Friday, March 11, 2011

Nivek vs. Old Age

      A friend of mine recently made a comment about an article I wrote for Dogs in Canada magazine.  In it, I suggest not making a big deal about leaving your dog at a boarding kennel, but smile and leave like it's not a big deal.  Apparently, this advice is also true of your child's first day of school, at least according to this individual.
     That got me thinking.

     Obviously dogs are not people, and obviously having a dog (or three) is not quite the same as having a child, (or three) they are, after all, dogs.  Some days, though, I wish that my dogs were kids, especially Nivek, at least kids can talk.

Nivek still enjoys a bone now and again.
     Nivek is old, very, very old.  Overall, he is in good health and I have been lucky with him.  He doesn't take any medications other then glucosamine, eats well, gets around okay and seems fairly content most of the time.  Having said that, it is hard to ignore the increasing amount of care he requires as time goes on.
     Nivek has always been a healthy dog.  All of his health problems over the years have been relatively minor, easy, and inexpensive to treat, yay for me.  After what I went through with Seeka, good canine health is something I truly appreciate.  Last August though, that started to change for Nivek.  We had a long summer that was very hot and very humid, no fun, in fact, no fun at all.  One morning, Nivek just wouldn't get up, maybe he couldn't, maybe he just didn't feel like it.

     Whatever the case, when your dog is a minimum of 14 years old and potentially a few years older then that, you don't mess around with that kind of thing.  A friend helped me maneuver his limp 88 pound body into the back of my sedan and I drove to the vet.  I balled my eyes out the whole way.  It didn't seem right that it was finally time to say goodbye to such an old and faithful friend.
     With a lot of coaxing, he got out of the car on his own, but sprawled across the lobby of the vet office on his side and stayed there.  The vet checked all of his vitals and finally convinced me to leave him there for the day and go back to work, I did.
    They did tests, many, many tests, all of which turned out fine.  I went back in the evening to find Nivek largely recovered.  He trotted out to me, wagging his tail, no worse for the wear.
Loving the cottage
     "It's the heat." Dr. M said. "He's just like an elderly person, at this point in his life, he cannot handle it well."
     Truer words were never spoken.  We bought Nivek a baby pool and every day I took him to work with me where he stayed up in the air conditioned office.  The heat broke soon after and this year we are purchasing an air conditioner for our ancient dog before summer starts.  He's on a special (aka. expensive) diet due to arthritis and the safest way to avoid 'accidents' is to let him outside every three hours or so.  That was probably the hardest thing for me to get used to.  Nivek has always been the 'good' dog in our canine family, the sharp lad that could do no wrong.  I know it isn't his fault, but for thirteen years, Nivek never once went to the bathroom in my house.  Now, he just can't hold it very long, it's pretty much that simple.  He's also losing his hearing, so the once off-leash master of the universe has to be watched very carefully.  I won't take his freedom away, but I also had to get used to my golden-boy super-pet completely ignoring every word I say.  It hurt, it still hurts.
     Would I change anything?  No way.  I love Nivek and he loves me.  Since 1998 we have been a team, he has always been, more then any other, my dog.  So here is an ode to the unsung hero of the pet world, the senior dog.  These noble animals might not be as quick or as entertaining as they once were, but you have to appreciate their laid back attitude and determination to keep enjoying every second of every day.  So yes, Nivek, I will pay for your expensive food, I will let you outside every three hours and keep the mop on standby, I will buy your air conditioner and fill your baby pool so you don't get too hot in the summer, I will kiss you every night before I go to bed, because I can never be sure if you'll still be around in the morning.  Yes, I will do all of this for you for as long as I need to, and then I will do more because I know you would do the same for me.


  1. You just made me cry! I've always been a dog lover, but 11 years ago I rather randomly become Mom to a crazy little rescue cat. I lost her to Cancer about 6 months ago. Taking care of her in her sick days was hard, expensive and heartbreaking, but every day I was happy to still have her around and happy for all the memories she had given me. Animals really do rock. Keep loving Nivek and keep making those memories.... :)

  2. I do apologize for the somewhat depressing nature of this didn't start out that way. Thanks for appreciating the merits of the senior pet :)

  3. What a lovely tribute to beloved and treasured old friend.

    Here's wishing you and Nivek as many more beautiful days together as possible.