Your Elder Dog – part 2

In a previous post I discussed some issues and concerns regarding Chimo our 14 1/2 year old Black Lab Mix.

Our feelings about Chimo parallel those we feel about any elder family member. We make accommodations and lower our expectations. We make life less demanding. Yet, we look for ways to make sure she is enjoying life.

Chimo’s devotion to our family circle is an important factor that sustains her and supports her desire to live on.

As she was growing up, like any dog motivated to join the family, she quickly learned how to be a responsible member. Her learning path paralleled the path my two sons also took to become responsible family members. Like my two boys she learned to be an independent thinker. Household rules are meant to be followed but when something more important is involved rules can be adjusted. It requires a degree of thinking that is too often snuffed out of dogs subjected to aggressive training. A simple example is when we walk Chimo. As I described in a previous post – “Walking the Dog” – she is allowed to wander a little ahead or a little behind. She is allowed to do her instinctive exploration of her environment. As we return home, by routine we go directly into the house. Once in awhile she hasn’t quite finished her business. She then makes the decision to refuse in order to extend the walk. She knows that finishing her business is more important than strict obedience. In many other ways she will “disobey” before complying, but always with a good, acceptable reason. She is not a robot dog.

This is a valuable part of her relationship with our family, especially now that she is at this stage of her life. She knows we are accommodating her. She knows we are supporting her. So now, every allowance can be extended. The foundation is there. She is still always motivated to be a responsible family member. So now we can throw every rule out the window and let her make all the decisions about what is important.

Watch for part 3 in this series.