I adopted my dog, Riggins, when he was just over three months old. He was the tiniest little puddle ever. That’s what I called him, “my little puddle” — because he was a black clumsy gangly puddle of a pup.
This past June, Riggins turned 10 years old. Well past the age of “senior” for a dog his size. We have been through a lot together, Riggins and me. Thinking about him getting older was really upsetting. I use to tear up every time a milestone that showed his age happened.
But I eventually realized that being sad as Riggins aged, although a normal reaction, wasn’t healthy for me. I needed to turn around my thinking and instead of being saddened by his aging be thankful for our time together.
I also have realized that my pup, who I often lovingly call “my grumpy old man,” has gotten better with age. Here are a few examples of how:
When Riggins was a puppy he was a dynamo. His energy level was high and endless. Resting was just not something that happened. Well, I suppose it happened — it just happened when I was at work. By the time I got home and wanted to rest, Riggins was at top speed and ready to go!
For the first six to seven years of Riggins’ life, I could not just watch TV. Nope. I had to position myself on the sofa at the perfect angle so I could toss a tennis ball over and over down the hall, all the while attempting to pay attention to what was happening on the boob tube.
Now not only do I get to watch TV without getting an extra bicep workout, if I’m lucky, Riggins will decide to jump up on the sofa and snuggle next to me.
Sitting there together is the absolute best way to relax!
Speaking of cuddles, Riggins used to refuse to cuddle up against me in bed. It just wasn’t going to happen. He was a free spirit and needed his space. In fact, one of the ways I trained him to stay off the human bed was to make it uncomfortable for him to be there. Specifically, when he jumped up I’d smother him in a full body hug until he struggled to get away from my overly assertive display of affection, jump off the bed in disgust, and find his own space on his own bed.
Riggins still doesn’t sleep with me during the night (most of the time), but he does come up and snuggle in the early morning. It has become my favorite part of my day! In a half-sleep state, I’ll roll over and put my arm around him and snuggle my face into his fur.
We start our day together and happy.
When Riggins was young, I had to take him out on a long walk or run every day. Of course, all dogs should get a walk with their human daily, but Riggins just seemed to take that need to another level. We would run three-plus miles every single day, and he still had energy to spare when we got home.
I felt guilty when I went out and did non-dog activities. Swimming, cycling, or drinking with friends (a well-established outdoor sport among those I know) couldn’t be enjoyed because I had to cut down on Riggins’ exercise time to make them happen.
As Riggins has gotten older, he doesn’t require as much time out and about. This past year, he has really slowed down on the trails and I now shorten our hikes. If it’s hot or I have other dogs — I’m a dog sitter — who need more time out and about, Riggins stays home. At first I felt bad for him and he, even now, sometimes sneaks into the car so he can be part of the fun. Most of the time, though, I’ll look at him and say, “It’s really hot. Do you want to stay home?” In response, he will march back inside, stopping at the treat cabinet, before heading to my bed for mid-morning snooze.
Riggins and I hit our prime napping age at the same time. It is a marvelous shared activity!
When Riggins was younger, I decided everyone I knew had lovely wedding pictures or professional pictures of them with their new babies. I wanted professional pictures of my baby and me, too, even if some would consider me crazy. A short Internet search put me in touch with a woman whom I know consider Riggins’ personal photographer, Lori Fusaro.
A few years ago, as a reaction to a personal experience, Fusaro decided to help raise awareness for the adoption of senior dogs. At the time Riggins, wasn’t a “senior” yet, so he was unable to help his favorite photographer with her cause.
The last time Fusaro took pictures of Riggins, he was finally a senior and a perfect example of what a wonderful loving companion a senior dog can be. Now his human buddy and animal advocate, Fusaro, can use his pictures to help in her cause.
That makes both of us really happy.
Riggins has always been the “mom” in any pack he is a part of. He worries about everyone and is on alert to make sure everyone is okay. When we stay at my sister’s house for the holidays, Riggins will walk the halls during the night, checking on each family member before curling up next to me or his favorite human, his cousin Kira.
Now he has years of experience to support his parenting habit. Over-anxious dogs and puppies who become part of our pack while they are staying with us are carefully taught valuable lessons by the grumpy old man – my sweetie Riggins!
How has your senior dog gotten better with age? Let us know in the comments below.
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About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.