because he can barely keep his legs beneath him like a newborn with wobbly long legs. I call him Bambi so that I don’t feel the heartbreak.

Junior now weighs half as much as he use to and makes me look like I am a bad owner. I have gone through so many different ways to get him to gain weight but he can only eat so much in a day. Once I fed him so much that he vomited…so counter productive. I have tried Junior on soft dog food, I have changed his food to a higher quality food with a premium price, and I even feed him extra snacks. None of this has helped him to gain weight. My mother-in-law saw  him and instantly started feeding him as if I were not already trying to get him to eat more. Initially it hurt my feelings because I thought she believed that I was neglecting him. But she has learned that Junior actually eats more than I do and still looks very thin.

I have read so many vet discussions, articles, tips, and blogs about skinny dogs, causes and helping them put on weight. But today I read something else…aging dogs tend to lose their appetite when they get closer to dying and as long as he is getting up to socialize and eat occasionally, I should be happy that he is still doing well. But it has not stopped me from still feeding him several small meals throughout the day. Today he got up to greet me and wagged his tail really well…he hasn’t had the energy to do that for some time. It was encouraging and made me smile, praise and love him more!

But I also have to face reality. My mother-in-law reminded me that with Junior being about 18 years old, he has already outlived many dogs of his kind. So here is my thought…I will be there and get him to eat until he is ready to lay down the last time. I will love Junior and make him as happy and comfortable as I possibly can because that is how I would want to be treated. I want to be surrounded by those that I love and be happy when my days come to an end. As for Junior, he too will be loved until he lays down to rest…in due time.

February 11th…Day 24

It has been 18 years since February 11th, 1999…the day my father passed away. I was 24 yrs old when my dad passed and I was pregnant with child number 6. I never got to tell him that I was having another baby. He was concerned for me when I told him when I was pregnant with number 5. I hadn’t the chance to call him and tell him yet. Instead of me making a phone call to him, my eldest sister that I barely knew called me to tell me that he may not make it through the night.

I was on a plane that night! I flew all night and being in the early stages of pregnancy exhaustion, that was not an easy task. I wasn’t known well to my older siblings since I was the product of my father’s 3rd marriage. And since they didn’t know me and I was young and alone, I ended up stuffed in a corner. I watched as others talked and took my father down memory lane in his barely conscious morphine induced stupor. I was angry that morphine was forced down his throat when he was just starting to come out of it. I never really got to let him know that I was there. And for that, I hold a lot of regret.

I should have spoke at his funeral. I should have talked about his life when he lived in Florida because all these relatives knew of my father was when he lived in Michigan. I regret not talking to him more about the Great Depression…my father was born in 1929. I remember him telling me of the radio being the center of stories in the evening. My father lived through so much history and I now feel that I am at an wiser age to appreciate his stories…he is gone.

I used to have a fear of the age 45 years old. I grew up with my father being very ill through my years alone with him. He told me that doctors were surprised that he lived past 45 years old! I remember a night he was having a hard time getting a breath and I couldn’t find his pills. I was so scared. I talked to him about it afterwards and he told me that God would not take him until he had a full life. My dad told me his full life was when he saw me married with a family and know that his baby would be taken care of.
Well, my Dad lived a full life…and while I wish my children would have gotten to know him, I know he lives on through me.

I am no longer afraid of turning 45 years old because I know that I will be here for my children, just as my father was here for me. And I hope that they will know my father and me without any regrets…in due time.