Tuesday, June 23, 2015
At the O.E.S. Rest Home
When Mike and Duffy about a year old, we were walking on Ludlow Avenue and an oncoming pedestrian asked me what breed they were. “Old English Sheepdogs,” I said. The man chuckled and replied, “They don’t look that old.” Now it’s a dozen years later, and the dogs still don’t look that old. However, they actually are, having turned thirteen in April. The average length of life for the breed, as reported by owners, is 12.48 years. If they were humans, Mike and Duffy would be 92.
You wouldn’t guess the dogs’ ages from their temperaments and manner. They’re not cranky or grumpy in the least. As they’ve been since puppies, they remain sweet, affectionate, gentle, attached to their owners, and thoroughly enjoyable. However, they’re physically struggling because of severe arthritis in their hips. Both have trouble getting up from a lying down position. It’s difficult when they’re on the carpet and impossible from the hardwood floor. Mike can’t get up the stairs without help, and Duffy struggles going up and down, sometimes using only three legs. Lately he has had a lot of trouble sitting or lying down because of hip pain. Neither has been able to jump into the bed or the car for a long time.
More and more we find ourselves being caretakers for the dogs, particularly with respect to helping them get up off the floor. Because of their difficulties, I get anxious when we leave the house for any length of time, and I try to arrange schedules with Katja so that one or the other of us is at home most of the time. Last Saturday night we went out for almost four hours. The dogs were manically excited upon our return, but were unable to get up, and were very shaky on their hind legs when we did get them to stand.
I’m struggling to come to terms with the dogs’ aging, much as one might do with elderly grandparents. Several months ago the vet said we should count each day that we have with the dogs as a blessing. I think about that all the time. We’ve learned a lot of things from Mike and Duffy over the years. Now it’s about end of life issues. Despite their infirmities, the dogs remain happy, curious, and responsive to their loved ones. That’s a model for all of us to follow.
P.S. The photos of Mike and Duffy below were all taken last week. Mike has the all-white head; Duffy, one black ear.