Given that there are sixteen dogs who are always playing with each other at our house, the issue of exercise rarely comes up. However, for Bambie, our 13-year-old Shih Tzu, gaining weight is rather easy, since she doesn’t like moving around as much. Her food portions are controlled to address this.
As your dog gets older, their fur won’t look as good anymore; their coats can fade or become a bit more unkempt—and that’s okay. The dogs here at home, for example, have their coats regularly cut short, to help them deal with Philippine weather and make it easier to deal with seasonal parasites such as ticks. For Shih Tzus, too, the importance of grooming is that it prevents their fur from irritating their eyes. That can cause vision-related problems as they grow old, so it’s a good idea to keep them regularly groomed.
When the cold season comes in, it’s a good idea to have some dog clothes handy. Older dogs tend to feel the cold more intensely, so dog clothes for the low-temperature nights aren’t just for cute photo-ops, they’re there to make sure your senior dogs can sleep better. This, combined with a warm doormat or a favorite blanket, shirt, dog basket, or what-have-you, helps keep your Lolo and Lola dogs warm when the season is cold. This is particularly important if the senior dog has arthritis, as even staying in an air-conditioned room can be difficult for their joints.
Companionship, and Giving Them Away
“Dogs are lovable, meant to be loved, and they will love you back,” Mom says, while cradling a dog, and carefully trimming fur with a shaver.
While my mother maintains that taking care of dogs is like taking care of family, she sometimes feels that some older dogs will benefit from being adopted by other loving families, particularly if they live on larger properties, or have family members who will be around to give more focused care for the dogs.
“It’s always a difficult choice, but if you can see that the adopting families know how to take care of and love older dogs, then it’s better,” she explains. She tells me of how some of our senior dogs became more active and playful once they were taken care of by other people who lived in the province.
Love and Devotion
I wish my mother had said, “and above all, love them,” but she doesn’t have to. That’s because our household has always treated our older dogs as important family members.
As I finish this article, I have five of our dogs in an air-conditioned room with me, including Georgie. She felt a bit cold, so I brought in one of the doormats from the kitchen, and used a spare pillowcase as a small blanket. Now, she’s practically snoring.
Our old dogs will eventually pass away, and generations of them will go by in our lifetimes. But we must always remember that what may be a decade for us is a lifetime for them, so we have to make it up to them. We need to love them enough for a lifetime, even when they are becoming old and grey.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s July 2017 issue.