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Posts Tagged ‘elderly dogs’

Red fox Labrador, laying down, 'smiling' at camera

Annie’s happiest when she’s close to her people

I didn’t have dogs when I first read Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials. I loved the books for many reasons, not least the fact that in his world, every human has a ‘daemon’, a manifestation of their soul that takes animal form.

While daemons aren’t really animals, it’s impossible to read the books without relating it to the animals in your own life. In Pullman’s world, daemons speak, regardless of their species, and share the same level of intelligence as their humans. They are one and the same being, tethered by an invisible bond and parted only by death.

Other half has long referred to Little Bear as my ‘daemon dog’, a reference to the fact that his moods have always mirrored mine (or mine his) and because he is rarely far from my side.

Of late though, we’ve noticed that Annie has become more ‘daemon’ in her ways. While Little Bear is happy to lounge on his beloved couch while I work upstairs, entertaining himself with his own brand of neighbourhood woof, Annie wants to be wherever I am – all of the time.

Red fox Labrador laying on rug in kitchen

Annie’s kitchen spot

She follows me constantly. If I leave the room, she’s right behind me, hauling her aching bones out of her bed to hobble along, before lowering herself, joints like creaky doors, to lay within a couple of feet of wherever I am.

Telling her to stay is met with a derisory look and the equivalent of two Labrador fingers and so it is me who is being trained in the art of decisive tea-making. Popping back to the kitchen to add a splash more milk and cave in on the idea of that biscuit isn’t an option when you have an arthritic Labrador in tow.

Red fox Labrador peeking around door

Even bathroom breaks are now accompanied

As she has never ‘done’ stairs, (not that we’d allow her to now at her age even if she did) this presents a problem when it comes to working – and sleeping. I’ve taken to splitting my working day between ergonomically comfortable desk upstairs and neck pain inducing lumpy couch downstairs where she can snooze at my feet.

Nighttime is more of a challenge. Three requests for a garden break is typical on the average night. Usually at midnight, three am and then again sometime around five, although if you’re getting up at six, it’ll be ten minutes before your alarm.

She outdid herself on Wednesday though with a record six woofs. Other Half, who valliantly responds to most of her demands at night, was away, so it was a miracle I made it to my London meetings on Thursday as I felt slightly punch drunk from all my nighttime stumblings down the stairs.

As there have been a couple of accidents in the house in recent months, ignoring her requests is not an option, but she only actually needs to go out about half of the time. The others I think are a combination of her arthritis and the need to be with her people. No matter how tired we are, we can’t deny her that comfort in her twilight years.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of daemons lately, prompted by the new BBC adaptation of Northern Lights over Christmas. It occurred to me today that another part of the attraction is the fact that human and daemon are together for life. Oh that it were the same for us and our daemon dogs.

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Driving home from work the other evening, I saw what looked to me to be ‘the four ages of dog.’  Glacially-slow temporary traffic lights meant that for once I had the time to watch the parade.

It was a beautiful summer evening, one of the few we’ve had this year in the UK, and it was prime ‘after work but just before dinner’ dog walking time. With two reactive dogs, we learned a long time ago to avoid those peak times but it’s always lovely to see the neighbourhood dogs out enjoying their evening stroll.

The four ages of ‘dog’ 

Alternatively bounding around in circles, chewing its lead and then sitting down and refusing to budge, was a golden Labrador puppy.   Behind them, I saw a young husky towing the beefy-looking chap on the other end of the lead in his wake.

Then there was my neighbour with her cool as a cucumber Pointer who was loping at her side and stopping every now and again to sniff and lift his leg. But then suddenly there was a lump in my throat, because the next dog I saw was a very elderly chocolate Labrador. Unlike the other dogs, he trailed about 10 ft behind his people, who were so deep in conversation that they seemed almost to have forgotten why they were out.

His tongue lolled out of his grey muzzle, his gait bore the tell-tale signs of arthritis and he looked like every step was a decision. When he stopped, sometimes to sniff but other times just it seemed to rest, his people turned and called him on. He’d break into an awkward jog to join them but within seconds they had outpaced him again and he was left watching their backs and then hurrying once again to catch up.

We spend so long teaching our puppies and young dogs to walk to heel – to walk with us.  I think the very least we can do in their dotage is to remain by their sides – just as they did for us.

Red Fox Labrador Annie sitting in a field 'smiling'

Our Annie – 11 years young but still loving her walks

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