Our precious Trudi, now over the 15 1/2 year mark, has reached the distinction of being our oldest living dog. Al and I had an Afghan Hound years ago that lived to be 15 1/2 – and when I was a child, my Standard Poodle lived to be 15. But in the last several years, sadly our last two dogs, Phoebe and Julia, have died much too young.
Trudi is like the Energizer Bunny – she keeps on going. About 4 years ago, it appeared that she might not have much time left, but, like the cat with nine lives, she’s still with us! She has mostly good days, with a few bad days sprinkled in. During these periods, I watch her very closely, so far – she’s bounced back to having her good days. I’ve learned through the years (the hard way) to realize that when the bad days out-number the good days by a long-shot, then it’s time to make a decision. Again, I keep a careful eye on her. I’ve come to understand that prolonging a dog’s life because I can’t bear to lose her, is for me, and me only – I’m not helping my beloved dog by doing this.
But, as I said, Trudi keeps on going. She’s become quite thin, her eyes are clouded by cataracts, and she’s a bit arthritic. English Setters are a breed that require a certain amount of grooming to keep their coats looking as they should. Well, Trudi is now exempt from all that… she’s growing a long fluffy coat and gets a good weekly brushing and nail trimming while lying comfortably on her soft dog bed. Even this can be hard on her, at times. But keeping up their hygiene is important to their continued good health. I take care to be sure rooms that she’s in or entering are well-lit. She sees well enough in a bright room. Her daily walks consist of a morning walk to the mailbox at the side of the road to pick up the newspaper and an afternoon walk back to the box to get the mail. She gets a couple of good romps in the back field with James and Annabelle – often leading the pack – perhaps heading to check out a flock of wild turkeys in the back field. I try not to leave her in the house for more then 3 or 4 hours at a stretch when I go out. She needs to eliminate more frequently now and it’s harder for her to hold it in.
New England winters can be especially difficult on a senior dog. Getting around in more then a few inches of snow is tough. I go out on my snowshoes and make paths all over the field for her. After packing it down a couple of times – she’ll run around on the pathways following me on my snowshoes. It’s a fun game we play and the other dogs love it, too. For Trudi’s sake, I’m hoping it’s a mild winter.
Trudi has given so much to us since she came here to live at the age of 7 years. In return, we owe her the same… love, comfort, and kindness – and that she will most definitely receive from us.