My Intrepid Senior

by DFS-Pet-Blog on February 11, 2010


"Can't I just sit here?"

Dulse, my 12 ½ year old dog, has always been stoic. He is the one who sits in the background, always watching, as the other dogs who demand attention get it. He has always just sauntered over for pats and kisses when he wants them, but he is never in a rush, never insistent.

This stoicism translates into his physical being as well. He is not one to whine. Even when he recently underwent oral surgery, he didn’t show his pain. The only reason I knew he was in pain is that now, whenever we go to the vet clinic (our groomer is there), he shivers. It breaks my heart.

In past posts I’ve mentioned his hip problems and the chiropractor. He probably isn’t as bad as he could be for his advanced age, but weekly it seems that he has more trouble getting up. I am doing everything I can for him, including making sure he takes his arthritis pain meds and joint supplements

Lift your older dog without strain!

Lift your older dog without strain!

I have also had to incorporate little things to make his life easier. I have been using a ramp for years, just because it is so much easier to get big dogs into the car (unbelievable, but I can fit two Newfoundlands  and a Bifold Ramp comfortably in my little xB!). This past week I had to help him with a Comfort-Lift at times to get him standing so he can walk outside. Once he is up he is fine, and I know he moves around when I am not home, because he manages to use the Piddle Pads I have by the door (what a great invention). Rugs are laid down on all slippery floors in the house so his feet can grip to make it easier for him to get up.

To make sure he gets playtime, I throw his toys just a half a foot from him so he can still get the thrill of fetching, so important for a water dog. I walk him very slowly down my long driveway, but he does not look forward to it. If I compare to how far he was walking just a few months ago, I see it is significantly less, and he has to sit down and rest frequently. I waver between making him walk so his muscles don’t atrophy, to not wanting to force him, since, after all, he close is to 100 according to this dog/human years chart .

Dulse is no longer in the wings, waiting patiently for what he deserves. I am glad to give him whatever he needs to make him happy and comfortable going down the final path of his life.

Do you have a special senior? I would love to hear about your experiences and any special tips you might have for making a pet’s golden years easier.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Terri Cook February 11, 2010 at 10:56 am

What a great read. My yellow lab is 11 years and 3 months old now. We live in a bi-level house and while he will go down the stairs, he won’t go up them anymore. I think he faltered one too many times and is now just frightened. People think I am crazy because I carry my 85 pound dog up the stairs a few times a day….I say it’s all part of the commitment I made to him so many years ago and will do anything I am able to do to make his senior years more comfortable.

Barb February 11, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Hi Terri
Thanks so much for the wise words. Commitment is what it is all about when you have a dog. Your lab is unbelievably lucky to have you as his caretaker.


Monica Mack February 11, 2010 at 2:05 pm

My Golden girl is Abbie, our Golden Retriever. She’ll be 13 on March 3rd. She has been a real joy all these years but she is slowing down a bit as well. She has Lymphoma and has been on Chemo since late June. What a trooper! When we drop her off for treatments, we’ve been told she helps calm down some of the other dogs. Up until recently you wouldn’t know she was a sick girl except for the thin coat and a few missing eye lashes. She started struggling with the antibiotic so we finally decided to give her a break. She wasn’t eating at all and that had never been a problem. But now she’s back to eating again and even attempts to chase her tail and taunt her brother (4 year old Tucker) with toys. She’s starts up treatments again next week, so hoping a new antibiotic will solve the past issue. She’s such a sweet girl, it’s hard to see her go through this. I just hope that if I ever have to face something like this I handle it with as much grace as she does. We’re actually hoping and counting on her continuing to do well. We rent a house up in Sunriver Oregon each year and we purposefully rented a single story for her this year. She also has a new life jacket to keep her warm and make it easier for her when she swims (the only place she’ll retrieve). We feel truly blessed that our goldens allow us to be a part of thier lives and agree with Terri…anything to make sure she’s comfortable and still has the best quality of life.

Barb S. February 11, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Hi Monica, I just love the thought of Abbie, your olden Golden, taunting her younger “brother”! Isn’t it amazing the respect these seniors still get from their younger housemates?

What a nice idea to rent a single story house for her. You are truly giving back the love she has given you all these years.


Lisa G February 12, 2010 at 10:14 am

As a professional pet sitter, and the owner of an almost 14-year old (but still very strong-willed) beagle, the most important thing I’ve learned about dealing with our senior canine friends, is that we have to be willing to adjust the way we behave to their “senior-ness” too.

We have to be mindful of changes in their habits and not be upset if they want to go outside more often, or less to take care of business. We have to be more patient with how slow they are going up stairs. My dog has always run upstairs first to get a kiss and a head pat at the top of the stairs. I’ve taught him cues to give him a head start so he can still get up there and turn and wait for me to come to give him that kiss.

