Ode to a Senior Dog

I’m trying not to pre-grieve my vibrant, joyous, mischievous Otto of the past. I’m making every effort to just be here now with my beloved senior dog.

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Not one but two friends said goodbye to their beloved senior dogs in the past week. I read their tributes to their beautiful dogs and looked through all the photos of the good times they had together, and wiped copious tears away. These deaths make me hyperconscious of the limited time that I have left with my senior dog, Otto.

If he makes it to November, he’ll be 15 years old. His back legs are getting weaker, and though he can still jump into my car (it’s low, and he jumps onto the floor of the back seat, then climbs onto the seat), he sometimes catches a toe when he goes up the two stairs leading to our back deck and then two more that lead to the kitchen door and his back end collapses for a moment. I try not to fuss when I help him up; he always looks embarrassed when this happens.

He doesn’t trot much anymore; his gaits include a fairly gimpy walk and a sort of swinging lope that he uses as a replacement for his formerly jaunty trot – but he also still roars at the sight of any United States postal vehicles and races to and then down the fence line to chase said vehicles out of sight. He can’t resist! But he pays a price for this after the adrenaline wears off; he retires to his sandbox and naps deeply in the cool sand afterward.

He has always been good about being groomed, but he loves being brushed now – even with a Furminator, which I have to use to try to get rid of his still-shedding thick winter coat. But I have to be careful as I brush his sides and flanks, as he has countless egg-shaped lipomas of various sizes now. They don’t cause any pain, but it can’t be good to put any sort of pressure on them!

For almost a year now, he exhibits signs of dementia at night. He pants and paces and seems confused and anxious. A few months ago, at the suggestion of his team of vets, in addition to his arthritis med and gabapentin, we tried a prescription medicine for dementia. Within days, he had fountaining diarrhea, and we had to stop the dementia medicine. Following that, even though I bathed his nether end again and again, he started over-grooming the underside of his tail, where the liquid poop had gotten on it. He caused a nasty little lick granuloma, which required shaving the underside of his tail several times before it finally healed up, weeks later. I know it’s silly and not important, but it makes me so sad to see the skinny section of his now threadbare tail, which is usually a glorious flag, curving up and gently waving high in good spirits.

Until this past year, he’s always had nice breath and clean teeth. He was well past middle age when he needed his first dental, and he’s had several since then – but now, no vet wants to put him under anesthesia for a thorough dental, so his teeth are getting a little cruddy and his breath isn’t as fresh as it used to be. Fortunately, he’s good about tolerating brushing. We’re trying to hold the line!

dogs sitting for treats
Otto doesn’t bother with “sit for treats” anymore; he knows he gets them no matter what. ©Whole Dog Journal

He’s gotten ridiculous about food, hungrily and openly begging for whatever treats he thinks someone might give him, and lurking in the kitchen when we’re cooking. He no longer bothers to “sit” or “down” on cue, but stands, tail wagging and open-mouthed in anticipation when I’m giving cues to the other dogs. He knows he gets treats whenever the other dogs get treats, no “work” is required anymore.

But turn about is fair play; the other dogs have learned his medication schedule. Any time I get the can of wet food out of the refrigerator, they will jump up out of a deep sleep or game of tug to come and sit politely. They know that after I hide Otto’s meds in a “meatball” of pâté and he has taken the meatball from my hand, I will feed them a tiny bit of the tasty food as well.

I thank goodness that 7-month-old Boone doesn’t have high exercise needs. When Woody was his age, I used to have to take daily (sometimes twice daily) long, off-leash walks in our local wildlife area in order to keep him from jumping out of his skin. If we take Otto along, we can’t go very far before he’s tired – and I can’t bear his sad, uncomprehending stare if he doesn’t get to leave the house with me and the other dogs. I try to make it up to Boone with more play on the lawn and more hide-and-seek around the property. Happily, like many “youngest children,” he’s great about entertaining himself by chewing and tugging on our grandson’s swing (we have to make a new seat!) and playing tug all by himself with the leather leash we use to retrieve our grandson’s zip line (watch him do it here!).

It will be wonderful to get a good, full night’s sleep again someday, and to take long, guilt-free hikes with Woody and Boone – but I’m not in a rush. I keep trying to memorize the sweet hayfield aroma of Otto’s thick ruff and the feel of the one silky patch of hair he has on the very top of his head, right between his distinctive half-folded, tufted ears. Though my friends’ tributes to their beloved dogs make my heart hurt, I’m trying not to pre-grieve my vibrant, joyous, mischievous Otto of the past. I’m making every effort to just be here now with my beloved dog, one slightly stinky breath at a time.

