The pain of loving an elderly dog

I’m going to touch on a subject now that probably won’t make me very popular. I have kept my feelings about this to myself, due to the fear of the criticism I’d receive, but having talked to other owners of elderly dogs, I feel the need to share my feelings because I’m sure there must be others out there who don’t want to admit to feeling this way and feel as alone as I did. I hope that they read this and realise they are not alone.

I have the most beautiful, sensitive, special dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Takara is 13 years old. She came to live with me as a tiny puppy just shy of eight weeks. She has always had the most perfect liver spots and some pink on her liver nose that never fully filled out, along with eyes that are so penetrating and understanding, that you swear they talk to you.

She was my first dog when I was 17 years old and she was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I love her beyond words. I cannot express what she means to me, she changed my life entirely, she’s the reason I got into dog training and certainly a large part of why my life has followed the course it has.  We have been through so much together, she has always been incredibly sensitive to my feelings and I to hers. We’ve had a real relationship. Unconditional love, but not always smooth. We’ve argued, we’ve made up, we’ve looked after each other when sick. We’ve shared so many adventures. She is my world.

I am now, more than ever, her carer. 
She cannot do the things she used to do. She is not as strong as she used to be. She walks slowly and I, and the other dogs, follow her pace. She is a determined soul, and will insist on doing things herself but I’m there to catch her when her body doesn’t cooperate. She is a terminal grump (even moreso than when she was younger!) and shouts at the other dogs. She has no patience and gets frustrated when she can’t do something herself, so then she shouts at me.

As well as a lack of physical fitness (which is to be expected!) she is also experiencing cognitive decline which makes everything much harder.
She doesn’t sleep so well anymore, and needs me during the night so she now ‘sleeps’ in my bed. ‘Sleep’ is a loose term. She will get up and wake me several times a night just because she has woken up, so I should too.

She spends much of her day barking at me, or at her bed, or at another dog, ‘just because’. I’m sure that she doesn’t know what she wants much of the time, and I can’t always sit and fuss her constantly when I have work to do. She is hard work, but I love her.

So imagine the utter guilt and the pain I feel when I get cross with her because of my frustration at being unable to help her, and when I find it cross my mind that life will be so much easier when she is no longer with us. Some days, after a bad night with her, when I’m in pain with my chronic conditions, and she is barking at me, I even catch myself looking forward to her no longer being here and then the immediate turmoil and conflict I feel inside for daring to think such a thing, is torturous. How could I possibly feel that way about my BEST friend? The best thing that ever happened to me, and I am waiting for her to no longer be here?

I’ve come to realise this is natural. I’m only human and I am tired too. I don’t want her gone. I know that I will be torn apart the day I lose her, I will miss her like I’ve never missed anyone else. But, it is natural to feel overwhelmed at times.

Social media allows us a protected insight into other people’s lives. People can choose what they share and as such, we often get a rose tinted view of other people’s lives and their feelings. We only see what they want us to see. It is easy to then think that we are doing something wrong, or are ‘bad’ people, because very few people share their darkest thoughts.

I don’t know how this will go down, I imagine that some people would be horrified, and that’s ok. I totally understand.
I know that the way I sometimes feel doesn’t mean I love Takara any less. I love the very bones of her. I cannot imagine not having her in my life and I will do everything she needs of me, and take all the ear bashing from her that she gives me until the day that she is taken from me. And I will consciously try to make the most of every second. Even when it’s hard. Because one day, when she is not here, I will hate myself for having taken for granted this wonderful creature in my life.

However, if this post speaks to even one person who is experiencing that incredibly painful conflict of loving a ‘difficult’ elderly dog, and catching themselves thinking how much easier life will be when they’re gone, and reminds them that this is ok, that it’s natural, and that other people experience it too, then it’s worth me sharing something I’ve been far too frightened to say aloud before, and worth the criticism that may come with it.  

elderly dogs

2 thoughts on “The pain of loving an elderly dog

  1. I think I can relate Jesse is only 9 but she’s harder work now than ever and in the past 4 months we’ve lost 3 beloved cats who all went through debilitating illnesses of differing kinds. Also lost a Degu a gerbil and a gecko but they didn’t display symptoms. I don’t want Jesse gone but at times I get frustrated with her just as I probably would if I was caring for family member. Sending you (((hugs)))

  2. I have been through this to its natural I’m now going through it with my mum who has dementia and like with my dog I think the same thoughts then beat myself up because I then feel like a terrible person for even thinking it..but then I tell myself I’m not horrible I’m looking after my mum has I did my dogs it’s hard work but I do it with love and that’s all anyone can ask .xx

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