Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The "Old Man" Turns Nineteen


There have times when I didn't think Buddy would make it all the way to his nineteenth birthday, but against all the odds, he's done it.

His carriage is still regal, but under that glossy black coat, Buddy's skin and bones. I wish he were a bit heavier, but his frail digestive system suggests otherwise. The vet has removed a good many of his teeth and the sad old eyes are watery and opaque with cataracts. He'll climb a set of stairs with some encouragement, but he has to be guided or carried down.

With his swaying, halting gate we've nicknamed Buddy "Old Man".


When I reach for my coat each morning there is always a flurry of excitement among the two younger dogs. They know the routine.

When I sit to put on my sneakers Piper, the young upstart, notoriously swoops in to grab one of my house shippers. With my slipper held high like a trophy, he will then prance in a circular tour of the main floor of the house. If I manage to wrench my slipper out of his mouth, he'll pounce on the slipper's mate and do a fresh junket with it instead. My husband urges me not to let him get away with such bad behaviour, but I know it is Piper's way to tell me how happy he is that I've decided it's time to go out and play.

And where is the "Old Man" in all this excitement?

Usually he's lying fast asleep on his bed enjoying a very sound post-breakfast nap. How he sleeps through all the barking I'll never know!

"Come on Old Man," I say, bending to attach his red leash, "It's time to go play ball." The lead is necessary or Buddy would get lost on the way to the back gate. He can see what's right in front of him, but not much more.

Feeling the leash being clipped onto his collar, the old dog sits up startled and a little confused. It  takes him a few minutes to get his bearings.

For me this is a telling moment. Right now, there is still enough joy in the old dog's life that he rises to go out to play, but I know there is a time coming soon when this may not be the case. How I dread the day! As he nears the end of a very long life, I know there will come a day when he is no longer able to rally and stand to do the thing he loves best in the world–play ball.

Scarp is himself as old as Sheltie's usually get (he's twelve), and Piper will soon turn two.



Sometimes when Buddy is in one of those deep, deep sleeps, I'm torn with mixed emotions. My own breath catches in my throat as I wait for his chest to rise and then fall. And then there is a part of me wishes he could drift into death as easily as one drifts into sleep. 

Sadly death is rarely that kind.

Like most people, I want to do what's best for my dogs even if that means making a gut-wrenching decision. It will break my heart, but I will not let him linger in pain or discomfort. We'll face our loss head-on and do what's best for him.







But for now, I'm  so very glad for a raucous, three-way game of soccer while I attempt to get in the last of my spring bulbs. 

Buddy may be ancient as Shelties go, but his days are happy and I think that's what I think keeps him going.

Piper smiling for the camera.


Buddy has achieved an impressive milestone (the average lifespan for a Sheltie is twelve or thirteen years) and I just want to take this moment to celebrate it. Nineteen years! 

Well done "Old Man"!

23 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday, Buddy! Nineteen years is amazing! I know that you are facing a hard decision, Jennifer, but I know you will do what is best for Buddy. May he continue to enjoy life as he knows it for now, and I hope that when his day comes, it is a peaceful journey for him.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Happy Birthday to Buddy! I know exactly what you're going through, my old Teddy was the same way with failing vision and long, deep naps from which I hated to startle him awake, too. Nineteen years is an incredible milestone, and a complete testament to the loving care you've given him all of his life. May you all be blessed with wonderful happy days to come. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Karen. I am proud of the old dog. He's been a wonderful companion. I do hope there are many days still to be added to his nineteen years.

      Delete
  3. Our beloved dog lived to 15 years and one month. Buddy may be deaf, our Teddy certainly was, he had to be roused by hand touch. I couldn't euthanize him as we had done that with one dog and it was awful. Even though the vet advised putting him to sleep, I persisted that one last awful day, stroking him and giving him water. He stayed on until everyone had come to say goodbye. When our daughter came at 5 pm, he responded to her, then quickly his breathing changed to short pants and in 20 minutes, he was gone. I was so glad I let him die the natural way. Just like people, dogs need to say their goodbyes. Unless Buddy is obviously in pain, I would try to hold on and let him slip away when it is his time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is unfortunate you had a bad experience with euthanizing a pervious dog. Our experience was just the opposite. Simon, one of our early Shelties, had heart issues. The vet persuaded us to leave him in their care for a few days. That was hard too do, but I agreed based on the hope the vet gave us that he'd recover with round the clock care. I left the vet's office thinking how confusing it would be for Simon to be sick and in a strange place. When we went back a day later, he was worse. It was obvious he was suffering and I was sorry we had left him there. There was no hope he'd recover, so decided to put him to sleep. The vet was great. We stayed with Simon till the end. First the vet gave him a sedative, while I stroked and comforted Simon. Then the vet gave him the drug that stopped Simon's heart. It took less than a minute for him to pass away peacefully. The vet then left the room while we said our goodbyes (and I cried). It was a hard thing to do, but I didn't regret it.
      I admire your strength to see your beloved Teddy through his final hours. It must have been a comfort for all the members of the family to say goodbye.
      Right now Buddy is doing fine with some assistance. My hubby carries him downstairs ever morning. I hope he has many days left and am not anxious to do anything to end such a long life unless pain and discomfort makes it the most humane choice.