67 COMMENTS

  1. I just lost my Little Girl Lili in November. I still cry about that loss. She lets us know when she was ready to go. It never makes it easier!! You hit a nerve when you said how difficult it was to leave her when i needed to take Mac on his daily walks. Heartbreaking to look at that precious face!!

  2. Your blog made me tear up today….it also made me laugh, so I thank you for that! I had to put my beloved Sammy down on June 29th—-his breathing had become very labored and he was refusing even people food. He was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma on April 29th and the specialist gave him one month to live, so at least he beat that timeframe. Sammy was a sweet, energetic border collie mix that I adopted and he was definitely my “heart” dog. He thought he was “Mr. Security” and would let me know if someone was on “his sidewalk/driveway”; he also loved to run figure 8s in the backyard. I also watched his health deteriorate, but his spirit was strong until the end. In his own way, he let me know he was ready to go as well. He would have been 17 years old in October. I try not to cry often as I know he would want me to be happy, but I miss him terribly!!! I thank the Lord for my other dog, Callie, as the house would be very depressing without her! She will be 8+ years old in August. Thanks again for your blogs, they hit home and make me mostly laugh and sometimes cry.

  3. Thank you. We had Simba, long haired chihuahua. Sweet and spicy boy who loved walking until it was too difficult but he tried until he refused to join us. Yet on his last day,he went wish us for a last walk and trot. I miss hi, so.

  4. Made me cry ….and laugh also. I don’t start the grieving process early on for my elderly dogs….I make myself concentrate on making them as happy as I possibly can.

  5. I have an old dog too, and this hurt my heart.
    I knew this summer was going to be very difficult for him, so I bought him a cooling vest.
    He’ 12 and 1/2 and there are times he acts like a puppy. He smiles and is a clown and I will be distraught when he leaves.
    Please, can you have at least one article each month on senior dog issues!

  6. Lovely tribute to a wonderful dog. I have experienced all the joys and sorrows that you expressed with many of our dogs (I lost two when exploratory surgery found some issues that were not able to be fixed and we opted to let them go on the table). The last dog we lost was our beloved Greyhound. So many of the things you wrote were things that happened with him. Some of it brought tears to my eyes, and some of it brought a smile to my face.
    Thank you for sharing.

  7. As happens so often, Nancy, your column left me both smiling and tearful. Joey is 12 now and has severe arthritis (which I treat with carprofen & Adequan) in his hips…and like Otto, sometimes his back legs–one or the other–will give out under him. But remarkably, he still makes his 2- to 2-1/2 mile walks with no problem, even tho his pace is a bit slower. I try not to think about the swiftly-approaching future, and do my best to simply enjoy every shining moment of these last years.

  8. I heard a wonderful story–I don’t remember from where–about a family that had just lost their senior dog. The young (human) child said to the (human) mother, “Don’t cry. If the reason we’re here on Earth is so that we can learn how to be good enough to go to heaven, well, dogs just don’t need that long to figure it out.”

  9. Ohhhhhh, been there…….and will be again. We do do this knowingly, for some lucky of us many times in a lifetime. But, ohhhhh, each, every time.. so hoping to beat the clock, prove its hands all wrong.
    Keep loving, appreciating each moment…even as the puppy, crazy times pass farther into history. Love to you and Otto….and to every loved pet friend we have. For now and for always….

  10. I’ve loved all your posts about Otto over the years and we’ve all come to know and love him like you do Nancy. I’ll keep him in my thoughts everyday for now. We all love our animals so much and while I don’t have a senior dog at the moment, this post made me reminisce on all the amazing ones we’ve raised & adored in the past.

    Otto & Nancy – Have a good day today!

  11. Nancy I feel your pain. It’s a very hard process to watch.
    Try Vetri-Science Perio Support for his teeth. $20 on Amazon. Just sprinkle on his food. It’s all natural, and works. I swear by it. Keeps teeth clean.

  12. Beautifully written and captures so much of what we go through with our beloved older four-legged family members. I lost my Jasper, whose tail too used to be like Otto’s and then thinned out, in 2019 and his last months were very precious time we had together. Otto, you’re a champion and deserve every cookie and all the love you can get from your wonderful mum! 😍

  13. Nancy. Going through the same with my two border collies, Penny and Kia. Kia is in good shape and 6 months younger than Penny. Penny is frail but game. I would like to suggest a good osteopath for Otto. I think those of us who live with other species rely tooo much on vets who are not training in rehab etc. I found a veterinary osteopath in March who made all the difference to Penny. Just try it – won’t hurt, might help.