We have to be more patient if we start to notice hearing loss and not get upset if they “don’t obey” anymore. I was worried my dog was having some mental issues, but it turns out he just can’t always hear me like he used to (although he can still hear a deli bag open at 50 feet!). Even their eating habits will change. My dog use to eat so fast (typical beagle) that I swore he never chewed his food but now, even that favorite past-time takes him a bit longer than it used to.

Just like elderly humans, our elderly canines still need all our love, but they also need our patience. Remember all those years he sat at your feet, waiting to see what you wanted or needed from him? He still wants to be that loyal, trusting dog for you, still waiting for your command or (even better) to see what wonderful adventure you will take him on today, he’s just a bit slower about the whole thing.

Slow down with your dog and enjoy his life with him! You’ll be rewarded when that little bit of “puppy” in his eyes comes through as he looks thankfully up at you!

Sandra February 13, 2010 at 12:00 pm

A few years ago I had a Cocker who had a back problem . Vet asked me if I would be willing to try accupucture I said yes/ She could hardly walk by now 9 years old. For the next 3 years we gave her accupuncture but with in 3 days after her first treatment she was walking and with in a week she was ready to go. The Dr. came to our house every month and gave her a treatment which she slept through the whole thing I used to sit on the floor with them and it was very peaceful and calming. Pleas dont hesitate it was very helpful and she was around until she was 14 in no pain at all.

Linda B February 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm

6 years ago I lost my 15yr old mixed breed to oral cancer. The 2-3 years prior, her age became quickly apparent not only physically but also mentally. I too used ramps, the comfort lift and found adding extra padding like pillows to her bedding helped with her arthritis along with her favorite, a thermal blanket. She loved being bundled & would always be so toasty warm. I believed it helped with her aches & pains. As she aged special treats also became more frequent. Her favorite was “Frosty Paws”; a frozen non ice cream like treat. Unfortunately, in the end nothing I could do could help with her pain of cancer & seizures except the assistance of our vet to help her pass at home with me.
Many more loving & caring years with Dulse

MARY W. February 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm



Thomas Martin February 15, 2010 at 10:21 am

we have a 10 year old pug who weighs in around 18 lbs. we also have a 18 month old newfie who weighs in around 160 lbs. The two are very funny together as they are best of friends until the pug tires and then chases the newfie around the house. My wife and I are both elderly and she can
barely walk the newfie anymore but the two are such a joy to have around. The newfie has added life to the pug and to my wife and I. We love them both.

Barb February 15, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Wow- so many good suggestions.

Lisa: it’s great to see a professional pet sitter with life experience caring for a senior – and thanks for the reminder about the need for patience.

Sandra: Dulse just had a “well-senior” exam and his only issue is the back legs. My vet actually thinks it is neurological problems, and not just arthritis, and that he doesn’t appear to be in pain. My wonderful vet said that I might try acupuncture – I will let you know how it goes- thanks for the recommendation from a “pet parent’s” perspective.

Linda B: thanks for the kind words and so sorry to hear about your struggle with your pet’s oral cancer. I know that is so hard, even after 6 years…

Mary: So great that you adopted an oldster and that he fits so well into your family. He is a lucky, lucky dog.

Thomas: I have to say yey for your 18-old-Newf as well as your senior Pug. It must be an absolute hoot to see those two together. I added an 18-month old Newf myself to my crew in November of 2008, and the two sleep side by side now. Rudder, my young ‘un has certainly added life and joy to the household!


Barbara February 15, 2010 at 6:58 pm

I too have senior dogs a brother and sister, Jax & Britt. I am also a senior who only has ss to live on and Jax has a huge tumor on his hip. I don’t know if he has cancer or not as I can’t aford the biopsie., or the operation to remove the tumor.. I have been feeding him vitamins and a pill to help him sleep at night and he seem almost normal and is eating well, if he is in pain I can’t tell but Britt is constantly cleaning him which is not normal on her part. They are both Brittanies and have always been energetic and so full of life it pains me to see them slowing down and I’m going to miss them so much when they are ready to go to heaven.

Jasmyn March 19, 2010 at 6:57 am

This is a great story 🙂
I’ve been having a hard time lately with my 15 and nearly 16 yr old Jack Russell Terrier, Clive. I’ve had clive since I was 5 years old and After 2 bouts of cancer, hip and knee injuries he’s not too mobile anymore. I have recently had to move into a house with stairs and can’t think what to do to get him up and down them so he can go to the toilet, I think I’ll look into the piddle pads!
I truly believe in looking after your pet and making their final years as comfy as possible. I have trouble with knowing weather to walk or not as well, Clive used to pull me on my bike with no trouble, and chase a soccer ball for hours and hours without tiring, now he balks at walking the driveway. Its sad for me really, but its nice to know others are having similar experiences with their pets!

