Thursday, February 2, 2012

Old dog wisdom

If old age brings with it greater wisdom, I'd argue the same is true for dogs.
My dog — impeccably trained, if I don't say so myself — has been disagreeing with me lately. Or perhaps manipulating me is a better way to put it.
Almost 9 years old now, he knows more words and commands than I can keep track of. He knows my habits and routines and all sorts of little signals. And in his old age, he is making some demands.

Take, for instance, the Buster Cube — the food dispensing cube that I usually give half his breakfast in. Last week, I was too busy to fill it up in the morning. He skipped breakfast on a couple days, watching me fill his bowl and walking away from it. When Monday came around on week two and still no Buster Cube, he flat-out boycotted food.

He wouldn't eat his breakfast. At dinner time, I moved his food bowl into the living room — sometimes, the novelty of eating in a different place is enough to get him to eat. Instead of eating, though, he started gingerly grabbing his blankets and putting them over his food bowl, trying to wrap the bowl up and hide the food. And then he'd dig at it playfully and eat up whatever little morsels came flying out. This whole blanket thing is very reminiscent of our hide-and-seek games, where I'll hide treats and toys around the house, wrapping them up in blankets and under couch cushions. He thinks it's a wonderful game.

Point being, he wanted to play with his food. He was mad about not getting the Buster and wasn't going to eat unless he got a little game out of it.

The following day, I gave him the Buster Cube at breakfast. And what would you know, he ate like a charm. The old man is demanding his Buster Cube and launched a hunger strike to get his way.

Yesterday, after our walk, he was tired and tried telling me he was too tired to jump up in the back of the Jeep. What he was really trying to say was, "Let me in the front seat where I can climb up."

See, Sensi's back legs are spindly little things that aren't very good support for his heavy front end. He's never been a jumper; not comfortable supporting himself on those little back legs of his. So getting up on to things is usually a matter of carefully climbing, one step at a time, rather than jumping.

He prefers to enter a vehicle in the front, where he has the most space to get his two front legs up on the floor. Once that is complete, he climbs on to the seat while getting his back legs onto the floor.

But he was covered in mud after yesterday. No way I'd be letting him the front seat.

I told him to get up and he just stared at me — his way of politely declining my offer.

"Get up, Sensi," I re-emphasized. Get up is one of those phrases he knows like the back of his hand. And nothing. More staring.

I do realize he's getting old. He's not as strong as he used to be. I wasn't going to hold him to jumping up. But I did need to get him in the Jeep and the only option left seemed to be lifting him up.

I took a deep breath and leaned down. "You ready for this?" I asked him as I wrapped one hand under his belly and another around his chest.

Now, I've lifted some pretty heavy dogs before. But my dog, 85 pounds and awkwardly arranged, is not easy to lift. Not for me. He doesn't care if my husband tries to pick him up, but balks when I reach for him.

He jumped out of my embrace and gave me another look. Then sighed. Then jumped into the back of the hatch.

If he could talk, I'm sure he would've told me: "No way, Ma. Don't kid yourself. I'm old enough to know you're not strong enough to lift me. I'd rather do it myself."

Smart enough to try telling me he wanted to use the front seat, and smart enough to know that I can't lift him.

Got any old dog wisdom stories to share? I'd love to hear them.


  1. Earning your pet's trust isn't a given. You have to work at developing a friendship with your pet just as much as you do with a person. With trust comes respect and bonding, and once a pet gives you their unconditional love, they will never break it.

  2. Hey all, be prepared for me to start moderating all comments before they're posted. The spam comments are so uncool.

    Dear pet food, you clearly didn't read the post, but good job trying to leave a comment that seemed relative to the story anyhow.