    • I lost both of my dogs in the last 8 months! My whole family is heartbroken and we know what it feels like to be in your position. We had to have our pug euthanized this past October, his back hips were shot, couldn’t do the steps to get in or out of the house anymore, plus he was losing his sight and hearing. We believe that dementia was setting in as well. He couldn’t get comfortable and paced the floors all night long. Our other dog was a puggle & Shih-Tzu mix. We just lost him over Memorial Day weekend, he had a seizure issue, and he developed a heart murmur over the last year or so. His heart just gave out at home where he was surrounded by our family. They were both about 12 to 13 years old, and we miss them tremendously. They were both good boys!

  14. What a beautiful tribute to Otto. I remember when you wrote about him as a pup. He will always be with you. Our great dogs stay forever in our hearts and memories.

  15. We are on that trajectory with our soon to b 15 yo. She has hip displasia, so long walks are no longer on the agenda. We hope she “falls into” a calming sleep on her own, as our last 3 dogs did … but we will do what is right. She will tell us when …

  16. Your Otto is a precious old man. Much of your post was very familiar to me. I have an 18 year old who I adopted at age 12.5 from our local shelter. His back end is quite weak and he moves slowly UNLESS he sees a chance to get outside alone. Then I swear he moves at the speed of light. The next few days he’ll moan and groan but he seems to think it is worth it. We use a lifting harness to give him extra support getting up and walking. Once his hips and back end started to trouble him I quit requiring him to sit unless it is a safety issue.

    He still enjoys car rides, porch napping, good, and especially treats. I try to give him the best day he can have every day. It is hard but I try to live in the moment as he does.

    I always enjoy your articles and love to hear about your Otto, Woody, Boone, and others along the way.

    Give Otto an extra hug from his senior “brother” Ayers and me. Hugs to you as well along this journey.

  17. I know so well those countless nights without sleep. I just lost my beautiful boy Ziggy 2 months ago. He was a Great Dane. This was a hard loss for me because his aunt who I just lost a year prior at 12 years old and another beautiful female dane 6 month prior to that at 9 years old all of old age. I experienced all the same things your dog Otto went through with the exception of with one of my girls lost all control of her back legs and we had to use a harness. She could not hold her bowels or urine. She was so embarrassed and we would always try to make her as comfortable as possible. Ziggy the male ended up being a hard case for me. He stopped eating and I had to take him in for IV fluids and then feed him with a syringe. In the last 3weeks of his life were the most devastating because he was fighting but just could not manage? We now have Holly a 1 1/2 year old Great Dane that Ziggy accepted right away when we brought her into our home as a puppy. We now are about to bring in another puppy to introduce to Holly and know she will accept this puppy with the same great response a Ziggy did with Holly.

  18. This made me laugh and cry. We lost our Lab in March. The treat thing cracked me up. We have 2 other dogs who sit and wait patiently but Stella did not because she knew she would get them anyway! We have another Lab who is now 12.5 and I am starting to worry about him now. I think he may have dementia as he will look at me and cry and then just stand there. Have you ever tried CBD oil or chews? I have not but may look into that. Thanks for the article. We all have to go thru this. The worst part of owning an animal is the end.

  19. Dear Nancy, I read all your posts. I always enjoy them but this one really hit home. I can’t believe Otto is 15 already! I always adopt seniors(currently have a 16 yr old chi & 12 yr old funny mix) it’s hard watching them move slower but you’re right, we must enjoy the time that they’re here with us. Enjoy that sandbox, Otto!

  20. Such important words, living in the moment. My now 13.5 yo Aussie has made it though several near misses in the last two years. I spent thousands to keep him with always keeping in mind his quality of life. Lately he has slowed dramatically, but always makes it to the barn and back. My 6yo has to make due with rough housing on his schedule, but she knows whe. He’s reached his limit and I never make him stop. The hardest part now is lack of sleep when I lay in bed at night listening for the sound of his breathing, reaching for him if I don’t hear it. Reading posts from friends on FB is difficult, knowing my days with him are now numbered. But till then, I will love every day left.

  21. I have been through the same problems, sadnesses as you and all the other writers. I lost three dogs in the past year. My 12yo shih tzu, Buckwheat, had pancreatic cancer. When the symptoms showed he went quickly. He came to me from another room and died in my lap. Maggie had lung cancer and was 13 when she left me. Ginger died of renal failure at 14. Charlie, at 13, is still with me. I knew when I had four dogs around the same age that I would lose them close together. I have added 9yo Zoe, a shih tzu, to my home. The pain is great but the love is worth every bit of it. I miss all the dogs I have lost over the years. But I love the ones I am with. Nancy, thank you for this blog and all your blogs. As another comment noted, I too remember when Otto was a puppy. How time goes by.