Bridget Williams May 18, 2010 at 11:57 am

My boyfriend and I have an 11 yr old labrador/retriever named Casey. He has moderate arthritis in his hips. My boyfriend carries him up and down the stairs twice a day. We also set up a pet loo on our deck so he can have “bathroom breaks” often. We give him joint supplements plus a prescription called tramadol. I set up alarms so Casey gets his medication on time every time. We also are buying him a new “orthopedic support” dog bed. I will continue to make changes in my schedule and add anything I can too keep Casey as comfortable and happy as possible well into his “retirement” years,

Barb S. May 18, 2010 at 2:29 pm

It really does my heart good to see how many people out there really appreciate their seniors and make their lives easier. Sorry I haven’t been able to comment for a while…
Barbara: So sorry that Jax and Britt are not doing as well as when they were younger. It sounds like you are doing as much as you can. It is difficult raising littermates, so I applaud you for giving them great lives.
Jasmyn: Wow- it speaks volumes about your care that Clive (love the name) is 16! I really want to encourage you to use Piddle Pads for Clive. They seem to work well for Dulse and they are really easy to pick and toss out. It seems like older dogs are similar to puppies in their potential for “accidents”. I like to think that the Piddle Pads are providing Dulse with some peace of mind because he knows he is allowed to eliminate on them.
Bridget: What a lucky dog Casey is to have two people to care for him like that! I love the idea of a Pet Loo on your deck – I have that, too – Dulse thinks he’s going on grass and it is easy to hose down. I really recommend our Quilted Deluxe Bed for Casey. Dulse was snoozing on his last night and looked so comfortable I wanted to lie right next to him!
Thanks so much for all of your comments.

Mary May 25, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Great story! I had two senior ladies – a 16 year old bichon, Courtney; and an 18 year old shih tzu, Shaina. Courtney pass the dayt after last Thanksgiving and Shaina passed the day before Mother’s Day. It was a pleasure to make their last days comfortable, safe, warm and full of hugs and kisses.
Courtney had two back surgeries and was very arthritic. I would carry her up and down the stairs to go out, but, towards the end she didn’t want to go out and used the pottey pads. Shaina was deaf, blind and toothless. She was very afraid of going outside so she used pottey pads everyday. Thank goodness I discovered that human incontinence pads are washable. Shaina also got her food put through a blender as it was easier for her to slurp it.

Friends thought I was nuts, but, they gave me so much love, it took so little work to make their last days peaceful. They taught me so much that made me a better human.

Rebecca June 12, 2010 at 12:02 am

I have an almost 11-year-old border collie/black lab mix who is slowing down physically and seems to be getting bored mentally. In the hot summer months I don’t know what to do to entertain him when he’s in the house all day long because he refuses to go outside. Does anyone have any suggestions for keeping an old, tired dog happy indoors? Thanks!

chris wright June 28, 2010 at 3:31 pm

My little dog Bobbie is a Jack Russell x Chihuahua and he is 14 years old. He will be 15years old in January 2011 God willing. He is my world and I am so scared of losing him when he isn’t well. He has a Perineal hernia and keeps straining to go to the toilet when nothing there. He sleeps a lot now and if he is not well we lie down together as then I know he is relaxed. We go on holiday twice a year. He has been with me since he was 9 months old and always had to stay at home while I went to work so when I was 60 last year I retired so we can spend all our time together for as long as we have. I lost my only son in 1995 and my 12 year old dog Tanna in 1996 and when Bobbie came along he gave me a reason to live. God bless my wonderful dog. I love him so much.

JulieD August 6, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Barb, Ellen tweeted about your loss. I just wanted to comment and say how sorry I am to hear this. 🙁 It’s so heartbreaking and it isn’t easy.

Janet S. August 6, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Sorry to hear about Dulse. Sounds like you were a great mom!

Dennis Bourgoin August 6, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Its really hard. My little one will be 15 in Nov. and I know the day is coming. Tearing up here as I type. All I can say is that I give him all the love I can give and always make sure he has everything that he needs. he looks at me at times and I just know that he knows that he is loved and in the best hands. Keep your chin up.

Bonnie Ramba August 6, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Dear Barb ~
I am so sorry to hear about your loss 🙁 In our 35 years of marriage, my husband and I have only lost one dog. The day I took him to be put to sleep, I cried harder than when I lost my parents. I treasured his collar that I saved and put it on a stuffed collie (although “Jasper” was a sheltie, it was close enough) that my nieces gave me. If there is such a thing as a “proper mourning period’, I think I violated it because I just couldn’t do without a dog! Within 2 weeks, I contacted a greyhound rescue and by 6 weeks, I had my dog, “Clarence the Angel”. I hope that there will be a new addition to ease you pain when the time is right.
God bless ~
Bonnie Ramba (hamstr1)

Barb S. August 9, 2010 at 8:59 am

Aw- thanks for all the good, kind words. It was incredibly hard, mostly because Dulse was the last of the “old crew” that a friend of mine and I had… I will miss his “old man bark” and his perpetual watchfulness.

dora October 10, 2010 at 12:29 pm

does anyone suggest an amount of glusamine to give my dog, Im thinking of using the human kind.

