I wrote this two years ago, when I was traveling a ton and missing my boy. Now I still travel, but not nearly so frequently. And at almost 13 years old, with a new puppy in the house, my senior dog continues to age like fine wine.
When I got Peanut as a puppy, he was an adorable little bundle of fur and I couldn't bear to be without him. He was fine being alone, with his Kong, after a while, but I still had separation anxiety! He was a quick learner and we did all sorts of fun things together, like tricks and agility, where he ran fast and even beat the full border collies. A silhouette of his 'sit pretty' trick was the first logo for Ahimsa Dog Training in 2003.
At 10 years old, Peanut's officially a senior dog, but he still loves to play along with my clicker games. For example, we recently worked together to teach him to climb up on the bed using a stool, instead of just flying onto the bed. Why? Well, he's getting older. Sometimes he doesn't fly onto the bed so much as fly to the bed and then unceremoniously get dumped back onto the floor. Less mobility is a part of aging, and part of what I signed on for when I got a puppy. That said, it sucks to see him hurting and I do whatever I can to help his body work better. For example, I'll be taking him to Lori Stevens' seminar on Senior Dogs on July 13. Lori has a great understanding of canine physiology and mental states, too. She is as close to a miracle worker as you can get in real life, so I can't wait!
The upside of Peanut aging is that he snuggles more, he takes everything in more slowly, and he looks at me longer with his beautiful, soulful eyes. I have always lived more in the moment when I am with him and we work together like we can read minds (we can't), but now our time together takes on an even more special tone. Every day could be our last together and I savor our time together all the more because it is fleeting. I'm hoping for another 5 years, maybe even 50 (a girl can dream). That said, I can't count on that time, so I consider time to be precious.
Now that he's a senior dog, I am grateful that I always used force-free training throughout his life. I don't have to look at him and say that I'm sorry for mistreating him. Yes, of course, I have made some mistakes along the way, but he's never been popped, jerked, or thrown around. And now he has more freedom and choices than most dogs in the care of humans, because of his training with BAT and my paying attention to his needs.
Peanut was the original BAT dog and, ironically, that means I am not home enough for him. I travel a lot for BAT seminars, and am doing my best to get back home to my canine soulmate as soon as I can. Fortunately, he's in good hands while I'm gone, but yes, I still have separation anxiety. 🙂 That seemed to ebb away when he was in his middle years, but now it is back in full force.
p.s. Give your (senior) dog a scritch for me. By now, you probably know all of his or her favorite spots.
p.p.s. If you love a senior dog of your own, please post about him/her in the comments.