A Retirement Home For Dogs?

My first reaction to a Japanese pet company opening the world’s first pet retirement home (see article here) was confusion. I imagined that most people willing to support their old dog financially would also be willing to take care of it physically. But, now that I’ve had a couple of days to mull it over, I’m pretty bummed I didn’t think of the idea first. And pretty sad I don’t live in Japan.

Desi Senior Dog Mutt

Of course there are people who work all day, maybe even juggle multiple jobs or have to travel for work. Of course there are dogs with crazy medical needs the average owner feels incapable of meeting. So no, this idea may not save the old dogs who are dumped at the pound when their age becomes an ‘inconvenience’. But it may still be the best option for many loving families. At least those willing to shell out a pretty penny. It looks like the average cost is expected to be about $1,000 per month for the fancy new facility.

Like a nursing home for humans, visitors are welcome to come spend time with their beloved old friends as often as they want. Evidently, dogs in the senior care center have access to a special doggie gym, a pool, and of course round-the-clock veterinary care.

Dogs Window MuttsBut it turns out, this isn’t actually the first retirement home for dogs, as the original article led me to believe. Another retirement home in Japan opened back in 2007. The original also has access to veterinarians all day long and someone to give the dogs a little bit of exercise and love. Additionally, I’m ecstatic to see that they utilize “puppy therapy” with the elderly dogs. They bring young rescue dogs to act as therapy dogs to the seniors! I love everything about this! I’d probably even sponsor an elderly stray if only I had the money to do so.

While I’d feel guilty leaving my senior pooch in her golden years, it must also be somewhat comforting to leave your dog in the hands of professionals who have all day long to monitor health and love on them. I want my girl to know I’m there for her no matter what. But after seeing how much Desi desired constant company when she was close to the end, I image any person who has the time to pet and cuddle is good for them. Even better that the owner can still come visit daily.

Desi Senior Dog MuttIn fact, I think I’d love to work in one of these retirement homes. Wouldn’t every dog lover? But I am curious: Would you ever leave your elderly pet in a retirement home? Would you sponsor a homeless senior so they could enjoy the last chapter of their life?

My Best Friend Ages Faster Than I Do

ImageThis post is part of a Senior Pets Awareness blog hop hosted by BlogPaws.  To check out other bloggers’ posts about senior pets, click here.

Desi is an old dog. About 15 years old, give or take. She is turning grey. Her eyes have cataracts. Her ears betray her. Her hips get stiff and sore. Her teeth don’t allow for her to eat very hard food anymore.

We almost had to put her to sleep a few years ago. Ever since then, we’ve been painfully aware of her age, and what it means. She will not be with us for another 15 years. Probably not even another 5. And there are little moments every single day that remind me of that fact. When unwelcome thoughts creep into my head, and whisper we’re lucky she’s alive today.

So what is it like? It only takes glimpses of my day to see what I’m talking about…

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I want to pull some aluminum foil out of the cabinet so I can make cookies, but Desi is napping on the rug, blocking the door. I decide I’d rather wash the cookie sheet than ask her to move.

I walk into the bonus room and wait for her to follow. But she won’t. Not until I turn on the light. Because as much as she wants to be right next to us, she just can’t see in the dark.

I realize I haven’t seen her in a few hours so I call her name. I whistle and clap. But there is no response. So I grow more frantic. I sprint from room to room, trying to recruit Lana to help me look. And after a near heart attack, I find her asleep somewhere completely random. She lifts her head with a groan and blinks at me, weary eyed, as though asking what’s wrong with me. With a sigh, I lean over and give her a kiss on the head and then leave her to her nap, vowing to teach Lana how to ‘find her sister’.

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I am on the floor petting both dogs, and I feel a new lump in Desi’s side. They’re calcium deposits, according to the veterinarian. “Nothing to worry about.” But they still make us think of cancer.

She jumps out of the back of the car before we can stop her, and we have to watch her limping around for a couple of days. There is a voice in our minds that asks how we will know when life is more painful than death for her. But soon she feels fine again, and has forgotten she ever had trouble standing.

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Lana is zooming past, chasing a ball. As she flies past Desi, the only thing the old girl can do is close her eyes and hope the black and white blur misses her. She does, but we are more careful to throw the ball in the opposite direction, just to be safe.

We take the girls to the vet. I worry Lana will poop on the floor and shy away from the doctor, even though he is a perfectly nice man. We worry Desi will receive bad news. A deadline. For now, we leave with none of our fears realized. But we know that won’t last forever.

Desi requires daily medication for a tumor growing on her eye. She takes it like a trooper, always with a treat right after. For now, it is nothing too expensive. Hers may actually cost less than Lana’s. But it wasn’t always like that, and sooner or later it will change again.

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Desi used to be a fairly independent dog, but these days we find ourselves tripping over her. Apologizing even though she was the one in the way, because we are so afraid to hurt her. We shudder when Lana crashes into her and doesn’t have the same courtesy, but she’s just a dog. It doesn’t even occur to her that her sister is fragile.

Desi used to be entirely food motivated. She learned tricks I’m convinced some other dogs never could have grasped, partially because of the promise of treats. Yet there have been times when we’ve had to sit down next to her bowl and feed her by hand. She may not be hungry, but at her age, the nutrition and the energy from the food are more necessary than ever. We don’t mind the smell of dog food that lingers on our hands the rest of the day, because what mattered was getting food in her belly.

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Despite the extra time and the extra worry, she is worth having. She depends on us, and she knows it. She is more grateful than ever to have us around. She has grown wise. True, she may sometimes act like a grumpy old lady, but if anything, it’s comical to watch a dog pitch a fit.

Senior dogs are hard work. Owning an elderly dog is a unique experience. It is bittersweet to love a dog so much but to know any day may be their last. You want to comfort them, but they aren’t scared.

They face their old age as they faced everything else – with a wagging tail.