The 15 Year Old Puppy

I’ve written before about my blind, deaf, diabetic, 15 year old JRT.  Yes, he’s still with us.  We thought we would lose him a couple of times, but in true Jack Russell fashion he keeps bouncing back.  As I carried him outside to pee for the sixth time today it dawned on me that he isn’t a 15 year old dog, but more of a 15 year old puppy.

He’s lost his eyesight but his nose works just as well as it always has.  This leads him into many a jam that he can’t find his way out of on his own.  After rescuing him from several tight spots, missteps and near misses, we’ve decided that he needs constant supervision.  So, now he has an ex-pen set up in the living room with a bed, toys, water and even some potty pads in case we don’t get him outside at the right time.  He doesn’t signal that he needs to pee anymore; he just takes a few steps and goes.  I figure he’s earned the right.

He lost some of his teeth at some point.  We don’t know when.  One day they were just gone.  Chewing  his food can be quite a task for him.  To make it easier we now add water to his food and let it soften a bit before he eats it.  We give him his insulin injections while he’s busy eating.

Because he can no longer run freely with the other dogs in the yard, we’re providing him with more enrichment.  He gets Kongs and Squirrel Dudes daily along with searching for hidden treats in his ex-pen area.  We take him outside for long strolls around the property so he can sniff all the wonderful sniffs, staying nearby so he doesn’t fall into a hole, off a retaining wall or into the pond.

Our 15 year old puppy is a full time job.  In fact, if we had full time jobs outside the home we’d have to hire a pet-sitter to care for him.  So much of this reminds me of those caring for elderly parents or spouses.  At the same time, it is much like having an infant.  Those two things have their similarities.  It is the role of a caregiver, with all the emotions that caregiving can stir up.

We sometimes feel frustrated by the amount of time it takes.  We then feel very guilty for feeling frustrated!  We have argued about who is doing more of the work and who needs a break.  Travel plans have been difficult, delayed or simply cancelled because it’s too hard to arrange for alternative care.  We’ve secretly wished that it would come to an end and hated ourselves for it.

On most days, however, we are simply grateful to have another day with our beloved little dog.