Saturday, March 14, 2009

Old Dogs

She really believed she was my assistant. Yes, she told that to the pet listener some years ago, and her behavior over the years confirmed how she felt about her role in the household. She was called Princess, because as the only girl in a litter of five, she was definitely "born to rule".

Now, at age 12, she has lost an eye to infection, has a floppy ear, minces her gait and makes noble efforts to assert her authority in a home with much younger dogs, who have not learned, as have the older ones, that Princess is "she who must be obeyed." It is a lesson the younger ones will never learn. Dogs remain, essentially, pack animals, and the old and infirm are fair game for the pack.

Princess cries at times when she is crated for her own protection, and it is a sad sound indeed. She has many special privileges, including the right to sleep with me at night, but it is not the same as before. She can still leap to high places in a single bound, but she walks more slowly now, and her remaining eye does not allow for very good vision. I leave a light on at night so she doesn't bump into things.

It is so very hard to watch the old lose their command and dignity. Princess occasionally trembles in anxiety over her new place in the household. She is now getting more time to be among the "safe" older dogs, but she is cautious. She was betrayed and preyed upon. Who wouldn't be wary after that. She deserves better.

One day, we will all face those changes that come with age and infirmity. Let us show caring now.

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