An older dog is an extra special dog

An Older Dog Is an Extra Special Dog

Ever since I read a recent blog post by dear daughter about her middle-age mutt, Ace, I’ve been “writing” this blog post in my head. I have an older dog. Some would say an old dog, but when does a dog truly become old? When do any of us become old?

Puppies generally garner a whole lot more attention than older dogs. Puppies are lively, furry little bundles of cuteness, okay, and let’s not forget naughtiness too. An adorable, frolicking puppy can bring out a smile in just about anyone, right?

Sophie looking pretty darn cute as a pup!

Older dogs on the other hand, tend to garner less attention. But of course they don’t “demand” attention, not like a pup does anyway. Don’t think pups demand attention? Just ask anyone who’s ever had one.

No, older dogs are generally far less demanding, oftentimes “asking” for very little beyond having their basic needs met. Older dogs, or at least many older dogs, are quieter, meandering more slowly throughout their day allowing life’s activities to unfold, or not unfold.

Older dogs tend to be happy going for that walk or run, but equally content just to sit by your side while waiting for that pat on the head or scratch behind the ears. Naps are fine too; in fact, naps are the ultimate opportunity for the older dog to bask in your presence.

Sometimes older dogs are said to look dignified or wise. I guess this is largely due to the natural graying or whitening of their fur, especially when it occurs around their sweet faces.

Are older dogs wiser dogs?

Who knows?

But when you look into the eyes of an older dog, you do see something there that you do not see when you look into the eyes of a youthful puppy.  

An older dog is an extra special dog.

Is it wisdom?

Is it maturity?

Is it compassion?

Is it devotion?

Is it love?

Or do we just imagine that we see these things because we want to see them?

I don’t know the answers, and it doesn’t matter anyway.

Puppies are enormously fun and the joy and energy they bring into a household is something you can actually feel.

But there is something extra special about sharing your life with an older dog too. If we are paying attention, maybe they even have a thing or two to teach us about growing older.

Good girl, Elsie!

An older dog is an extra special dog.

Do you have, or have you ever had, an “older” dog (or cat)?

What do you see when you look into the eyes of an older dog?

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25 thoughts to “An Older Dog Is an Extra Special Dog”

  1. Nancy,
    We had a 16 year old dog. She was dropped off at our front door one cold winter evening, and according to my husband, would certainly stay for the night. We called the police, no one had claimed her.
    We named her Beams, because once in the house, she looked like she was smiling.
    She went into heat the next day.
    Our kids were young. Eventually Beams would bring home the mittens or hats the kids left somewhere outside. The children adored her, as did we.
    She lived to be 16 and lived with us for about 14 of those years. When she grew old, Beams was quieter, but just as loving and just as loved.
    Best to you,

    1. Marion, I loved reading about your dear Beams (great name by the way). We’ve never had a dog live that long. I am hopeful our present two can set some records. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I have a “puppy” now 2 and and older dog who is 13. Both are amazing. Skipper (the pup) constantly begs for attention and is not content unless she is physically touching me. Matilda (the old lady) is happy to be in the same room and occasionally takes herself upstairs for a quiet nap all alone. Both sleep under the covers with me at night. Matilda seems confident and secure with her place in the world. Trusting and trustworthy. Skipper requires constant reassurance that all is well. Both are shelter rescue dogs but Matilda came to our family as a very young pup and was in the shelter for a short period of time. Skipper had done some time on the streets and is still suffering with remnants from that period of deprivation and fear.

    I cannot imagine my daily life wihtout these loving and lovable companions!!

    1. Holly, Oh my, you have an interesting household then with a dog on each end of the life spectrum. How fun! Isn’t it interesting, amusing and just plain fun to observe the differences and appreciate each of them for those very things. Matilda and Skipper sound just wonderful. Thank you for sharing about them. And I know what you mean about life without them in it being almost unimaginable. I feel the same way about my dogs, and my cat too.

  3. Our two dogs (a boy and a girl) are the same age and were adopted from the same shelter but are not related. They have never been best friends, though they tolerate each other well and stand united when a visitor arrives at the door (in other words, they join together as attack dogs!).

    The girl is serious and smart and always on protective watch; the boy is relaxed without a care in the world. Both are now 13.

    Relaxed Boy was diagnosed with doggie diabetes in December (FYI: if your dog’s breath smells like acetone, get him to a vet immediately; ketosis is a sign of diabetes, as is increased thirst and urination). We give him insulin shots twice a day. He is now completely blind. His eyesight was fading due to cataracts, but the diabetes stole the rest of his sight.

    He used to love to stare into my eyes when I petted him. It’s really sad that we no longer can do that. I would have done it more if I’d known his sight would fade in a matter of weeks.