  22. I always read and appreciate your columns about life with all of your dogs. Your ode to Otto is especially impactful for me because we have focused our rescue efforts on older big dogs for some time now. While their passing is inevitable, like you we concentrate on enjoying them while we have them. And giving them the best possible life….and the best possible death. We help them complete their circle of life with dignity and minimal pain or suffering. We grieve. And we rescue another one. Because there are always good dogs looking for good homes. And focusing our attention on our new rescue helps all of us. Thank you for sharing your very relatable experience.

  23. Our beloved Mac, a miniature pinscher, crossed the bridge two years ago. It was 18 months before we got another dog. We didn’t want to “replace” him! Poor little Izzy (mini bernedoodle) has big shoes to fill, though. She’s totally different than Mac was, and that’s good. There will never be another Mac.
    We are enjoying training Izzy and at nine months, she’s starting to settle down a bit. I’m almost 70 now, so settling down is kind of important to me. I can’t keep up with her shenanigans! When I take her for walks, I still feel Mac’s gentle breath on my ankle and still see the depth of love in the pool of chocolate that was his eyes. But I also see the laugh and joié de vivre in Izzy’s dancing ones. They would have liked each other. Someday, they will.

    • I love your description of his eyes as chocolate pools. My service dog, Narnia, is a Golden Ŕetriever with deep brown eyes that shine with her sweet soul. We celebrated her 10th birthday two weeks ago. With each passing year I wonder how long she’ll be with me, and, at 70, which one of us will cross the bridge first. She’s my angel and always will be.

  24. Oh Nancy…we must take and savor the love one day at a precious time no? My love Lali is beside me. In 2020 we were separated for far too long a time that I think took a toll on us both when I nearly died…I was and remain caregiving for my elder parents with whom we live. Dad turned 105 in May and is still active and increasingly demanding because mom who did it all is going on 100 and since last June has been in hospice care here at home. While I worked remotely in 2021, I also felt the strain between all directions and retired a bit sooner than I anticipated last December. Mom is in a hospital bed and incontinent though the hospice folks help with those issues…but a month or two ago now, my love who can get in the car and loves to go if I give her a boost up, began to have issues with steps in our split level home. She can on her home go up 5 or 6 tiled steps from the lower level to the main, but the carpeted (and open) steps from the main to the bedroom put her off for some reason. So I boost her up and we make it. She has also been having some accidents which I handle with no problem…but the eldest among us…well he has issues with waste from anyone. Does not even stay in the same room as his wife. So I am on guard dare my cutie have an accident in front of him. We had a real poo problem–not liquid but close after taking our former vet’s advice to try Cosequin. The bottle suggested 2 tablets to start. When the poo issue developed I stopped it and we still are having an issue though it appears to be improving if not slowly. To make matters worse I realized a mobile vet would be an answer and someone on NExt door got great reviews…but in spite of living within 10 minutes of us, this person had no empathy for my circumstances and refused us with the excuse of having so much business from Covid. Our vet we have a relationship with of sorts is on the other side of town and I am afraid of exposing myself to the stress I would have going to an appt as that impacts my health…my near death experience was due to a dissected aorta which they suspect was caused by stress, caregiving the elders etc. I’m afraid of who would be there for my cutie and get her home god forbid something happened to me on the other side of town. We have no family to help, and she can be a bit reactive/protective in our car…Her nails need tending to so badly, she looks neglected and she is truly not. She has a bare tail mostly as well, from biting due to itching due to a bout of fleas (our first) last fall. No one I called dealt with fleas or would require the use of such toxic materials that the house would have to be vacated for hours and with mom in a hospital bed and my not wanting any toxic stuff in our space for any of us, we resorted to vacuuming, laundering, bathing and flea traps, and between that and the winter cold we got rid of them…There yes, is a vet closer. He is an arrogant SOB who proclaimed my beloved pup who has since passed a number of years back had a brain tumor when she began having seizures. HE put all of us through hell until we found a wonderful vet. She had an insulinoma and we had much more time together. He has recently retired and sold out to a corporation which seems to be a new trend. They too were not taking on new patients…the remaining vets I had heard some decent things about…well, you know you and WDJ have taught me all about titer testing which I have done from the beginning. They would require a rabies vax and stood firm on that, and for us that was a deal breaker as you can imagine. I have never been so discouraged and angry both at the way vet medicine is these days. Our original practice was also on the other side of town, which was no issue to begin with. It was a wonderful practice for the most part. The elder founding vet eventually sold out TO BANFIELD! SO we would no longer go there. OUr vet in that practice had left prior to teach in VA and he suggested this one we currently patronize. Anyhow, I am trying to file her nails myself. She’s no more difficult than my mother LOL. Many hugs, many treats….with love and appreciation….PS…our wonderful vet we had prior, she retired when she became pregnant and had the baby who is now a graduate of Michigan and on his way to Dartmouth. She didn’t feel she could be a good vet and good mom both….I keep praying she will go back to practicing again…her friend we had seen as well and she retired. I checked in with her to see if she knew of anyone, and so far she has not found someone who meets her own standards which are pretty basic as well.

