dog-yearsThey say that people start to resemble their pets. Or is it the other way around? Pets start to resemble their people. (“They” say so many things, who can keep it straight?) I don’t know if this adage is necessarily true in my case, but I wouldn’t mind if it was. My two dogs are very beautiful. On the other hand, I’m not sure how they would feel if they began to resemble me.

While our respective visages may not have merged over the fourteen years we’ve been together, we have noticeably begun to share other physical changes. For example, my dogs can no longer jump in and out of the back of our SUV, but require a helping boost. While I, myself, have never actually been required to jump in and out of the back of an SUV, I have equivalent difficulty simply launching myself out of bed each morning. What I am currently sharing with my beloved pets are all the signs of aging.

First, there is the matter of graying hair. I was able to live comfortably in a state of denial for a long time thanks to chemistry. However, my male dog, Davis, whose coat is golden brown, has, for several years, been sporting a white snout and head, and speckles throughout the rest of his body. He is immediately identifiable as an older dog, and gets such comments as “he looks good for his age.” Since I now no longer dye my own hair, that remark could apply equally to both of us. At least I hope so.

My female dog, Bette, who is one year younger, (yes, their names are Bette and Davis!) or should I say one year less old, than the male, is white to begin with. Therefore, she doesn’t suffer the indignity of nature’s highlights. However, like me, she does suffer from arthritis. And like me, this causes her to limp. (Hers is persistent, while mine is only occasional.) While she walks around looking like she would benefit from a cane, she remains in high spirits and does the best she can. I, on the other hand, have a tendency to whine.

She is on medications to relieve her symptoms. One of her medications, which I originally thought was strictly canine, turns out to be the very same drug that my friend takes for his aching back. Then, when the vet told me that I should fill her second prescription at the pharmacy, I was convinced that the art of healing had really crossed a line. (What if one day I might be required to get an annual rabies shot?)

Off I go to CVS to get my dog some relief. The prescription merely indicates my last name.

“Is this for you,” the pharmacy assistant asks, staring at her computer.

“No,” I answer hoping this will go no further. But she continues.

“Patient’s first name,” she queries.

“Bette,” I say.

“Date of birth?”

I provide my dog’s birthday. At this juncture, she finally lifts her eyes from the key board. She appears a little startled.

“But that would make her only thirteen years old. How sad that she needs these pills.”

“She’s a dog,” I state, in my most matter-of-fact manner.

“Oh,” she says.

She takes a moment to ponder this information and then replies, “You know, your insurance won’t pay for this.”

I acknowledge this unfortunate fact as I take out my credit card. Luckily, the prescription was not expensive.

Oh, and did I mention that Bette also takes a pill to prevent bladder leakage? I suppose an additional tablet is less humiliating than doggie Depends. As for me, I try not to sneeze too hard.

I believe my older dog, Davis, has developed a hearing loss. Several years ago, my husband also developed a hearing loss. Repetition of verbal communication has become the norm in my household, if I am to expect any type of response. However, there is a major difference between Davis and my husband. The dog cannot keep saying “What?”

We are experiencing other age-related changes. Climbing stairs has become more of a challenge for them, and may become so for us. Our walks in the park have become shorter and slower due to their diminished endurance. But these strolls are still an anticipated daily pleasure. And lately, I am finding the duration and pace quite compatible with my own preferred tempo.

Their vision is probably not as acute as it once was, but they are not yet bumping into things. And happily, neither am I.

In the park, I watch younger dogs running and chasing balls, and say to my pets “remember when you used to do that?” I also watch younger people jogging with ease, and say to myself “remember when you used to do that?”

Occasionally Bette will forget her stiffness as something compels her to break into a run. This lasts for about ten seconds before she slows down again, resumes her hobble, and wears an expression that says “what was I thinking?” I know that feeling. It occurs every time I try to catch a bus!

When we first brought our puppies home they were way younger than us. But as dogs will, they have caught up. They have become our contemporaries, and we, theirs. There is a certain beauty to be found in sharing our “golden” years with them. In many ways, life has taken on a certain mellowing that wasn’t there before. And, in the fourteen years we’ve been together, we have never felt closer.

Recently, Bette has begun laser treatments to relieve her arthritis. The vet suggested that I might try the same. Yet another example of how the walls between medical disciplines are crumbling.

Going forward, I know that I will agree to any treatment within reason to assure that my dogs are comfortable and maintain any possible residual of their youthful aura. But love them as I do, I will, however, draw the line at cosmetic surgery!

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