What Our Very Old Dog Is Teaching Us

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Hello again,

Carolyn and Mikol here.
tigraOur sweet 16 year old dog, Tigra, getting frail, is in failing health now.  She is teaching us about acceptance.  I don’t want to learn it.  I don’t want to know that I will soon have to let go.

We’re losing our elders and we’re losing our aging pets.  I am reminded of our clients who describe the struggle of realizing that an aging parent or spouse getting too old to manage alone anymore or is fast going downhill, yet they don’t want to face it.  We empathize and offer support and direction. Now I feel the same about Tigra. I wish someone would offer me a direction. I don’t want to face it.

And nearly every week, I hear from friends, colleagues and acquaintances that they are losing their parents and grandparents at an accelerating rate. Their elders are in their 80s, 90s and more.  My friend’s grandmother is 104 and  rapidly declining in health.  My friend is sad and she is having a hard time with it, just as her daughter is getting married.  She is a lot like the rest of  us.  Life goes on, and there are happy things to look forward to, but at the very same time, we can’t part with the ones we love so easily, no matter what else is happening.  
I look at my beloved pooch getting weaker by the day.  The vet has kindly explained all the things that are failing.  Tigra has nearly given up eating.  I know humans often do the same near the end, too. It’s a sign, yet we urge them to eat nonetheless.  We don’t want to just say, ok, I will make peace with your choice not to eat.  We coax Tigra to take a bit of this or that and she looks at me as if to say, “Don’t you get it?  I’m 16 years old, I’m getting near the end, so just be all right with that”.  I’m not.  I’m so not all right with it. 
I am desperately trying to learn what the old gal is trying to teach me, that I must accept that her end is inevitable.  You see, she has been a nearly constant  companion for both Mikol and me these 16 years. She comes to work and sleeps at my feet or Mikol’s every day.  We’ve had thousands of walks together and done a zillion errands. 
When Mikol fell ill some years ago, she knew. She would not leave his side until he recovered two weeks later.  They have bonded ever since.
The life lesson our pets teach us is that our time with the ones we love is ever so precious.  We want to appreciate it and not take it for granted. And we want to thank the ones who have given us so much for all they have done, whether they are human or pets.  And we need to just be with the sadness we feel when it’s time to let go.  We need to grieve and not fight it.  And we need to also focus on what is good and happy in our lives too, as that is what gets us through this.
For anyone reading this who is facing a loss at this time, we’re with you. Share it with the  people close to you. Just putting it in words can be a relief. And reach out to hold someone’s hand if you can. It really helps.  And you are helping us by letting us tell you about what is going on.  We thank you.
Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt and Dr. Mikol Davis

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5 comments on “What Our Very Old Dog Is Teaching Us
  1. I don’t know which is worse, losing a spouse or a pet. When things are hard between spouses, the pet becomes neutral ground and offers comfort and a safe place to share feelings and cry. I have lost both recently and miss them both terribly. I have new pets now that fill the empty space but it will be a while before they can fill the emptiness. I hope you have time to say goodbye.

  2. We treat our pets with humanity, but what about our parents? Terry Pratchett’s documentary about Assisted & Dignified Death provides an important perspective, but assisted suicide is illegal in most places.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GRmaI7NIIk

  3. Mikol, thank you for your empathetic,compassionate reminders that all life is short &
    So, so precious! I am sending your link to people I know in the face of their aging loved
    Ones, be they human or animal companion. I am reminded of a saying I saw in a Hebrew cemetery: ” To live on in the hearts of those who love us is never to have died”.

  4. Zoe says:

    I don’t know what made me read this but it struck a real nerve and I’m crying all over the keyboard (again).
    Mum passed away in Jan 2012: she’d been poorly with COPD but went downhill dramatically after a ‘trusted’ carer stole money from her and Dad. Susie (my beautiful 18 year old cat) also seemed to go downhill at the same time which was especially hard as I couldn’t face losing her too.
    We knew Susie was near the end but we kept her comfy and I begged her to wait for Mum and sure enough she did. Mums funeral was on a Tuesday and Susie lasted until the Friday.
    It was awful to lose them both but I know Susie stayed just for me and I’m eternally grateful as her love helped me get through a tough time.
    Pets are very intuitive and give so much without asking for anything in return.
    I know that to help Susie leave us ‘with dignity’ was the best thing for her and the right thing to do, it just seems an awful shame that we can’t treat the people we love with the same respect and thoughtfulness.
    Thank you for reading, I just wanted to share this.

  5. Dotty M says:

    I went through these same emotions with my Gabby who at 13.4 years old couldn’t get up anymore or stand up. I think she might have had a stroke. I slept with her on the floor the night of saying good bye the next day. She has been with us since she was 8 weeks just 2 years into our marriage of 15 years. She was our fur child — our Gabby Girl, our Gabs, our Gabbalina (one of our friends named her), our sweetheart. Everyday for the last 3 years of her life to work with me. she loved everyone. Of course, she was a yellow lab so full of life and joy! Needless, to say December 21, 2013 was one of the saddest days of our lives to say good bye to our sweetheart! I get it – thanks for sharing your heart. It is tough…..

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