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5 Ways My Senior Dog Is Showing His Age

From health issues like arthritis to wanting to eat at 5 p.m., my sweet baby boy has definitely entered -- and in many ways, embraced -- his senior years.

Wendy Newell  |  Nov 2nd 2016


My darling baby boy, Riggins, is now 11 years old. I’ve had him since he was a 3-month-old puppy. Here are just a few of the ways my grumpy old man is showing his age.

1. He has arthritis

Riggins this past Aug on a hike. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins showing off his gray muzzle, this past August on a hike. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Getting old can be a real bummer. Poor Riggins has arthritis in his back hips. My sweet boy would once hike miles and miles by my side, but he now takes a mile to “work out the kinks” and maxes out much sooner. Long hikes are a thing of the past for him.

The pain medicine that Riggins only had to take once in awhile is becoming more regular. Soon it will be every day. As sad as that makes me, my senior pup doesn’t seem to mind at all. He will still find a way to take off in a flash if our neighbor, Black Cat, shows herself.

2. He has become a homebody

Riggins lounging in his second favorite place, MY bed. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins lounging in his second favorite place, MY bed. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

As a young pup, Riggins wanted to be by my side at all times. I’d take him anywhere and everywhere I could. He still likes to know where I am, but really prefers to be in his house, specifically lounging in HIS bed.

We used to go over to my friends’ house on a regular basis. Not only does the family love Riggins, but his BFF dog friend, Morgan the Poodle, lives there. Riggins used to happily plop down on the sofa and cover someone’s lap with his body, so that the owner of said lap could give him the cuddles he so richly deserves.

Now Riggins does a quick session of hellos and spends the rest of the night unsettled, pacing and crying at me. I can translate his whimpering into, “OK, we said hi, and now it’s time to go home. Let’s go home plllleeeeaaaasseee. My bed misses me!” I don’t take him as often now. He seems a-OK with that.

3. He has more of a mind of his own

"I"m 11. I do what I want!" Riggins giving a look next to a sign we found in Big Bear, CA. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

“I”m 11. I do what I want!” Riggins giving a look next to a sign we found in Big Bear, Calif. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Over the past two year,s Riggins has become more and more stubborn. In the past while hiking, he would be right by my side. When I told him to, he would stop and wait for me. Not anymore! Now more often than not, Riggins’ lack of listening on the trails gets him put back on leash. When he gets too far away and I call him, he looks back and locks eyes with me before continuing on as if nothing had happened.

As I jog after him to catch up, I swear I can hear him say, “I’m Riggins. I’m 11, and I do what I want!” Just last weekend on our group Saturday hike with friends, he took off down the side of a hill, where no human could safely go, just so he could eat a discarded sandwich. No amount of “Leave it!” commands was going to get that old mutt back up the hill before the last bite was swallowed and in his stomach!

4. He prefers senior mealtimes

Riggins on his 11th birthday. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins on his 11th birthday. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

When my friends want to meet for dinner before 7 p.m., I mock them for having “old person” eating schedules. By 7 p.m., Riggins has long since digested his meal and is ready for his late-night snack!

Riggins gets me up to feed him breakfast between 5:30 and 6 a.m. If he tries to get me up earlier, a “It’s too early, go to bed” usually does the trick. After 5:30, that command doesn’t work anymore. He knows it’s time to eat, and nothing I say will convince him otherwise.

I work from home, which means Riggins starts looking for dinner at 3:30 p.m. I try to hold out and not feed him until 4:30 p.m., but that doesn’t always happen. It’s hard to concentrate on work when a giant black dog has his head in your lap whining.

5. He has a lower energy level

Riggins waiting for me to throw the ball at our local dog park. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins waiting for me to throw the ball at our local dog park. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

This past week, I watched a 7-month-old foster pup for a day. The Lab/Pit mix tore up the backyard in a matter of seconds. His energy was amazing, and Riggins DID NOT LIKE IT. Anytime the playful puppy tried to get near my old man, or even try to pass close by, Riggins would growl in disapproval. “Watch it,” I told Riggins, “you used to be that bad, if not worse.”

It’s true. When Riggins was a puppy, he was a ball of playful energy. When I took him to a dog park, he would find another dog to play with almost immediately. He was known to be the instigator who started up the giant figure-eight chase. Now at the park, if a chase breaks out, Riggins will join in for a few seconds and then think better of it and turn around to play ball with me. A nice loner game where he doesn’t have to worry about those whipper snappers getting in the way!

Getting older is a fact of life. It happens whether we want it to or not. It’s upsetting that dogs age faster than humans, but that too is a fact we have to accept. I wouldn’t give up a single minute that I’ve had with my sweet baby boy. Even at his grumpiest, I love him more and more everyday — and after having that puppy around here wreaking havoc, I appreciate Riggins’ senior moments even more!

Let’s hear from you! How is your dog starting to show his age? What has changed? Share in the comments.