8 Things I Could Learn From My Senior Dog

As my old dog Corona endures a medical scare, I remember the qualities I love in her -- and the life lessons she teaches every day.


A lot has happened in the past few weeks with Corona, our 17-year-old Lab mix. In a matter of weeks, her limp (which first appeared in mid-June) has become worse. We are waiting on the results of biopsies, and then we’ll have some difficult decisions to make. We are not ruling out treatment (amputation and chemo injections), but it is very expensive.

Nonetheless, I am reminded now more than ever of the qualities I love in my dog, and the life lessons she teaches just by being herself. Here are the things about Corona that I recognize in myself — or want to.

1. She’s always moving forward

Corona has the heart of a sled dog. Up until recently, she loved long walks. She always wanted to go, and she was in amazing shape for her age. She is still in amazing shape with stellar bloodwork, and a good candidate for surgery.

2. She’s always moving, period

Again, this has changed in the past few weeks, But Corona has always had amazing energy for a dog. Corona was and is highly energetic. She does not want to sit still — she wants to experience the world.

3. She doesn’t get hung up on anything

Because Corona is so busy moving forward, it seems that she’s easily able to brush off anything. That’s a great skill. Some cats I’ve had seem to hold a grudge. Corona is not this type of personality at all. She moves on.

4. She is extremely stoic

I’m not sure whether this is a good or not-good quality. It can depend upon whether a dog is trying to hide pain. I’m learning a lot through this ordeal. I’ve always thought that cats were the ones most adept at hiding pain, but there’s an evolutionary reason (survival) that dogs want to hide pain, too. Some dogs are better at it than others. And Corona is one of these dogs.

Am I stoic? I can be. Is this a good thing? Not always! It’s tough to ask for help. I think with a stoic dog, you need to be looking harder than usual to see if the dog needs help.

5. She is practical

Corona is a very practical dog. She loves her treats, but then she moves on to the next thing. She’s not a real snuggler, but I know that she loves a quiet petting session or having her ears stroked. It’s all about the next experience for her.

Could I be more practical? Often! Sometimes, it’s hard to fight our wiring. Dogs have an advantage over us this way. They are just able to be themselves without thinking about it deeply. Corona is a practical yet loving dog.

6. She loves to have fun

When Corona was young, her and another dog of ours got loose and romped in the vegetable garden. I’ll never forget it. Corona grabbed peppers off the plants and flung them into the air like rawhide chips. (I have always had the worst time growing peppers. Yikes!) I was able to save most of the (paltry) crop, but Corona and the other dog gleefully jumped into the pond, getting muddy and happy. These are the things about having a dog that stick with me. She knew how to make fun even out of a simple situation. She’d run circles around me in her dog yard so that I would play with her.

7. The simplest things are the most amazing for her

Perhaps these things aren’t “simple” for a dog, but I always enjoy the joy Corona takes from a walk or sniffing some new or old place. Even now, as we wait for medical results and figure out what we are going to do, she enjoys herself on her (very short) walks. She still stops to sniff some spot, and she’ll stay there for a long time. We stay with her. It may take a while for her to go to the bathroom, but I think it’s important for her to keep taking enjoyment from the things she loves doing.

8. She doesn’t let her past bring her down

Corona likely came from abuse. She was going to be shot (simply because she wasn’t wanted) when my husband rescued her. She used to cower easily. She has come a long way over her long life, and she cowers no more. She is a secure and wise old female dog. Corona is much like my late cat Kali — she is tough. But her tough exists side by side with her sweetness and her practicality.

We’re at a crossroads now, and I don’t know what’s next for Corona. I do know that my appreciation of her has grown hugely over the years. I know we have a lot in common; I know there are things she can teach me.

How are you like your dog? How would you like to be more like your dog? Let me know in the comments!

More by Catherine Holm:

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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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