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Old dogs
21/12

There’s something special about truly old dogs – they may be rickety in the legs, and as grey as grey can be, the milky tide of age spreading all over their bodies – but they hold a deep wisdom that shines out of their eyes. I really enjoy tending to the old ones, the dog and cat elders. It’s a special privilege to help ease their last days…

I’ve seen a few of my old friends in the past week – two of them have outlived my expectations again and again – they just keep on going, though now I’m beginning to see them start to gather their selves within, getting ready to take their final leap. An old Staffy lady- now only just able to get to her feet (though she forgets that when she gets on the beach, apparently). She wobbles about, still with a happy grin, and suffers me massaging her. Such a stubborn old creature! A standard poodle with severe heart failure. He is teaching the young dog all of his wisdom before he goes. And a jack russell, now finally as deaf as a post. He used to rush out to the van to greet me, this time he wandered around at the door, wondering if he really had heard something at all?

It’s always hard when our pets get old. They love us so much, and we love them. So there’s this (oh so strong) connection, a heart connection that we have to rise above in a way to be able to set them free from their tired old bodies when the time comes. They love us so, so deeply that they will suffer any amount of pain to stay with us if we aren’t ready to let them go. (It’s worth remembering that most really old pets are in pain, and will benefit from some palliative pain relief medicine. Dogs and cats hardly ever make a noise or vocalise their pain like we humans do, so it’s very easy to think they are comfortable when they’re not. Give me a call if you’re not sure, because I can tell you if they are in pain.)

The only way to know when it’s time is to be open to *listening* to your old friend. They may be good one day, awful the next, and this can go on for ages. I find that there are a few situations where it is definitely time – if your pet stops eating altogether, if they can’t get up anymore, and if they are in severe pain that medications can’t relieve. As long as they are still happy, engaged with you, and able to get around at least a little bit without too much pain going on, then I never recommend putting them to sleep. And at the same time, every situation id unique. You know your old friend best, and you will know when they are ready to go. you only have to look in their eyes, and feel them.

Often I’ll discuss all of this with people several times over the last days, weeks, or months. It helps to be able to talk about it all, and begin to process and allow yourself to move through the process of saying farewell to your old mate, to help yourself get ready for them to go as well. Our pets are members of our family, and their loss is as profound as losing a human member of our family, sometimes even more so. This is especially true for people who have no children of their own. In these cases, their pets take the emotional place that children would have. The grieving process can be absolutely heart wrenching for these people, with the added pressure of society at large simply not understanding, people saying “He was only a dog” and similarly insensitive rubbish. Be sure to care for yourself – hook into your social network, take time off work if you need to, be kind to yourself, and allow yourself to feel…

Some of the wonderful old souls I tend to I see only the once, on the fateful day when they need to be set free, others I get to know over months or years. They all touch my life with their wisdom and presence…

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