Buddy adored me. I was awed by his love. At the beginning, when I would sit on his dog bed with him, he would joyfully rub his face on me. Later, as he gained strength in his legs, he would stand beside me as I washed dishes, brushing his nose across my legs. I'm not sure if he did that to make sure I hadn't moved; or if it was to alert me of his presence; or if it was another way for him to express joy. Maybe it was kind of "all of the above."
"This blind and deaf 14 year old came into our care an hour ago and is now at the vet for a thorough exam as he is in quite bad shape. His owner called requesting money to put him down. ... He weighs 14.2 kilos, his teeth are abscessed ... his nails are long and curling into his pads and he has difficulty holding his bladder so dribbles and pees randomly."
It hurts my heart when people surrender their dogs -- or worse, euthanize them -- simply because they are old. This time, instead of just being angry and sad, I decided to step up.
I met Buddy in a Tim Horton's parking lot on New Year's Day. I was taken aback by how thin and frail he was. I had pictured him as study, substantial, and confident -- largely, I think, because that's what my own beagles are. But Buddy was none of these.
At the beginning, Buddy spent a lot of time just sleeping. I had to wake him for meals, and to take him outside. Because he couldn't see stairs, I carried him in and out of the house. When I put him down, he did his business and then would stand there, his hind quarters sagging, due to muscle wasting. Inside, his back legs did splits on my lino and laminate flooring. I kept trimming his nails and the fur between his pads, hoping that would help. I bought him grippy booties to wear inside. Eventually, we "upgraded" to toe caps, which didn't work as well as the booties, but were safe to wear 24/7.
Mixed in with his many successes was some of my own heartache.
Bud's old bones chilled easily. He always wore sweaters, and I put a coat on over top when he went outside. He also wore a belly band to catch his pee dribbles, which were likely caused by a recurrent or persistent urinary tract infection, part and parcel of renal failure.
But, as Corey Hart says, with a little perseverance, you can get things done. Buddy gradually began spending more time awake, much of that under my feet as I puttered around. His muscles strengthened considerably. In late February, I took him on his first walk. It took us almost a full hour to walk around the block, but Bud did it, and even managed to pee on a fire hydrant. (Yes, I cheered.)
By June, he was entering and exiting the house on his own four paws, using a temporary wheelchair ramp. That month also marked the first time I took all three dogs to our local dog park. Buddy alternated between cruising in the stroller I bought him, and ambling around on his own.
Mixed in with his many successes was some of my own heartache. I knew that he was old and unwell and that his time was limited. I thought that I was able to seal off a part of my heart, so that it wouldn't hurt too badly when he passed away. I was wrong, of course.
I won't lie about something else, either. Lots of it was just plain hard. Being woken up multiple times a night due to doggie health issues or fear of thunderstorms was hard. Being solely responsible for three beagles -- one with high needs -- was hard, especially given everything else on my plate. Letting him go was hard. Grieving him was -- and continues to be -- hard.
But mixed in with the heartache and the hard stuff was great joy. And, I think you cherish each moment more when you know the number of them is finite. It made my heart happy to make Buddy's heart happy. It made my heart confident, knowing that I could not just look after a high needs dog, but actually help him flourish. It made my heart burst with love, when he would cuddle up close, sometimes in ridiculously contorted positions, and sometimes persistently seeking me out over and over, wanting to be with me. He loved me. It was so easy to love him back. He was a sweet, good boy.
I said goodbye to Buddy on August 23, 2016. It's more time than I expected to have with him, but it's hard not to wish for more. I filled our last hours together with McDonald's cheeseburgers, pancakes, bacon, cuddles, dancing, and pawprint art. Initially intent on removing all traces of paint from his paws, I remembered what I told him about the Rainbow Bridge a few weeks back: that I wouldn't recognize him as a young and spirited dog. And so I decided to not be so fastidious about removing all traces of paint. That way, when I make my way to the Bridge myself, and see a handsome young beagle with paint on his paws, I will know it's my Bud Bud.
It's a struggle for shelters and rescues to adopt out senior pets. I understand the worry about not having enough time with that pet. But nothing in this life is certain. You could lose a puppy to Parvo or an accident. Any dog you choose could outlive you. Instead, just choose to live in the moment, and soak up all the love a senior pet has to give. When you visit your local shelter or rescue, please give seniors a second look. Trust me. Trust Buddy. It's worth it.
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Just like humans, pets can suffer from boredom and can show their frustration by acting out, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) explains. If you work long hours or prefer alone time, you might want to rethink the idea of owning a pet.
Cats and dogs can live a long time, so before you bring a puppy home, ask yourself if you're in it for the next five, 10 or 15 years.
If you constantly feel like you're bumping into things at home. put yourself in your potential pet's paws. Different animals require different spaces, so if you have your heart set on a Great Dane but live in a tiny condo, you might want to hold off until you move into a larger place.
Size isn't the only thing to consider when bringing a pet home. If you rent, you might want to look at your rental agreement to insure your landlord doesn't have an issue with animals in the home.
Unless you live alone, any pet you adopt will come into contact with others in the house. Be sure to have a conversation with roommates and family members to make sure you all want to take on the responsibility of an animal companion.
If you travel a lot for work, or just like to take long vacations, consider the fact that many hotels aren't animal-friendly and some pets don't travel well. Travelling doesn't have to be a deal breaker, however, be ready to cover potential boarding costs or leave your pet with someone trustworthy while you're away.
Even the healthiest animals have to visit the vet for regular shots and check-ups and that will cost you. If you're thinking about an older pet, you should also consider medical costs associated with aging.
Vet fees aren't the only thing you'll be spending money on if you get a pet. Consider the cost of food, litter, treats, grooming, toys and other accessories.
Accidents happen, and it's important to remember this when you get a pet. From scratches on the furniture to paw prints on the floor, pets can't clean up after themselves so you'll need to be both patient and tolerant when they make mistakes.
Even if you get a fully trained pet, you'll need to put in some teaching time so you can get used to each other. Ask yourself if this is something you're willing to tackle.
Do you want a dog to run with or are you looking for a pet that will curl up with you on the couch? Take your personality into consideration when choosing an animal companion. Taking on a pet includes a lot more than just giving an animal a home. Dogs, cats, hamsters, and even turtles need love and interaction to stay happy and healthy.
Don't take your health and well-being for granted. Before you consider a pet, spend some time with animals or get an allergy test to make sure you can handle being around a furry friend. You can also look into hypoallergenic breeds like poodles and sphynx.
Not all animals get along. Before you bring another pet home, try introducing animals to each other slowly. Some rescues can be very timid, while others are aggressive. It can be very stressful trying to get pets to get along. If you still want to try it, be mindful to nip bad behaviour in the bud, warns WebMD.
Once you've decided, it might be tempting to search for a cute kitten online, but consider going to a shelter instead. Not only will you be saving a life, but you will also be giving a scared animal a second chance.
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