Loss of a pet hard on senior citizen
My mother’s dog, Tuffy2, is an 18-year-old shih tzu. She has been a blessing for my parents since they adopted her when she was just 6 months old. It’s amazing how important this little 10-pound dog had been in their lives.
My father always said he didn’t want another dog after our poodle, the original Tuffy, died, but he sure fussed over and loved Tuffy2 when my mom insisted she needed another canine. He would complain about having to walk the dog but then insisted she needed to be walked twice a day, which was actually really beneficial for him while he was able to do it. When he was in a nursing home, Tuffy2 came every day and would sit calmly on his lap as he was wheel-chaired outside – everyone became my dad’s friend because of the attention they would give to this cute little dog. It’s amazing what an icebreaker a dog can be.
People would open up and talk about their dogs or ask questions about Tuffy2, and another human connection would be made.
When dad died, Tuffy2 became the constant companion of my mother. She would follow her around the house and never let her out of her sight. A neighbor, who loved dogs but didn’t have one herself, would offer to babysit Tuffy2 anytime my mother would be gone for a long day or on a short trip. This arrangement worked great, giving a neighbor a reason to check in with mom on a daily basis, which I’m grateful for since she’s living by herself way down in San Diego. For seniors living alone, having a pet can be a reason to get out of bed each day; a reason to take a walk or go to a store and can be a source of another social circle (vets, groomers, dog park friends, etc.).
Tuffy2 is blind and deaf now, and arthritic. Mom fusses over her and worries each time she doesn’t eat her full meal. She has started walking in circles (a stroke?) and is losing weight. The end is definitely coming. When you are older, death of anyone hits a little harder. My mom doesn’t want to rush the decision, which I fully understand. However, I truly feel it’s a gift we can give our animal companions. A painless death with dignity, with loved ones close by – it’s certainly what I would choose for myself.
Next week I’m going to visit, and I know my mother wants me with her when she takes Tuffy2 to the vet for the last time. I do worry about my mother once Tuffy2 is gone, but she is adamant that at this point of her life she doesn’t want another pet. She has her own health issues to deal with and doesn’t want to start over with a new dog. Tuffy2 and she had their little routines all figured out. Some people say they will never get another pet because the pain of losing them is too much. I think the joy and love they give us makes the pain worthwhile; and then you have a lifetime of memories to cherish. This is one little dog that has certainly made her place in heaven secure.
Upcoming events: Is your teenage pup driving you crazy? Learn how to take control again. Come to Animal Talk, a series of adult educational programs. Next session is “Dealing with an Adolescent Dog” with Laurel Scarioni, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, on Wednesday, Feb. 20, from 6:30-8 p.m., A $10 per person pre-registration is required. Register by calling 584-1582 during the shelter’s open hours – Wednesday 1-5:30 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, Saturday 1-5:30 p.m. and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.