In Praise of Elder Dogs

This blog is created in celebration of the elder dogs, of any breed, who've touched our hearts. You are invited to add your own reflections, or, if you wish, track the progress of your own elder dogs. ("Elder," BTW, is defined here as 10 years or more, except in breeds known for shorter lifespans, such as the Great Dane.) Send your stories and photos to me at branta(at)

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Location: Hunt, Texas, United States

I've been privileged to share my life with five unforgettable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. This blog was inspired by Cooper, my first, whose indominatable bright spirit triumphed over his limitations. Every day of his life, till the very end, he woke joyously, happy to greet the day. I would wish the same for all of us!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

CHRISTMAS EVE. At one point in the afternoon, Tessie (my elder female Cavalier) began shrieking as if something was hurting her badly. I reached for her, thinking she'd snagged a nail in her coat or something like that, but there was no sign of anything external. She was also briefly staring into the distance, not "gone" into a full-blown seizure but clearly "off" and making snapping motions with her jaws. At one point she accidentally nipped me and that seemed to bring her back -- she looked at me, clearly troubled (a sweet-tempered girl, typical of her breed, she has never bitten or shown any inclination to bite). I got down on the floor with her and held her, rubbing the right side of her head. She let me do that for a while, and when we were finished she went to rub her head on the wall. Within just a few minutes, she was fully normal again, back to her old self. The Tech at our Vet's, where we board our dogs when we're away, reported one incident like this a few months ago, but it's the first time I've seen it -- almost a mini-seizure.

Cooper's day, on the other hand, was better: to everyone's surprise, he walked as he hasn't walked in months. While he slept much of the day, he was able to go wherever he wanted and stand, sit, and lie down as desired.

We are still savoring the dozens of birthday greetings that arrived for him on the 19th, when he turned 15. What a strange business this aging is -- good days and bad, days of wondering how much longer we'll have with them, followed by days in which it seems they'll always be here. Often these days are back-to-back. It's as if our lives haven't taught us to live in the moment, their lives will.


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