    He has lost about 90% of his hearing. It’s been a challenge resetting our environment so he is safe and still happy. He is no longer able to go up stairs which means he must sleep alone downstairs. He has adapted and now LOVES having the couch completely to himself (instead of having to share a bed with us humans).

    Guard Girl LOVES having the upstairs all to herself, and revels in being able to sleep at the food of our bed all alone. So despite the dramatic shifts in their lifestyles, each has found a way to be happy despite their new limitations.

    I’d say they are a fine example of making lemonade out of lemons. I can learn a lot from them on how to adapt with grace on my cancer journey.

    Thanks for writing about your beloved pets. I don’t know what I’d do without mine!

    1. Renn, I am so glad you shared about your two dear dogs. I’m sorry to hear about Relaxed Boy’s recent diabetes diagnosis (and thanks for the tip). It must be hard and so sad to watch him lose his sight. And yes, I bet you do miss looking into those eyes… and the loss of hearing, yet another challenge. It sounds like you are all adapting and figuring out your household’s “new normal” (sorry, probably bad to use that). Your dogs are a fine example of making do, and as you said making lemonade out of lemons. Pets teach us so much if we’re paying attention. Give those two dear ones a pat on the head from me. Thanks for sharing about them.

  4. Our cat will be 20 in November. He is very sedentary but did try to pull a whole chicken (in three layers of plastic) off the refrigerator shelf the other day. He doesn’t understand that he is blind, deaf, and really can’t smell anymore. In his dreams he is ready to run around outside and bring home a snack.

    1. Caroline, That is an old cat! I guess cats do live longer than dogs on average, or so I’ve heard. That’s a funny story about the chicken. Everybody can still dream, right? Even a cat! Thanks for reading and sharing about your cat.

  5. Dogs are so wonderful. My dog lived till about 13 ish, and she became more and more dear with each day. Older dogs are most certainly special.

  6. Hi Nancy,
    We have a Welsh Pembroke Corgi (just like the Queen of England, LOL) who is just adorable, named Tucker. He sat by my side throughout all my treatments and I find some of my most peaceful and introspective moments are often found walking with him. Elsie looks like a real love.

    1. Claudia, Tucker sounds very special and I know what you mean about those peaceful and introspective moments while spending time with him. And yes, Elsie is a real love. Thanks for sharing about Tucker. I love Corgis.

  7. Hi Nancy.
    Your post really moved me. I’m a dog lover since the age of 7 when i got my first dog. I like dogs more than some people! When I look into a dog’s eyes I see love. It’s not for nothing that dog spelled backwards is G-d.
    Be well

    1. Tobey, I like dogs more than some people too! I have always had a dog in my life. Well, not always, but almost always. I plan to always have one too. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m pleased you were moved by my post. You be well too.

  8. dear Nancy,

    oh, my, just looking into dear Elsie’s face and her eyes – yes, so much love and quiet but profound wisdom. what a dear, dear companion she must be.

    I have my Sadie, a mix of border collie and blue hound heeler. she lost her whole family, her home, her toys, everything when the woman of a couple, having adopted Sadie at age 6 weeks, decided she no longer wanted to invest time in talking her for walks, etc. at just 11 months old – gave her partner an ultimatum – “it’s me or the dog.” I am fairly positive the gentleman rues the day he gave up Sadie and turned her into a shelter. but happily, she was rescued from an underfunded facility in VA and brought up here with 6 other dogs, all whom were on a kill list. All of them, including Sadie were adopted into new homes and families.

    we found her in less than 24 hrs. and from the moment she was finally home, she was the most gentle, playful, obedient girl – an absolute joy to us. just one year later my Beloved was dx’d with cancer. Sadie was always at his side, laying along his broken leg, walking down the stairs with him, protecting and making sure he was okay. at night while laying next to him while watching tv, she always nestled close to him, falling asleep with her head in his lap. when we would offer her a treat, and still to this day, she sits patiently, takes the treat and holds it in her teeth, then locks eyes with me that I know is her way of saying “thank you”. after Hugh died, she laid on the rug in the front hall, waiting for him to come home, never leaving her spot for food or drink. after several hours, she paced through each room of our home, still looking for him. she grief shed her fur for 7 mos. but now, 6 yrs’ old, she has returned to her sweet puppyish self – she loves everyone, and is as loving and protective as ever. I taught her how to fetch the NYT’s from the driveway, and to bring the (one piece of) mail into our house – big jobs that earn yet another treat! she lives with an attitude of gratitude, gives tons of smiles to the people she encounters on our walks each day, and is ever present for me when I am sad and in the throes of grieving, nuzzling my face, then laying quietly alongside of me for however long I need her to comfort and love me. when she was grieving for Hugh, I was so desperate to help her understand – I asked Hugh to have a little talk with her so she would know that he is always near and still loves her. within a short period of time, she returned to me in full and fine fettle, and I do believe that she understood. she is so sensitive and gentle – everyone, even those who are not dog lovers, loves Sadie. we have a big, fat toad, named Freddy, who comes to live on our front porch the past 2 summers. last week he took up residence once again – now each time we go in/out, Sadie reaches her face down close to Freddy and gives him a gentle, licky kiss! soon Sadie and I will be in training so she can be a therapy dog at our cancer center.

