My mornings begin extra early these days. I wake up, cross my fingers, get dressed, and then go check on the status of Belle and my kitchen floor.
If it’s a good day, I only have some of the carpet to clean and the tile to wash. If it’s a bad day, I will have to take all of the carpet outside, wash the tile floor, and also have to wash Belle. It’s no picnic for her either.
In the last three years, Belle has lost some of the use of her back legs. She’s very unstable and falls over, a lot, sometimes at the same time as she is pottying. Then she flails her legs until she is able to get back up. You can imagine how much of a mess that can make.
There’s a truth that I don’t hear many people talking about when it comes to their older dogs, so I’m just going to say it. Taking care of an elderly dog is not easy. I mean, sometimes it’s very hard!
As I’m writing this post today, I spent the first hour and a half of my morning cleaning her and the house. I was late to work and I’m exhausted. Belle is exhausted. And I’m betting that she will have more issues as the day goes on.
Getting Old Sucks
Belle is approximately 16 years old and in the last couple of years her eyesight has diminished, her back legs have stopped cooperating, her stomach has gotten much more sensitive, and she has lost 10 pounds of weight. She falls a lot, I have to hold her up when she does ‘her business,’ she can’t hold her urine for long, and it is getting difficult to find things she will eat. She also can’t tolerate any kind of pain medicine – trust me, the side effects are horrible.
Recently, she developed a pressure sore, which I was completely unaware was even a possibility, considering she is still mostly mobile. I had to figure out how to keep her from licking the sore while not forcing her to wear an e-collar from the vet. Those plastic “cones of shame” are always too big and certainly too heavy for her to wear. So, I bought a travel neck pillow which worked pretty darn well. It didn’t weigh very much and was soft and cushy, helping her to sleep better.
For the Love of a Dog
Why do I do it? First, because when I adopted her, I made a lifetime commitment. She and I are together for life. Second, she’s my love and has had my heart for a very long time. I have had her for a very long time and we have been through a lot together.
Belle is a smart dog. She loves to play and is always excited to see me when I get home. In her youth, she would always hop up and down to greet me. She still tries sometimes, but man, she ends up falling over as a result.
One of my favorite things to do with Belle was to go on long walks through the town. We would walk sometimes up to 3 miles just looking around and checking out the world. She loved to explore the town and smell everything! Nowadays, we slowly walk up and down in front of the house and she still tries to climb the hills as if she is a puppy. (Don’t worry, I’m there to catch her.)
Our favorite game was hide and seek. I would chase her around the house for a while, then hide around the corner at a doorway. As she would round the corner, I would jump out and yell ‘boo!’ It always ended up in me having a fit of giggles and her barking and bouncing. What a hoot!
It’s all about the Attitude
Most days, I can handle the mess and the resulting clean up activities. Sometimes it seems so ridiculous, that I can’t just help but laugh about it. I mean, what else can I do? I’m not mad at Belle — she can’t help it. I have done all I can to limit the mess and help her have a good quality of life.
I built a 13-foot ramp out my front door to make it easier for her to get in and out of the house. I now have tons of carpet pieces that I lay on top of the tile and wood floor so that she can get enough purchase to walk without sliding. I bought a special bed that is supposed to help relieve pressure and ease her pain. I boil chicken for her meals, something I would have been horrified at doing when she was younger. I have a heating pad that I add to her bed for cold days.
The truth is, this is all part of caring for someone I love. I would do it for any family member. I have done it for family members. Three years ago, I would have had a really hard time dealing with it. I had quite the weak stomach and I was a bit of a germaphobe. But life happens and I got over it in a hurry.
All for Love
As long as Belle is in good enough condition to eat, show signs of play, can still walk on her own (mostly), and is not showing signs of frequent pain, I will muddle forwards.
What can I say? I love her 🙂
So, for those of you walking down the same path I am with your aging dog. Have faith. Be strong.
Know that you aren’t the only one going through this and take some strength from that. Keep a smile on your face and carry on. You’re a good dog owner.