My husband and I have found the joys of senior dog ownership. When we acquired Mandy she had been at a rescue facility for several months. I don’t think she’d ever been on a leash in her life and she had been so neglected it took months to medically prepare her for adoption. Arthritis, blown-out knees, surgery, mammary tumor, ear infections, hip mobility issues; you name it, she had it. Adopting a senior dog – especially one that was already nine years old – was a gamble for us. We walked into the foster Mom’s home and Mandy trotted right over and plopped down in my husband’s lap, looking up at him with those old-soul eyes and it was all over; she was coming with us.
Two-and-a-half-years have passed since Mandy joined our family. Almost every evening we take our dogs to the local county park for their walk. They have walked these same trails for years and yet every day they cannot wait to get there. If only I could harness that kind of excitement over exercise. They don’t see it as mundane or uninteresting; they see it as an adventure. They simply cannot wait to be outdoors experiencing life.
We used to walk over two miles every evening; now that Mandy is 11 years old, we walk a little over a mile and she has had quite enough. I always feel bad for Brulee who is now six but still has enough energy to generate electricity. He looks back at Mandy every once in a while as if to say, ‘Would you please get the lead out??’
We’ve been walking in this same park for nearly 4 years. We take the same trails and know exactly what to expect around every corner. It can get a little numbing at times, but the dogs act as if they are experiencing something mystical. Every evening after dinner, Mandy watches for any sign of familiar movement one of us. Then she’s off down the stairs barking at us to hurry up and get her to the car and by god, roll down that window already! Brulee is more laid back about the process simply following Mandy along letting her do all the directing, however he’s just as excited.
Our veterinarian told me that for goldens, the age of six is considered senior status. Due to inbreeding and other health issues, golden owners sadly don’t see their best friends live beyond 9 or 10. But Mandy who is now 11 1/2, refuses to let her aches and pains get the best of her. If she’s having a hard day and cannot get off the floor without a lift, once she’s up she is ready to go to the park for her walk. When she’s limping a little bit towards the end of her walk, she makes it clear that she is going to get the job done anyway; she may sit and rest a few times along the way but she’s determined to cross that finish line. She is a survivor.
I’ve learned a lot from Mandy. Not only about how fulfilling it can be owning a senior dog, but also that instinctively, she somehow knows that she needs to get up and move her body every day or else the day will come when that body will no longer want to move. She holds the secret to life, this white-faced dog: enjoy every morsel of food in your bowl, experience every day like it’s your last, and find excitement in the little things.
Unlike Brulee who knows countless tricks including how to whisper, Mandy has only ever learned one: she knows how to ‘sit’.
Yet, she is one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever known.