    please give your dear Elsie a gentle pet from Sadie and me, and tell her she is a good dog.

    much love,

    Karen and Sadie xoxo

    1. Karen, I loved reading about your dear sweet Sadie. She sounds like one in a million! I do think pets grieve too when they are missing someone they have loved. It’s very touching how your Sadie was there by Hugh’s side and then missed him so terribly when he was gone. That is quite a story of love. I’m happy you two have each other to care for and love. Warms my heart reading your words. Thanks again for sharing. And yes, that gentle pat from you to Elsie – consider it done! Do the same from me to Sadie. xx

  9. Hi Nancy,

    I loved this post! I can totally relate, though I’ve never had a dog, but the same thing can be said about cats. I have a six-year-old tuxedo cat (Ninja’s double) and a 15-year-old brown tabby. As she ages, I try to make her more comfortable. She has taught me a lot. Like puppies, kittens are loads of cuteness and fun, but I think kitties are more destructive in the house. That’s why I only adopt adult cats, plus they are less likely to find homes than kittens.

    I’d like to think that animals gain wisdom as they age. And an aging companion can be the best one. Their needs are simpler.

    By the way, my older cat has always acted like a kitten to some extent. She still runs around the house and causing mischief. Her vet jokingly says that’s not “normal,” but as we all know, what is normal anyway?

    1. Beth, I’m glad you liked the post. I know you are more a cat-oriented gal, and they are pretty darn precious as companions too. It’s nice how they generally live longer. Dogs’ lives are so short. I like to think all of us, our pets included, grow wiser with age, but who knows? Regardless, spending time with an aging pet is something special. Thanks for reading and sharing about your sweet cats.

  10. Nancy, we have a ten year old shepherd/aussie mix who came from a kill shelter in the south. The story was that her mother was a puppy mill shepherd who had a mixed breed litter. I did see her brother who looked like an aussie, and my dog, Keema, looks like a petite shepherd. She’s always been fearful: we call her “Keema the brave”–but she does the best she can, and is a complete love. She tolerates my daughter’s tough little “sato dog” from Puerto Rico–who is now 7.
    When my granddaughter was born, my daughter’s dog was disgusted, but Keema adored her immediately.
    I’ve always had dogs and couldn’t imagine life without one.
    Recently, I was offered a Portuguese Water Dog puppy, and although it was enticing, we decided that Keema would be miserable. So, just one aging dog at this point.
    Every night I wrap my arm for lymphedema, and every night Keema jumps onto the bed and keeps me company and turns what could be an ordeal into an opportunity to tell her how amazing she is.

    1. Kira, Thank you for sharing about your dear Keema. Our pets do the best they can too. I like how you put that. Sometimes we expect too much perfection from them… I cannot imagine myself ever not having a dog either. Pets bring so much into our lives. They enrich them; I guess that’s what it boils down to. I’m glad you have your amazing Keema in your life.

  11. Elsie is a special dog to me. She has a look that just says “love” to me. I don’t even get quite that same look from my own dog.

    I really enjoyed reading all these comments because it shows how special every dog is. As a blogging friend of mine wrote one time, aren’t we all lucky to each have ended up with the “best” dogs?

    It makes me so sad to imagine life without my dog, but it helps to know every dog is special. I’ve had friends lose their beloved dogs recently and it gives me hope to see them adopt new dogs and eventually love and bond with them just as much.

    Dogs help me to appreciate every day and I hope I can always have at least one.

    1. Lindsay, I think you’re right about that look Elsie gives you. I know she has a special love for you. I loved reading all the comments too… It makes me sad to imagine that too, but I also know the memories are forever and as you said, every dog that comes into our lives is special. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment.

  12. My dog is 10 1/2, and we have been together for 9 1/2 of those years. Her first year probably was not a good one, as I found her in a high kill shelter in South Florida. When she picked me, she had pneumonia and was severely underweight. She had obviously been abused, when I tried to pet her she would cower and cry. I worked with her and with lots of love, good food and patience, she is now a happy healthy senior dog. I don’t think I would have made it through my breast cancer treatments without Daisy by my side. I have no other family and she was always there for me. I often wonder who rescued who?

    1. Nancebeth, Your Daisy sounds just wonderful. Good for you for rescuing her and transforming her life, but then again, it sounds like she transformed yours as well. I’m so glad she’s been there for you through the cancer chaos and beyond. Thanks so much for sharing about her. And yes, that’s a good question!

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