Rachel December 8, 2011 at 10:51 am

This article is quite old, and no one may see this post, but I need to try. We have an amazing 7 year old Chesapeke Bay Retriever named Duke. Recently we started noticing some stiffness and a little limping. After an initial exam, the Vet did some X-Rays. He has Hip Dysplasia and as a result of using his front legs to push himself up has developed tendonitis in his right sholder. As of right now, we are taking Deramaxx 75mg, and she wants him on 900mg of Glucosamine per day. The Deramaxx is to be taken for two weeks, during that time the only exercise he can have is 3 15-20 min walks a day. Here is my question\problem…Duke is a working dog his favorite and daily activities are to run, jump, play frisbee, go on hunting trips, endless games of catch. I can not express how difficult this is for him, we play constantly. Even when he is in pain you wouldn’t know it because he loves to work so much. He will risk not being able to lay down later, to play now. My husband and I are working hard to keep him down, and after only two days I can see how unhappy he is. I have found a few toys that challenge his mind with out being a very physical activity (puzzle toys). Has anyone had a similar experience with a dog who has the drive of dog in his prime, but physical limitations? How did you keep the retriever\worker in him entertained and happy without breaking the guidelines his vet has set? Any advise, tips, links, and prayers are very appreciated. My heart breaks every time he brings me a rolled up sock…..he brings socks now because we’ve put all the balls away so he is not tempted.

Barb December 8, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Hi Rachel
So sorry to hear about your Chessy Duke – you are right- 7 is the prime of his life.. I know he is probably feeling antsy, but dogs are surprisingly adaptable and if you are feeling confident that he can get through this period of inactivity, then he will probably be a lot more relaxed about it. It is sooooo important to follow your vet’s recommendations – the problem will be resolved much faster if you do – I know you know this!

As far as keeping him busy, some things you haven’t mentioned include:
Teach him some tricks that don’t require movement of his legs- for instance “Touch” (which I just learned this summer.) Just have bits of his favorite treats (whatever he loves best) and let him see you have it in one hand, but hold out the hand without the treat (close to his nose) and when he touches your hand, immediately say “Touch” and give him the treat from the other hand. Keep doing this until he touches the hand automatically when you say “Touch”. You will be able to tell when it clicks and he understand. Then it’s time to switch hands, and when he has that mastered, you can set objects near him to “touch”. This will work his brain- any small tricks will.

You can also train him “Watch” which is similar, but the trick is getting him to look you in the eye then giving him the treat.

You may already have taught him these things. If so, you may want to go to your local library and get a book on different tricks. These are only the two simple ones I can think of right now.

With my old guy, Dulse (the guy who this post was about), I let him “fetch” things that were very close to him, so he didn’t have to get up. The I just made him “give” and drop it in my hand.

I hope these help and/or trigger something that will help Duke get through his “down time”.

Meanwhile, thoughts and prayers are with you and Duke, and I’m sure he is enjoying the extra attention he is geting.


Rachel December 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm


Thank you so much for the info, yes we do, do a variation of “Touch”, he says “Thank you” that way. When you give him a cookie (he gets two every morning when I get my morning cup of coffee) the first one he sits for or catches it in his mouth. Lately we have just been doing the sit command. After the first cookie I get on his level this is usually when he gives me a morning hug. Afterward he puts his paw up like a shake and kinda hi-fives you, this is his way of saying thank you. He will also do it after a good tummy or ear scratch, when you are done tossing balls, frisbies, etc. or when the puppy is irritating him and I put her away lol. He is very polite. We have also started playing hide and seek. So in the house he is staying entertained, but outside is a different story. We have to leash him to go out for a potty break, and although he will pee on any tree, tire or post in front of you, #2 is always done in private, infact I don’t think I have EVER actually seen him do it. I do know about when he needs to go so I have been unleashing him but staying where I can see where he goes off too. He is starting to learn the command “slow down” and is doing well with it. We only have nine days till we go back to the vet and see how he is comming along, but living on 22 acres of woods, crawling with critters is complete torture for him. I ordered a puppy training toy that rolls a ball, then if he brings it back and puts it in the correct place the machine will dispence a treat, we’ll see how that goes. Thank you for responding, i really appreciate it. I’ll post later what ends up working for me for anyone else that may have to go through this. Keep your fingers crossed for a good visit!


Deb freitag March 15, 2012 at 10:00 am

We are celebrating our senior dog. #celebrate

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