Every dog parent knows that a dog is more than “a dog.” They’re a highly cherished family member – the one that greets you when you come home from work every day, the one that gives you big sloppy kisses when you wake up each morning, and the one who always manages to lift your mood even on the bluest of days.
So when this family member grows older, it can be hard to digest the fact that your time together is dwindling. That one day that loveable little soul that makes everything seem fun, playful, and innocent in the world will no longer be around.
All those memories you shared – now a painful reminder that you’ll never create memories together again.
When my dog Sammie got older, I struggled to accept that there’d be a day where his bed would go empty, his toys unplayed with, his food bowls unfilled.
It wasn’t until he started showing signs like sleeping longer, walking more slowly, and eating less that I realized he wasn’t the bouncy little thing he used to be. I let reality kick in: my little pal was getting old.
Is your dog getting old, and it’s making you sad? Here are some tips for coping with your dog getting older – taken from personal experience and research studies.
Realize that Your Dog is Happy and Living in the Moment
We humans are known for getting emotional about stuff, but dogs tend to live in the moment, enjoying life NOW rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Try to remember that the next time you start consciously thinking, “My dog is getting old and I’m scared.”
Unlike you, your dog won’t be thinking about his upcoming fate. Instead, he’ll probably be thinking, “When are we going for walks?” or “Where can I find the treats?” And that in itself should give you some peace of mind.
As long as your dog is happy and fulfilled, it means they can enjoy their last months or years the way you would want them to.
I know it’s easy to get caught up in the sadness of imagining life without them, but by doing that you’re wasting the precious time you could use with your four-legged bestie. After all, you want to make the most of the time you have left together!
Spend More Time Together
Cuddle more, play more, go to the park more…just make sure you spend more quality time together so you don’t have any regrets when he’s gone. It’s much more difficult to get over death when you feel guilty about something.
If you hardly spent any time with your dog the weeks before he passed away, you could end up feeling guilty that you didn’t show him enough love or attention when he was alive.
I’m sure that’s not true and you have a perfectly good reason why you didn’t have the time, but it’s still good to invest that time now – for the sake of both you and your furry friend.
While it’s probably not possible to spend all day together, try to carve out time each day to devote to your pooch. He’ll definitely appreciate it! And at the end of the day, if there’s anyone who can reverse those feelings of sadness and anxiety over your dog getting older…it’s your dog!
Hang Out With Other Dog Owners – and Dogs
I remember confiding in a friend once. “Sammie’s getting older now, and it really makes me sad. I don’t know what I’d do without him.” While the friend wasn’t a dog owner herself, she replied with some insightful advice: “Have you ever thought about connecting with other local dog owners experiencing the same concerns?”
It had never occurred to me before, but when I thought about it I realized what a great idea it was. It’s kind of like support therapy. You’re spending time with other people going through the same thing…and that’s comforting. For most, anyway.
I went ahead and created a Facebook group for dog owners in the area in a bid to connect with more like minded folks. Only a few days in, I received so many messages from dog owners wanting to meet up for dog walks together. It was incredible! And the meetings themselves? Enlightening.
Being able to speak to other people with the same problems gave me an outlet. Not only that, my little bud got to meet lots of new friends. So it worked out well for the both of us in the end!
Talk to a Friend or Family Member
Don’t let yourself suffer alone. Talk about your feelings to a friend or loved one. You don’t need someone to fix your problems and tell you everything’s going to be okay. You just need a pair of ears – someone who will listen, support, and comfort you through this difficult time.
If that doesn’t help, try speaking to a professional therapist. They’ll be able to help you cope better with your dog getting older. Plus, they’ll be that pair of ears you need to get through this tough time in your life.
Whether you speak to a friend, family member, other dog owner, or a professional, just make sure you speak to someone and don’t bottle it all in.
According to Mental Health America, you can boost your mood simply by practicing gratitude each and every day. They suggest keeping a gratitude journal, writing down all the things you notice and appreciate in your life – such as your wonderful dog.
You can also make this more specific to your dog, journaling his daily life and all the positives you see on a daily basis, as well as touching moments and achievements from over the years.
Alternatively, try writing a gratitude letter – to your dog. Sure, he won’t be able to read it, but it can be extremely helpful if you’re dealing with anxiety over your dog getting older.
It’s good to get it all out on paper, rather than bottling up your emotions. You can write anything you want – how much you appreciate your dog or about your favorite memory together. Just make sure it’s super personal to your dog.
Create a Photo Album
A great way to cheer yourself up when you’re feeling sad about your dog getting old is by creating a paw-some photo book.