    • WOW, I must say you have been though a lot. God bless you and may the Lord continue to help you though it.
      So, I puzzled buy mini who do not think about using laser therapy to improve their dogs walking. Laser therapy is an incredible product to be used on both humans and dogs. Another alternative would be a homeopath for the arthritis.
      Nancy why haven’t you tried laser therapy on Otto? I’m just a little stunned that nobody has mentioned laser therapy. I bought my own in 2020 for two reasons. First it works really good on myself I’m a polio survivor. Second it works really good on my golden retriever who is only eight years old, but he had myasthenia gravis [MG] & mega-esophagus [ME}. He suffers from lower back in problems from time to time. So what do I do I use the laser therapy on it and it works great.

      • I was taking my senior dog for laser therapy and it seemed to be effective. But, she hated going to the vet’s office for it and she would practically have to be dragged in. I didn’t want to stress her out anymore, so we stopped going. Where do I get a laser therapy product for home use?

    • Dremel makes a tool for doing pet nails. You can train your dog with treats in small increments to tolerate having their nails filed with the Dremel instead of being clipped. Some dogs who don’t like the clippers are OK with the dremel. Just remember to read all of the directions and the comments. Keep it on lowest speed and use the setting from the comments, not from the printed directions. I marked mine with a dot of red nail polish to remember.

  25. Such a loving “pre-tribute.” My Bernese Mountain Dog is 9.5, meaning she has already outlived the average for her breed. She’s still active, but arthritis has slowed us a little. In quiet moments I can’t help but pre-grieve a little.

  26. When I read about so many dogs dying young I realise what a privilege it is to have an oldie. My 15 year old is dropping weight rapidly so we know there is probably cancer somewhere. Right now she is enjoying life, can’t walk so far so we have a buggy, that even handles woodland, so maybe worth thinking of for Otto. She is very independent so I didn’t think she’d like it but turns out she thinks she is royalty🤣. Time is limited so we make the most of every day

  27. I can relate to so much of this. I let my 15 year old Texas go 5 days ago. He too had developed dementia symptoms on top of his blindness and deafness. After reading your description of the fountaining diarrhea, I an happy I chose not to try the same medication. We had a vet come to the house, we played music, had flowers, a candle and a sweet little alter with some of his favorite things. He was so tired, he went quickly and peacefully. I carried his heavy, limp body to the car and tucked him in. He was the last of 3 boys, I have lost one a year for 3 years. They brought so much love. It was an honor to care for them beginning to end.

  28. Your ode to Otto has me tearing up…..your story is my current story, too. My Grace will be 15 by the end of this year. She was such an athlete in her prime….and it is heartbreaking for me to see her physically deteriorating. I do the similar things with her meds and walking my dogs as you do. It’s hard, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. I cherish every moment with her and spoil her rotten.

  29. Oh Nancy, I am pre-grieving the loss of Otto too. I remember your first posts and photos of him as an adorably goofy looking pup, and have avidly followed everything you have written about him in all the years since. It feels like he is one of the dogs in my own pack, and I know, like many other readers, I will feel a personal sense of loss when passes. Your posts about him encapsulate all the feelings involved with loving and being loved by a dog over the full span of his or her life; the joys, laughter, fears, wonder, frustrations, and the inevitable aching pain and grief. Thank you for sharing Otto with all of us, and please give him a “free” treat from me!

  30. I understand very well your life with Otto. We lost my sweet lovely American Water Spaniel Burl a year ago at age 15 1/2. He had mitral valve disease and was on vetmedin only for a few years. In the last 3 months of his life, he was on salix as well. When the right side of his tired heart also failed, and his zest and enthusiasm was no longer, we let him go. I tear up still.

