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)

My Photo
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!

Thursday, February 16, 2006


It's now nearly noon, less than 24 hours after we picked up Cooper and Tessie at the Vet's. I'm happy to report that TESSIE, is back to normal, neurologically and psychologically. She knows who I am and where she is. She wants to be held and loved; did a bit of head-rubbing this morning after her potty walk -- the sensation of pebbles between her toes has, in recent months, seemed to provoke a compulsive backward-kicking/scraping motion, which seems to be inexplicably tied to her neurological situation -- but is now pretty well indistinguishable from any other one-eyed elder Blenheim Cavalier.

COOPER, on the other hand, is still impaired. At one point he raised himself to stand, then stood standing proudly, wagging his tail. But newly blind, he didn't know where to go, and just stood there. I tried calling him, even using a bit of cheese as a lure, but he just stood, wagging and smiling, doing that wag-wag-wag thing for which Cavaliers are rightly known.

Bathing him in the kitchen sink, I found him weaker than ever before. For months it's been necessary to place him in the sink and bathe him lying down. Today, I had to not only support him on my elbow, but had to add a folded towel to serve as a pillow for his chin.

If he recovers from these new developments, it will be a miracle. If he doesn't, then he and his life -- rather than any sudden, end-of-life turnaround -- will be the miracle.

As Tessie was recovering from her seizure this morning, I was watching the on-line video of the breed judging at Westminster, enjoying all those precious little faces and the perpetually waving tails. It was powerful to sit there, one eye on the video screen and the other on Tessie, with an ear tuned to Cooper's breathing, and know that the one thing that sets this wonderful breed apart from all others is the lovely temperament they share, virtually without exception. It was powerful to see those at Westminster in the prime of life, and to sit with my two -- of less distinguished breeding -- at their advanced ages, and feel profoundly grateful to the man who bred mine. Reaching 15 in this breed is an extraordinary accomplishment, and I bless this man daily for having made whatever choices he did that helped bring about such an angelic presence in my life as these two little Cavaliers!


Post a Comment

<< Home