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!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

SOMETIMES IT APPEARS THAT COOPER IS IN DECLINE, and I worry about whether I am keeping him alive for his benefit or mine. It's a struggle to try to determine what's the best thing for him: to just let him age, caring for him as best we can, or to take some initiative to speed things along. All I know is that he wakes every morning happy to see the world, pleased with his breakfast, and ready to take on the tasks of the day, even if those tasks include little beyond sleeping, eating, and allowing his belly to be rubbed. People tell me, "You'll know," but I also know that others would have given up on him long ago.

Some nights he wants to sleep in the bassinet, but since getting his meds right these nights are fewer, perhaps because his temperature perception has been improved by the addition of thyroid medication. He's on Lasix, Enalapril, and eye goo. Each has made a difference in his comfort level and mobility. When they're squared away, he's eager for walks. Often it seems that it's not walking that troubles him, but rising to a standing position. It's that right leg, mostly. His eyes are getting worse, the "dry eye" harder to control. But his spirits are good, and I believe that if we could ask him, he'd choose to stick around a little longer.

I can't say that Tessie's spirits are high right now. While she's been seizure-free, she's not a particularly happy or high-spirited dog and has probably never been so except for her brief sojourn as a nursing home visitor. She's smart -- probably smarter than Cooper -- and easily bored. I also suspect (and this is not a new feeling) that there's something bothering her physically, though we've not been able to identify it. I try to provide her with independent recognition and activities, but to some extent her needs remain mysterious. She loves visiting with the two young Labs next door. I suspect that she'd be happier as a city dog with more stimulation than our quiet country life permits. I do believe we bore her.


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