  31. Our sweet senior just passed away from a splenic tumor that ruptured (we didn’t even know it was there) and he was almost 16. It was so heart breaking and I’m devastated. I relate to everything you wrote -before the traumatic ending he was only dealing with some dementia and kidney stuff. He was in great spirits and his stuff was managed easily. Sherman was my constant shadow for 16 years as I work from home. I miss him so much hug Otto for us.

  32. Nancy, I know exactly what your going through. I talked about LAVIE before. We have all had that once in a life time dog/partner. LAVIE became a registered therapy dog at 19 weeks old & he started visiting kids at 20 weeks old. After touching & visiting a little over 5000 kids in 10 years I retired him. He lived for 14.5 years.
    Trust me talk about taking a piece of my heart! Absolutely!
    I get it and many times I still look back and wonder how did get so blessed with a dog like LAVIE?
    Only 1-word fits> Blessed!

  33. Tears are pouring. I lost my almost 11-year-old Gordon Setter, Gonzo, on June 27th and just picked up his ashes yesterday. Everything you wrote hit home in so many ways, but the one that stands out is how Otto sits and waits for treats while the other dogs are given cues. Gonzo would position himself in front of me while I threw balls for the other two to retrieve. Every day without fail, and if i wasn’t fast enough, he would remind me with a long soft “rooo.” How I miss that sound. I haven’t washed his blanket yet because it still smells of him…I can bury my face in it and feel him next to me. He would have been 11 on July 26, so on his last day, we had a birthday “cake” and celebration as I do every year for all my dogs. So what if it was a few weeks early? Thank you for writing this and please give Otto a special hug from me (and no doubt from all of us writing our own senior dog stories in the comments).

  34. I have followed Otto from the time you first got him. I saw his picture and fell in love (I’ve ALWAYS been partial to terriers and terrier mixes) immediately. At that time, I’d lost my beloved Airedale and was in the process of adopting a senior. I’m now on my fifth, senior Airedale, Lilly. She’s the same age as Otto and her back legs are weak, also. Like Otto, she’s still bright-eyed, throws a fit over ANY truck that dares come down our street, AND dances (as much as she can) for her meals and treats. {{{{Otto}}}}

  35. I’ve lost several dogs after they turned 12, so when our Aussie Mix hit that age, I couldn’t help but worry about how much time she had left. I told myself to just enjoy her while I could. She was diagnosed with bone cancer last November. We had to say good-bye to her in February at 14-1/2, We stayed with her until the bitter end. We all cried and my daughter, who picked Lilly out of the litter and named her, sobbed.

    My husband and I are currently dogless. We are looking for a new canine companion. It won’t be the same as Lilly, but that’s okay. Every dog we’ve had over the years has been different, The next one will be too. I look at the loss of a pet as an opportunity to get to know another one. I’m grateful for the time I had with each of the dogs who have graced my life with their presence over the years.

    With that said, I thank you, Nancy, for posting this piece and thanks to all of those who commented on it, I was touched by all of them. I wish you all peace.

  36. Gosh, I remember when the “cover dog” on WDJ switched from a Golden Retriever to Otto. So long ago, and so many dogs ago for me, as well. I lost a precious one a year ago. Still miss him so much … and all the past good dogs. I think of them all often.
    Yes, I remember how I had to keep reminding myself to live only for today with him. It’s a daily practice.

  37. I have become so anti human over the years as I have become so much more aware of what they are capable of when it comes to so many people and their abuse and neglect of animals and my heart breaks for those precious animals. Any time someone who is so pro-animal and especially dogs, my heart breaks for them when they lose their beloved pet. I have watched 3 of my Golden’s pass on to the Rainbow Bridge over the last several years and each time I have lost a huge part of my heart and soul. I have one Golden left, Gunny, who will be 12 on Aug 04, 2022 and I am already suffering over the time I have to say goodby. Gunny is my heart and soul and I contribute my getting up every morning and thanking the power to be, of getting through another night without any problems with him or Anika. He wakes me up several times during the night wanting me to get his little sister, she is my 6 year old German Shepherd named Anika, to move so he can have her place in bed for a little while, he will wake me up if he is thirsty and I get up and bring him his water bowl and wanting me to get Anika to move again so he can have her place in bed for a little while again but, I don’t care in the least. I know I may not have him to wake me up anymore in the near future and I will miss that so, I will be compliant for as long as he needs me to be. Thank goodness he is still pretty healthy but I can tell he is slowing down and my heart breaks every time I see that. I will still have Anika who I love so much as well, to carry me on until I have to say goodby to her. At that time I am prepared to follow my two precious baby’s and can only hope we will all meet again over that Rainbow Bridge, and will have their remains in their urns buried with me. That is the only thing I am looking forward to knowing that I will be following them very lose behind, that is my predetermined plan and knowing I will have them and my other 3 Golden’s with me for eternity. Remember folks that my heart breaks with you every time you have to say goodby to a beloved friend as much as you. Treat your pets as though tomorrow could be the last day you have them with you regardless of their age.

