The idea for this post came to me magically while I was texting a client. The idea that came to me was the love we have for our dogs, especially as they go through their senior years.
Ben is a stunning large yellow Labrador that is well into his twelfth year. I have been walking him since 2006, and as such have experienced half of his life so far. When Frank, Ben’s owner, first called me to ask if I could walk their dog I was delighted. I felt an instant connection to Ben since my first Labrador when I was child was named Ben.
Frank and Sue have two lovely young daughters, Kaitlyn and Sarah. Our two daughters are now university age, so it has been especially fun watching another Labrador being loved by younger girls. Kaitlyn and Sarah imagined that Ben could “marry” our Abby, as both yellow Labradors like each other and are similar ages. The extra perk is that we like each other’s families! When Ben boarded once, I put a white pillow case on Abby’s head held by a hair band (for the bride) and placed fake flowers by her paws. I may have even slipped a tie around Ben’s neck. It made a cute photo opportunity and was a giggle to discuss.
Ben has slowed down greatly over the past year as older dogs do. He had surgery to correct a breathing malfunction in his throat but he continues to be his happy-go-lucky self to everyone he meets on the street. Ben, being a Labrador, has the “foodie” gene. He is quick to pick something up if the opportunity presents itself, like a tossed pizza crust casually dropped on a lawn by a child walking back to school after lunchtime.
I give Ben a treat when I come in to get him for a walk and one when I leave. He is a big love and has given me a giant slurp on the cheek when I dry off his paws more times than I could count over the years.
Frank and I were connecting today by text and he shared a beautiful story about his love for this big boy with a huge heart. The following is in Frank’s words.
“I thought I’d share this story about Ben. I think it goes to show just how much these dogs understand and how adaptable they are. Ben loves to sleep in our room. For the past few months at bedtime, he’s been going to the bottom of the stairs, pacing and whimpering for several minutes until he finally gets the strength/courage to make a run at the stairs. He was okay doing this for a while, but he’s now gotten to the point where he can’t make it up on his own any longer. So knowing how much he needs to be upstairs with us I’ve started carrying all 85 lbs of him up the stairs when it’s time to go to bed. It took me a while to convince him to let me carry him. The first few tries he thrashed around when I picked him up and basically kicked me all the way up the stairs. But over time (a week or so), he started to settle down and now he basically relaxes when I carry him, which makes it easier for me. The other night I carried him up and his tail was wagging, thumping against the wall all the way up the stairs, which I thought was funny. It occurred to me after I brought him up that particular night that he was finally comfortable with the new process and willing to let me help him. Sunday night he took it one step further. Ben was sleeping in the living room and Sue and I were about to sit down and watch a show in the family room. So I went to check on Ben and I asked him if he wanted to go up to bed. He didn’t move so I left him. A few minutes after starting the show Ben walked in the room, nudged me on the arm with his nose and then turned and slowly walked towards the stairs. When I got there he was waiting for me to carry him up to bed. I carried him up listening to his tail once again thumping against the wall on the way up the stairs. While it pains me that I have to do this (emotionally and physically!) it still amazes me after 12.5 years how much he understands.”
I thought immediately of a book I used to read to our two daughters Emily and Hannah, by Robert Munsch a Canadian author. It is called “Love You Forever.” It is written about a boy and his mother, and their relationship over many years. 15,000,000 copies have been sold!
Although this book centres around people I immediately thought of Frank and Ben with their nightly ritual. My daughter Emily when I told her of Ben’s routine told me this reminded her of the Love You Forever book, something we had read more than a decade before. I was glad that she felt the same way.
Senior dogs teach us so many things about our lives.https://dogstwentyfourseven.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/374/ Their gifts are endless, it is our responsibility to be their voice, be loving, patient and follow our hearts by giving back.
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