Our recent visit to the University of Illinois with Bunny and Küster made me think of a few things. Generally, we don’t like to think about our dogs or ourselves getting older, but there are a few benefits. Traveling with the oldest and youngest members of our pack reminded me of just that.
After we checked in, Bunny gave me the look that said, “Take me back outside now if you don’t want to be embarrassed.” With an older dog, I’ve learned that you ignore that look at your peril. Bunny is a good girl, but she doesn’t have quite the same holding power that she did in her youth, if you take my meaning. Without any fuss, I took her back outside to the designated area and she proved that our communication skills are still spot on.
We headed back inside to wait for our call to the exam. Küster started getting squirrelly and my husband fussed at him and argued for a few minutes before heading to the same place Bunny and I had been. Once he gets out there it takes him what feels like forever to find just the right blade of grass to poop on.
While he was out there sorting things out (and probably aggravating the daylights out of Mr. Taleteller) the vet tech came to let us know they were ready for us. I explained that he was taking a break outside and she said she’d seen him go outside. She also mentioned how she’d been looking forward to seeing the dogs again this year. She has helped us every year since the first time Küster went to visit as a puppy. I wasn’t sure whether to be proud or afraid that we’d made a memorable impression, but she seems to remember all the dogs who come for annual exams on a regular basis.
Once we got in the exam room, Küster was his usual exuberant self, bouncing around the room, while Bunny was her usual calm, cool and collected self. Bunny’s only misstep was an almost slip on the slick floor, but she recovered pretty quickly. She stood calmly for the vet to look in her eyes and even tried to her gentle best to convince the vet that her time would be better spent petting Bunny than examining Küster, who wasn’t into standing still at all.
When the exams were done, Bunny stood beside me while they talked about what they saw. In contrast, Küs spent his time circling Mr. Taleteller while we discussed him. Our walk back out was Bunny walking gracefully beside me, while Küster and Mr. Taleteller had their usual battle of wills about how Küs was going to walk.
I looked down at the senior golden hound beside me and vaguely remembered the willful little dog who made me cry because she had no leash manners. I thought about how Treat had always instinctively read me and was like an extension of my own arm and how I thought I’d never experience that again. Here I was, walking through the lobby with my little hound on a loose leash, no pulling, perfect manners and total trust that I knew what she would want to sniff as well as what she’d ignore.
With age comes some really sweet moments in your relationship with any dog. I know that a lot of people dread those senior years when your dog slows down, but it’s easy to forget the puppy shenanigans and the teenage rebellion. Having that unspoken understanding is one of the most treasured parts of having a senior dog, for me at least. Its true, older dogs aren’t as flashy as crazy puppies, but they make up for it in spades with all the heart they give. Whether it’s sunshine in the aftenoon to nap in or a ride to a new place, senior dogs savor life and its experiences with you in a way no other will.