  38. Nancy – so beautifully written. Thank you. We will all miss Otto when he leaves. Welcome to your new sweetie pie.

  39. Nancy – Regarding Otto’s oral health…

    If his thyroid is healthy you would both benefit from using a dried kelp supplement called Plaque Off. I’ve used it with my dogs for almost 10 years and have been recommending it to clients for almost that long. It’s amazingly effective.

    I started using it with a senior beagle I had inherited who had the worst gingivitis, bad breath and ugly plaque build up imaginable. Like Otto, she needed regular dental care at the vet that required anesthesia. Once I started adding a small scop to her food the results were fast and dramatic. 4 weeks her red and inflamed gums turned a healthy pink. Around the same time her bad breath disappeared. Within two months, even the plaque buildup on her teeth started to just fall away. She never needed work done in her mouth the rest of her life.

    I am very skeptical about all supplements for a lot of reasons but this was near miraculous in its effectiveness. The reason you need to be sure that there are no thyroid issues is because kelp is high in iodine, which is normally good for thyroid function but is, as they say, contra-indicated in hyperthyroid dogs. Cat owners – although they say “for dogs and cats”, I remember finding some concern about this possibly causing cat to become hyper-thyroid. Best to check with your vet.

    • And thank you for this wonderfully written piece. Senior dogs have a special place in my heart.

      May Otto – and you – continue to find pleasure in his daily life.

  40. Hi Nancy,
    Your note about Otto is so similar to what we’re going through here with our oldster King Lui who is almost 15. Being a Cairn Terrier he is quite a bit smaller than Otto, but like Otto he is bright red with a beautiful wirey coat, and many fans and friends. It’s been tough to see the changes this past year or two. You said it all with your statement “Be here now”. It’s our mantra each day he’s with us. Always a very noble dog and never silly. We smile a lot now at some of the things he does that he never would have done when younger.
    Thanks so much for sharing your relationship with Otto, with all of us. Nice to know we’re not alone at this time in our old boys lives.
    Best to you, Louise Hooper

  41. This was beautifully written. I was contemplating lately the fact that our pup is almost 10 and although still doing well, I see signs of aging. I mentioned this to her rescue/foster who encouraged me to take LOTS of photos and videos for when that very sad time does come…to be able to “reminisce” with visuals. ❤️💔❤️

  42. I remember all of this when my Ramses turned 13. He lived to 14.75. I only regret two things. Not taking more photos and not getting him a special arthritis dog bed sooner. After Caesar passed I noticed I didn’t have as many photos of him as I liked so vowed to do better with Ramses and I did, but it still wasn’t enough. I wanted more. You have a lot of photos of Otto and the gang. You provide them all with good beds, good food and excellent medical care. It is why Otto is as healthy as he is and has lived for so long. There really isn’t much you can do about dementia. Ramses’ was mild but the last 9 months he did have some insomnia, was restless at night and took to sleeping outside rather than in the house. But the last few weeks that changed and he wanted to sleep in the bed with me again. Not being able to jump up on it any more I lifted him up and taught him to wait to allow me to lift him down. When we got the diagnosis of multiple issues the only question was which would happen first. Turns out he had a heart attack two days before we were scheduled for that last vet visit. I will always appreciate him taking the necessity for that last trip away from me and going on his own. He had a great day the day before, taking a last walk around my parent’s neighborhood with their Candy and seeing all of his friends for one last goodbye. The next day he just wanted to snuggle with me all day and night. He knew, he made his choices.

    You know Otto so well you will know what he’s telling you. For now enjoy him, indulge him and rest assured you have given him the best life he could have ever had.

  43. I brush my little Pomeranian’s teeth but have a hard time getting the inside of his teeth. I discovered Crump’s Plaque Busters. They have really helped. His teeth are much whiter.

  44. We have two very senior dogs and a couple mildly senior dogs.
    Our Lily is now 14, a bit slow and often incontinent….she sleeps with us and has to have folded towels under her….Dory is an 11 or 13 y/o basset hound. She is mostly blind and slow and weak on her hindend after two broken femurs… they are both still feisty old ladies and sweet amd funny. Like Otto neither has to sit for food or treats.
    My Daisy is 12, she is a little 45 lbs street mix. She still runs and wants to go for walks although it is waaay too hot right now. I try to give them the attention they deserve and be happy that they are still here….

