Grey muzzles

How I adore a grey muzzle.

A client recently told me that I’m the only pet caregiver they’ve ever had who even interacted with their senior dog. How sad is that? Sure, they hired caregivers to come in to make sure their puppy (now a full-sized bundle of Chocolate Labrador exuberance) got a potty break during the day, but to barely acknowledge the resident senior? Huh? And this particular Golden ager could not be more loving. When he asked to get a walk, too, I just could not say no. Yeah, he has arthritis and he moves slowly, but he chooses a route through the woods that ensures I have clearance through the trees. He’d have been a brilliant seeing-eye dog. And he is beyond thrilled to get out and check out the sniffs.

While it’s true that “Happiness is a warm puppy” snuggled up licking your nose with their intoxicating puppy breath, I myself am a pushover for senior dogs. I’m reminded of an Uppity Blues Women (Saffire) song lyric from the song “Middle Aged Blues” which goes: “An old woman don’t yell; An old woman don’t tell; An old woman don’t swell And she’s grateful as hell.” [Disclaimer… by all means look up the song, but be warned: adult lyrics!]

Older dogs are just that: grateful. They are grateful for a gentle rub, a short walk after a rain, a warm bed, a kind word… any and every little thing you do for them.

Like us as we age, many are not quick to make new friends. You have to earn the love of some older dogs. They can be set in their ways, as they know what they like and don’t like. Some keen observation and careful listening are all it takes to crack the code. Trying out a new routine may require some patience, but, if they like the new routine, they’ll settle into it just fine. Once you have their respect, they’ll trust you when you try new things and they do and will learn.

Roscoe was nine when we adopted him. He’s a big boy, 80 lbs. of Boxer Mastiff, but he’s the sweetest old man. Our Hilda loves to play ball. She rolls it down the stairs for us to fetch and toss back to her. Since she’s a toy hoarder, the balls are all *hers*, so Roscoe leaves them alone. It took me some time to figure out why he has no interest in balls. He didn’t know what to do with them. He’d never played ball. So, I taught him. Close catch, I call it, since he can only manage tosses from about 6 inches away (that he can see the ball at all is a blessing to which I give my vet all the credit; we had lots of eye issues with Roscoe. His face had been broken at some point with cranial nerve damage that left him partially paralyzed in his left face and unable to make tears or saliva, but that’s all better now). You cannot imagine the joy and pride with which he catches the ball. It breaks my heart with happiness for him. Whatever all he’s been through, he is always happy. I have yet to see him have an off day after two years sharing our home with him. While I did not get the pleasure of knowing Roscoe in his puppyhood or his prime, I have loved every day with my old man.

Watching our dogs age can be daunting. They move from puppy to mellow adults in a matter of a couple of years, then slowly progress into seniors. One day the muzzle, feet, and ears are grey, as if overnight. Habits and routines change with their physiology. The things that once brought them great joy suddenly seem arduous. We become watchful, hoping to catch any signs of distress in our stoic companions so that we can head off pain with veterinary care and modified routines. And yet, their stoicism is keener than our powers of observation. Still and all, we feel immense comfort with our long time companions by our side. Grey muzzle love grows our human hearts.

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