The Twilight Years

Not too long ago, I was sitting on my sister’s balcony which is a great place to ‘people watch’ especially right around sunset. Down below, you can see folks on bikes, rollerblades, kids walking dogs and people running. It’s fun to imagine what each person is thinking about, down on the street. Now here is the interesting part of the story. For each runner there is an elderly person with a walker and for each power walker there is an elderly person walking arm in arm with someone. When you walk behind someone who has mobility issues whether young or old, you come to understand that life need not move so fast and that there are so many things that you miss along the way when you are in such a hurry. Watching this side walk scene from up above on the balcony made me think about aging pets and I thought of Kitty, my cat who inspired me to write my book The Power of Pets. I learned a lifetime of lessons from caring for Kitty.

People get older and so do our pets. The lifespan of a pet is often so short compared to people. Taking care of our elders is important. What if the elder in your house is your pet? I wanted to write about pets in their older age because they deserve to be praised and celebrated and perhaps we can share information on how to take care of them and make both their lives and our lives easier.

Is it easier for a pet to get old when they live in the moment? I remind myself that it is important to understand that while our pets are our loved ones, their needs and physiology is so different than humans. I’ve heard that elephants never forget and I know that a dog will remember you even if you haven’t seen them for years, however, pets are more likely to live from moment to moment which is a comforting thought for me.

I never wanted my cat Kitty to regret getting older! Each birthday was a celebration. Kitty knew at 20.5 years, when it was time to take out the garbage down the hall. When he couldn’t walk anymore with us, he waited in the hall until we came back. It was a part of our routine. Now I don’t think Kitty sat there remembering how he could once bounce his entire body while chasing a ball or chase the light from the flashlight up the wall at lightning speed. So, when Kitty began showing signs that things weren’t as easy as they used to be, it made me feel some sense of comfort to know that he was in the moment with no regrets. I needed to help him feel as comfortable as possible so my husband and I came up with some ideas and systems that I would like to share with you. These ideas made life easier for Kitty in his twilight years.

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Kitty in his twilight years

Providing Support to Your Aging Pet:

  • Place water and food dishes in areas close to where your pets likes to hang out for easy access.
  • We made stairs leading to the couch and to the bed for Kitty.  You can do the same and stairs can be easily purchased through various pet retailers.
  • Have water and food dishes placed up upon up-lifted boxes.  This will support your pets so they won’t have to lean down so far when eating.
  • Have comfy beds and blankets in different areas of the home for your pet to have access to sleep.
  • If your pet is open to this, assist them with their grooming needs.  I remember taking a warm cloth to wash Kitty’s face when he wouldn’t do it himself and he absolutely loved this time together (so did I!)
  • Talk with your veterinarian about modalities that might be of support to aging pets.  We found that providing Kitty B12 injections in teamwork with his veterinarian was of benefit to him.  I was quite nervous when I had to give Kitty his first injection and with the training and support and collaboration together from his veterinarian, we did everything we could to support his needs.
  • Most veterinarians can provide you with a “Quality of Life Checklist”.  This is a tool that you can use to assess how your pet is doing and pick up on things that may be difficult to tell otherwise.  Our pets hide pain and discomfort well, keep educated on how you can pick up on supporting them in this area.  The Argus Institute in Colorado, United States shares some good information on this.
  • Remember, the best support for your pet is with you someone you trust and provides this type of support to animals.  I share with you suggestions and recommendation however must note that I am not medically trained in this area.  I always recommend that you consult with a medical or holistic veterinarian for the best support to your pets needs.

It’s important to watch closely for signs of aging in your pet. Some signs are simply that they are slower to come when you call them or they begin to have more mobility issues. You may notice the greying of their coats. Dogs may even seem to act grumpy at times! Imagine that!  I don’t blame them, I would feel grumpy if I wasn’t receiving the proper support and care too. According to the veterinary literature I read, dogs are considered geriatric when they turn 7! It is interesting to note that the average life span for dogs has increased from 7 years in the 1930’s to more than 12 years! That gives me a lot of hope. Vet visits are important to make sure any ailments that aren’t a part of aging are addressed. Changes in food for older pets is important depending on the pet and exercise can so important for any arthritic bodies. Softer treats for older teeth and lots of hugs are a must. Sometimes softer toys do the trick as well as pets age.

I’ve decided to slow down the next time I walk on the street level. I’ll look at the flowers in our neighbour’s garden and take my time when I do! Kitty taught me to take life and appreciate every bit of it. Sure enough, tomorrow I may forget about everything I’ve said as I race off to my first meeting or I may get up a little bit earlier and look out the window for a while.  I guess tomorrow, I will decide….knowing that no matter what…Kitty will always bring me the message to appreciate and celebrate life…he always does!

Senior Dog Photo:  Photo courtesy of: www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net / Gualberto107

 

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