I’ve written about our old lady dog, Butterscotch, many times. Aging, when we’re fortunate, is a lengthy process. Butterscotch started down the getting-old path a couple years ago. Winter of 2014-15 we didn’t think she’d see the next one, but she did, and she’s still here, but she’s much further down the path these days. She does okay many days, and then there are others, like today, when you can see the body giving up and she seems to be looking into another world.

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Her hearing, vision, and comprehension are all a fraction of what they were when she came to live with us 6 years ago, already a senior dog then. She hears high-pitched loud sounds only, but she can’t usually tell where the sound comes from, even if you’re just a couple feet from her. Call to her, and inevitably, she looks in a wrong direction for the source of the noise. It doesn’t help that her eyes are getting more cloudy. She can see in well-lit spaces and on her daytime walks, but dim or dark rooms and spaces challenge her. She does manage to do her business outside in the dark before bed, and I’m not sure how. Maybe she finds her way mostly by smell.

Comprehension fails her sometimes too. Today, on our walk (more a meander) a sweet and boisterous young dog greeted her and then walked on with her guardian. Butterscotch stood rooted to her spot, looking at where the dog had been, as if the dog had donned an invisibility cloak and simply disappeared.

These things don’t seem to bother her however. I am pretty sure that if I get to “old” I will be cranky, but Butterscotch is as sweet as she has ever been. If a dog disappears, she does the equivalent of shrugging her shoulders and moves on.

Butterscotch sleeps…a lot. And deeply. Even touching her doesn’t always get a response right away. But show her the leash and her eyes light up, even if her legs don’t work right away. With a little help, she’s up and ready to go. Walks around a block take about 25 minutes, but she loves them. I count them as meditation time for me.

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When she’s not sleeping she is often barking. At nothing. If she isn’t in the room with you, she wants to be, which is hard if you’re not sitting and doing one thing in one place. And it’s not a nice little bark. She has a loud, demanding bark, and she doesn’t mind keeping it up for 15 or 20 minutes when need be. Sometimes she does this even when you’re in the room with her, feet away. Like I said, comprehension slips sometimes for our sweet old lady.

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The legs are the hardest part for her. She did well all day today, and then at dinnertime all of her legs gave out on her. It took about 15 or 20 minutes before she was able to stand again. She’s been seeing a doggy chiropractor and that helped enormously for many months, but I’m realistic about the limits of the body to keep going when you’re a dog approaching 16 years old.

Butterscotch clearly has one foot in another world, and seems to be looking that way sometimes.

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Her overall health is good, especially for an elderly dog with Cushings. It is the legs and the muscles that betray her now, and perhaps some of that brain power as well. Still, she loves her walks, and mealtimes are probably the highlight of her day, the time of day when she looks and acts young again, if just for a minute. She’s doing okay for the time being, but I won’t be surprised when she turns the corner. I just wish the corner was a lot further away than it looks to be these days.


21 thoughts on “The Old Lady

  1. Such a touching story. Thanks so much for sharing. It is always so nice to hear about elderly dogs when, so often, the pre-occupation appears to be with puppies.
    We can only live our lives, applying what we have learned from our dogs, and hope that we too will be just as fondly treated in our senior years… and ultimately remembered.

  2. So touching. Reminds me of the last year with my cat Jake. Sometimes he would sleep so soundly that I had to touch him to wake him up. He was fortunate that although he got very slow his legs worked. It was his mind that went, confusing him often. I also remember treasuring my last days with him because I knew it was coming. Somehow that should prepare you but it doesn’t.

    1. I don’t think we are ever totally prepared, no matter what. But there is gift in knowing that the end is coming so at least we can treasure the time left.

  3. So sad but this was a beautiful post. My dogs were the same and it absolutely cut me to the core that I had to be the one to decide what to do. Shine on, Butterscotch. You’re a beautiful girl.

    1. It is hard to have to decide, but also a gift for those who have given us so much. And I agree – she’s a beauty!

  4. She’s so much like my dog who is now 15. I’m content knowing that the 9 years she has been with me have been the best years of her life.

  5. I carried our golden/german shepard mix outside for pee time and up and down stairs inside for a brief time. Then realized it was time to do the right thing. Enjoy loving her!

    1. As a pet sitter I’ve seen a few folks hang on to their beloved animals far too long. I won’t do that to Butterscotch! She’s not there yet, but when the quality of life disappears, it is time. For now, we will do just as you say, and enjoy loving her!

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