      Delete
  4. Happy Birthday, Buddy!!!
    He is such a beautiful dog, Jennifer, and I loved seeing all 3 of them here.
    All of the feelings you describe here, I know so well. It is so difficult, and yet inevitable.
    Loving them for however much time you have with them, makes it more that worthwhile.
    xo.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I had tears in my eyes reading this. What a grand old man he is, how well you have cared for him to get him to this age. He has quality of life and that is all that matters at the moment. Enjoy each day with your faithful friend. I still remember my old wolf, parting is so very hard. Good luck, I hope he goes peacefully in his sleep. xxx

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for sharing your story, it certainly resonates with me. It is tough watching a beloved dog getting old, when they have been a part of the family for so long. I well remember that feeling you described of watching our old dog breathing, and wondering which breath would be her last. Happy birthday to Buddy and best wishes to you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Gerrie! They really do become part of the family, don't they? This will probably be the last time there will be "three dogs in a garden". It won't feel the same with just two, but as we ourselves get older, my husband and I want to make things simpler and easier. When Buddy finally does depart this world, it will be the end of an era. I am really going to miss him!

      Delete
  7. Happy Birthday to a noble, handsome gentleman! I told my husband when we buried our last darling that my heart cannot take it any more. It gets worse with each one. You're lucky to have had him so long, and yet it makes it even harder in a way. He is so gorgeous, and you have given him the loveliest life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The loss of a family member is hard to get over. I like to think Buddy's had a good life. He's certainly made us happy.

      Delete
  8. My prayer for your sweet Buddy "Old Man", is that he will make his exit sleeping soundly in his soft bed. It's a promise God made to his faithful. To be so loved & blessed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for this prayer Sheri Cline.

      Delete
  9. Happy Birthday to Buddy "old man"....I'm sure his longevity has something to do with good loving care you gave him. All us dog lovers know the joy and the heart ache of pet ownership. My little darling is 12..and I see the slowing down...Best wishes to Buddy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If only dogs lived longer lives! Twelve years of age is the average for Shelties and a good many other breeds. It is hard to see that slowing down after such a seemingly short period of time, isn't it?

      Delete
  10. What an accomplishment for Buddy--19! It's a testament to the love and care you provided him. What a handsome guy! I too have three dogs and a garden and everything you wrote applies to what Penny, my 15.5 year old Australian Shepherd, and I are going through right now. When she's sleeping I check her to make sure she is breathing and every night I tell her it's OK to leave me if she is ready. She's quite weak but still runs to the window when the other two dogs bark at something. It's like watching your parents age and become weak and fragile. I pray that Penny passes peacefully in her sleep and I hope the same for Buddy.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Happy Birthday to your handsome Buddy! It is obvious what a good life he has and that he is so happy to be a part of your loving family. Our pets are such precious parts of our lives and we only wish the best for them. He is so fortunate to have you in his life for all these years.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh goodness, 19. That is wonderful that you've had him in your life this amount of time so far. I hear you so clearly -- as clear as the peal of a bell -- about wanting to do the right thing, when/if the time comes. Wouldn't it be easy on us if they could simply sleep into death?

    And when that time comes ... gosh, I am already teared up just thinking back on how difficult it has been for me "when that time came".

    ReplyDelete
  13. Buddy you are one handsome older fella' ... your birthday at 19 is amazing !
    Jennifer it only illustrates what a wonderful family Buddy has, to keep his health so well that he reaches this remarkable age.
    I so understand this cross road that you are at ..it is heart breaking to feel Buddy's time is close ... but you will be there for him and the end will be peacefully full of love and appreciation of the company he has kept with you and your family. Knowing you even the little bit that I do, I know you have been, and are, a loving caring mom to your pups ... they are safe , well cared for, and loved such a great deal. Very lucky creatures one and all. Take heart ...
    Joy

    ReplyDelete
  14. We're facing a similar situation with one of our cats. We have a pair of litter mates, and while both are on blood pressure medication and pain meds for arthritis, Prissy is having a much worse time. She had an attack of ideopathic vestibular disorder back in May and didn't fully recover, and we're having trouble keeping her hyperthyroidism under control. She is very thin. She still purrs a lot and seems happy, but her health is very precarious.

    It's never easy. You want your pets to live forever, but it's hard when they get old and frail.

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear from you. Thanks for leaving a comment.