Put all those pictures in your phone to good use by publishing them in an adorable book where you can keep all your cherished memories, and enjoy it for many years to come.
I did this when Sammie got older. Not only was it a great way to preserve my memory of him, but it also brightened my mood on days when I felt a little blue. Sometimes, he’d even sit next to me as I created it, adding in each picture and writing a note next to each one. I felt like it was a joint project!
It won’t make your four-legged friend last any longer, but it’s an excellent way to show your love for your furry family member. And, when he does pass away, you’ll have something to look back on when you’re feeling sad, and that’s sure to bring a smile to your face.
Stop Dwelling on the Negative
If negativity is dominating your thoughts, it’s time to set those thoughts aside. According to the Cleveland Clinic, negative thinking makes you feel down about yourself and the world around you. While the idea of your dog getting older makes you sad, you shouldn’t let those negative thoughts become a habit, otherwise you’re not doing anybody any favors.
Instead, focus your attention on doing good things for your dog and enjoying the time you have left together. Your dog deserves that – as do you!
It’s easy to feel down and helpless when your dog gets older. However, it’s important to accept that it’s a natural and normal part of life. And it’s not your fault at all. Instead of dwelling over losing your dog, cherish your moments together, live life to the full, and give Fido the best final days of his life.
Remind Yourself that You’ve Been an Excellent Dog Parent
Stop being hard on yourself, and remember: your dog had a long, happy life because of you. He or she could have ended up on the streets, in the kennels, or in the hands of an unfriendly owner…but he didn’t — because of you!
It’s important to remind yourself that you’ve done a good job parenting over the years. You should be proud of yourself for making their life so fulfilled. Realizing this can actually help you cope with your dog getting old, and prevent feelings of guilt when he’s no longer here anymore.
Laugh with Your Dog
Laughter really is the best medicine. While it might not feel like the right time to laugh, opening yourself up the humor can help you to feel less sad. Studies show that laughter lowers stress and depression while strengthening mood and coping skills. If you can, try to do fun stuff with your dog so that the laughter comes naturally.
If not, even pretending to laugh can instantly improve your mood. Obviously it’s not a long-term solution, but it can definitely ease your pain right now.
Not only that, your dog always loves to have fun. So enjoy the time you have left with your dog, laugh together, and feel AMAZING together! And whatever you do…don’t feel guilty about laughing. Give yourself permission to laugh!
Create a Bucket List
Another great way to help you and your pooch enjoy your last days, weeks, or months together is by creating a bucket list. This is an especially good idea if you know your dog is ill and you want to make their final days as wonderful as possible.
To create a bucket list, start by deciding what makes your dog super happy – or what would make him super happy. Then make a list of all your ideas, and check them off one by one as you complete them with your fur baby. Try to cross off as many as you can!
In addition to your dog having the TIME OF HIS LIFE, there’s really no better feeling than seeing your pup having fun. And it’s a great way to remember him.
Just make sure your dog is fit and healthy enough to fulfill the items on the bucket list. You don’t want him doing anything that could end up leaving him injured.
Rearrange the House
As your dog gets older, he may suffer from issues like arthritis and joint pain. To make his final years more comfortable, try to make your home more senior dog friendly – which will also help avoid painful accidents.
Some ideas include providing ramps where your dog needs to climb stairs, moving furniture so that it’s easier for your dog to walk around, keeping the floors clean to prevent him tripping over anything, and providing him with elevated food and water dishes.
Go for Checkups More Frequently
Elderly dogs are more vulnerable to health issues than young dogs, which is why it’s worth taking your senior dog for regular checkups to keep him healthy, happy, and comfortable.
Taking him to the vet more often can also catch out any underlying issues before it’s too late, helping to prolong his life – and improve his quality of living.
If your dog is suffering from joint pain, ask the veterinarian for anti-inflammatory medication to ease your pooch’s pain. You want to make sure your dog’s final days, weeks, months, or years are as comfortable as possible.
Remember: Your Loved Ones Never Really Leave
Fido will remain forever in your heart and memories. While reminiscing over your memories together might make you choke up, those memories keep him clear in your mind forever. And with memories, your loved ones never really leave.
Over time, the pain will feel less raw and you’ll eventually learn to live without your furry family member. But it’s also completely normal to continue missing your dog.
Of course, everybody heals in different ways, but you must remember that as long as you have your memories, Fido isn’t going anywhere.
By making their final days as wonderful as possible, you can ensure you have only the best memories in your mind of your beloved canine.
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