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RIggins in bed.
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6 Things to Love About Senior Dogs

In light of Adopt a Senior Pet Month, one of our writers shares the reasons that make her love senior dogs — especially her own older dog — all the more.

Wendy Newell  |  Nov 2nd 2017


In a poorly designed cosmic hiccup, dogs live shorter lives than humans. It’s easy to let this fact get you down. In honor of Adopt a Senior Pet Month, let’s review some of the perfectly imperfect things to love about senior dogs.

1. Peppered muzzle

I love my senior dog's peppered muzzle.

I love my senior dog’s peppered muzzle. Photography courtesy Wendy Newell.

My 12-year-old German Shorthair Pointer mix, Riggins, is almost all black. His chest and paws are white with black dots. Not only does this make him absolutely adorable, it also makes it very easy to see the gray fur that is now prominent on his face and back legs. I call him distinguished. After all, we all know a little pepper in the beard just makes a guy hotter!

Recently, I took him for a photo shoot, something we have done before. (What? You mean you don’t have professional pictures of your dog? You should!) “Come on, Riggins,” I said. “We need to document your distinguished snout!”

2. Hearing problems

To tell you the truth, I think Riggins uses his bad hearing to his advantage. The little rascal! We’ll be on a hiking trail and I’ll yell at him to slow down or stop to wait for me. More than once he has ignored my commands and starts to speed up instead. That just makes me jog after him yelling, “You aren’t that fast anymore, old man!” as I close the gap between us.

3. Changes in cuddling behaviors

Now that Riggins is older, I have to go to him to cuddle.

Now that Riggins is older, I have to go to him to cuddle. Photography courtesy Wendy Newell.

There is nothing, NOTHING, in the world I love more than cuddling with Riggins. He used to jump up on the bed with me and I’d spoon him, burying my face in his fur. The arthritis in his back legs has made the climb to the top of the mattress difficult for him. I’ve tried a bed ramp and stair. He doesn’t like either one. If he can’t jump up, he isn’t coming up.

Now, I must go to him. I’m okay with that. Before going to sleep and getting ready in the morning I’ll lay down with him on his bed. If I’m lucky, I can squeeze my body behind him for a good spoon snuggle, but usually I just lay next to him, kissing his muzzle and scratching behind his ears.

4. Lumps and bumps

When Riggins was young, any little imperfection on him had to be removed immediately. My baby was going to be nothing short of perfect. As a senior dog, he has bumps that you feel whenever you pet him. Now I tell the vet, after testing to make sure they aren’t something serious, to leave them alone. There is no reason to make poor Riggins go through operations that are just cosmetic. It doesn’t bother him at all, so why should it bother me?

5. Arthritic gait

Riggns has gotten a bit slower at hiking as a senior dog.

Riggns has gotten a bit slower at hiking as a senior dog. Photography courtesy Wendy Newell.

In his youth, Riggins was an athlete. For years, we hiked a minimum of twice a week — often four or five times. My furkid loved to run and had to wear a retriever’s bell while out on a trail since he was fast enough to catch, and then eat, the ground squirrels.

He isn’t fast anymore. In fact, when he first gets up before getting moving, his back legs will drag a bit. He has started to have problems with slipping on our non-carpeted floors. It can be heartbreaking to see him struggle, so I do what I can to help him.

Our long hikes have grown much shorter or changed to strolls around the neighborhood. He still loves to get out, and if I’m going on a longer hike without him he isn’t too pleased with me as I leave him behind.

6. Constant naptime

When Riggins was young, he had a crazy amount of energy. After work, we would go on a 3-mile run and then I’d spend the rest of the evening tossing the ball down the hall. I couldn’t imagine a day when he would slow down, but that day has come.

Now, Riggins spends most of his time napping next to my desk while I work. If you can’t beat them, join them. Riggins and I are napping champions and it’s an activity we love to share together.

When Riggins came into my life, he was a tiny little puddle of fur. We’ve been through a lot together over the last 12 years and I wouldn’t change a moment of it. When he was younger I dreaded him getting old, not knowing how I would handle it. Turns out when you love someone with all your heart it doesn’t matter their aging issues. After all, no matter his age, bumps or alignments Riggins is now and will forever be my perfect baby boy!

Another issue that faces senior dogs? Being overweight. Discover 10 weight loss tips for senior dogs right here >>

Tell us: Do you have a senior dog? What do you love about senior dogs?

Thumbnail: Photography courtesy Wendy Newell.

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