  45. I know exactly what you mean about pre-grieving your loss. I was there a year ago and on several other occasions in the past. It’s hard not to but I know you don’t want to waste one precious moment with your Otto on anticipatory grief. Much love to you, Nancy, a real kindred spirit and someone I admire greatly. Thank you for sharing your fur-baby journey – the good, the hard, the funny, the tragic and everything in between!

  46. Am writing this thru tears remembering dogs that I have loved & lost over the years & grateful that 3 out of 5 lived a long life. The other two were taken too soon. Your ode to Otto was beautifully written! I have been a subscriber for many years & remember when you first got him, after losing Rupert ( I believe that was his name). Hoping you have him for as long as possible! Thanks for sharing!

  47. OMG, I am crying my eyes out reading this. My little Yorkie, the love of my life, my first dog, turned 11 yesterday. She has luxating patella in both back legs and medial shoulder instability in both front legs. I rehabbed her left front leg injury for 7 months and she recovered. I took her to a place that does swimming, cold laser therapy and PT. I refused to do surgery on any of her little legs and she recovered from all. No, her legs are not perfect and she HAS slowed down and sleeps more, but she is still her nutty little self and loves to go on walks, albeit much shorter walks.

    I know that she is developing arthritis in her legs and I can see other signs of aging. I just can’t imagine my life without this little creature!! I am trying to just focus on having every day with her and be as loving and PATIENT as I can. Anyone that has a Yorkie knows what I mean about being patient!!

    If anyone here has had Yorkies, can you tell me what to expect as she gets older? And how long have your Yorkies lived.

    Thanks for any info.

  48. My beloved Lady Clarabelle, a Keeshond, was 15 this past April. We also have e 7 year old Kees. This week, I bought Clarabelle a Petique All Terrain Dog Stroller. Now, after I clip her into her stroller, she can come with us on our trails. Your pooch might like a stroller so he can come with you and the rest of the family on your walks!!!

  49. Your story sounds so much like my own! We have one elderly (unsure of exact age since she’s a rescue) chocolate lab who is the best dog ever…and we also have two young cardigan welsh corgis (3 and 8 months). Going for walkies is a challenge, but she would not want it any other way. Thankfully the young ones enjoy playing alot in the yard to burn off energy. Thank you for your article, we also cherish every moment with our girl!

  50. I just had to put down my little Tinkerbelle. She got very sick and was unable to recover. Broke my heart even though I have been able to adopt a sweet little Havanese. There’s no replacement for her.

  51. Max was not my dog, but he was my sister’s and her husband. My sister passed away about 5 years ago from cancer, but I promised her that I would help her husband Tom take care of Max. Tom traveled a lot for work so I was basically a full time dog aunt. I had dogs growing up and as an adult, but I found that I really didn’t have have the time to care for a dog full time. BUT Max and I became buddies and he was my connection to my sister who I missed. Through the years he needed eye surgery, back surgery and eventually he was paralyzed for about 6 months. It was like having a baby. He was dependent on me and I was his mommy. My friends and neighbors thought I was wonderful taking care of him, but he kept me from being lonely. He was amazing he was partially blind, partially deaf and he couldn’t walk, but I found a therapist and a vet who specialized in acupuncture and he became my “miracle dog”. He had the greatest will to live and he was so brave and loving. Max had been a rescue dog when my sister adopted him and he had his issues, but in time he became the best dog! Eventually, his poor little body gave out and he was 12 + years old. I really miss his sweet smile and the way he would look at me when he just wanted his pets.
    I recommend that sometimes you need a best friend like a dog, but be honest with yourself. A pet is a commitment, a life long commitment who deserves the best part of yourself.

  52. A memorial bench at the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, OR:
    My dogs Blossom & Denver, died 1991
    Go to the 1st star, turn right. Head straight on till morning.
    Have a wonderful flight. We’ll all meet you there.

  53. Reading your post brought tears to my eyes. My Farfel will be15 in Oct. Farfel is more or less in the same place as Otto. His back legs don’t carry him very far, sleeps non stop, and has night Dementia from time to time. And a poor appetite. Give him whatever makes him happy. Last week, he started having accidents inside. I don’t get upset. Just clean it up. I too don’t know how long he has. Trying to act like everything is fine. Won’t even think of going away. The tears roll down my check as I write this. We have grown old together. I’ve been subscribing to Whole Dog Journal for 25 years…. I remember when Otto was a puppy.

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