The Aging Pet by Jodi Nantais, RVT

Let me introduce my Shelby girl, she is 14yrs old and has been with me for the last 13yrs. I obtained her from a shelter in Kingston where I was attending tech school. I still remember thinking why would such a young and beautiful dog be in need of a home? I did not know or care to know the answer; I just knew we would have a great life together.

My guess is Shelby is a cross between a Chihuahua and a Jack Russell Terrier. From the day I brought her home she has been full of life and spirit.  She successfully brought my other Chihuahua out of her shell and honestly taught Charlotte how “to be a dog”.  I will be forever grateful for what she was able to help her. Shelby was able to connect with Charlotte on a level I could not. They were the best of friends until 1.5 ago when Charlotte passed away.

I was surprised to see Shelby grieve for the loss of her dear friend of many years. Losing Charlotte was very difficult and heart breaking. I convinced myself I was content seeing Shelby through her senior years with only one dog.  The thought never crossed my mind to get another companion for Shelby.

Months after Charlotte had passed Shelby appeared lost without her presence. This surprised me as she had been the dominant dog for all the years they were together. I remember thinking that if Charlotte was left without Shelby it would be a struggle for her but I never worried about how Shelby would do on her own.

After 6 months had passed I explored getting Shelby a companion as her depression was increasingly evident. I soon came across Tinkerbell and initiated a meeting for the girls. Shelby was instantly interested in her and I immediately knew Tinkerbell would be our new dog. The girls hit it off right from the start and my heart was happy that Shelby was no longer lonely for companionship.

Life was great until I realized… my Shelby girl had gotten old and fast. I realized soon into their relationship how much Shelby had aged. She was 13 years old when I started to notice these changes in her. She appeared to have so much more white on her face, her eyes were cloudy. She just looked old… and this made me sad. My heart was heavy.

I know this is the progression of life but I never imagined I would see Shelby old and aging.  I remember crying at the realization that she too would be gone someday and my heart would again feel that pain when you lose one of your beloved pets. It took me some time to digest this reality. I honestly felt like I woke up and I suddenly had an old dog.

Shelby has good and bad days but I decided to embrace each day she is able to run and play with me and Tinkerbell.  I support her through the days when she cannot make it up the stairs or she cannot see as well and bumps into the walls.

You cannot explain to your pet the aging process. Shelby has always been so sharp and so vibrant that I can see this process bothers her. She still wants to run and jump and play but her body has limits now. Certainly veterinary medicine can and had helped support her aging issues but it is inevitable. All of our pets will age and pass on. What is important is how we treat them during these years.

Tell them how much you love them; take them for that walk even though you are tired from a long hard day at work. Let them know they matter because you never know when it will be their last day. I remind myself every day that our pet’s lives are short and I will make the most of my time with my Shelby girl.  I want all of her time with me to be great from beginning to end.

I love you Shelby and hope to have many more years with you by my side.