Living (and Dying) with Seniors

IMG_2078Viola is my seniorist senior dog in my pack.  We make exceptions for Viola at this age. She doesn’t have to go upstairs behind the gate when I go out. She doesn’t have to sit/stay to get her dinner.  She doesn’t even have to do anything to earn her good night treat – she’s earned it because she’s still with us.

Viola breaks my heart because I know one day, probably sooner rather than later, she will leave us and cross over the Bridge.  My goal right now is to keep her happy and comfortable.  We won’t be doing heroic procedures with her.  No surgeries. No miracle drugs. She has a DNR in my mind.

Viola gets all her needs met – monthly heartworm medicines, good quality food, comfy dog beds to sleep in (she no longer can get on the furniture even with her doggie stairs), love and attention.  The decision not to treat a chronic illness in a senior’s life is huge. In my last round of seniors, we treated every lump and bump and eventually there was nothing left to do but hold their paws and let them go.

Viola’s had some masses removed a few years ago that turned out to be cancerous – a tumor inside of a fatty deposit.  Recovery was hard for her. Now we figure she’s around 13 or 14 or even 15.  We’re just not sure but we know we’ve been blessed with her in our pack for the last 10 years.  Sometimes she sleeps so deeply I can’t even see the breaths move in and out of her lungs. Her legs aren’t running in fields of rabbits during these deep sleeps.  Her ears aren’t twitching at some dream butterfly landing softly on her head.  These are the sleeps that scare me and cause me to get on all fours and put my hand on her chest to see if she’s breathing.  I’ve had to desperately shake her awake a few times because I just could not tell.

The other day, I changed the linens on my bed and threw the dirty ones on the floor.  I watched her meticulously gather all the pillow cases, the top and bottom sheets and form a little nest for herself. She looked like she was in heaven, engulfed in the smells of the sleeping human she loves and the other members of the pack.  She would sleep in the bed every night until about six months ago.  A week later, the pile of dirty linens is still on the floor and she sleeps in them every night. I can’t bear to pick them up to wash until I have another pile for her to sleep in.

I believe she’s pretty blind now, at least in one eye.  She no longer can catch the bedtime treat like she used to so I put it in my closed hand so she can smell it and gently take it from my palm. The other dogs in the pack watch her like hawks to see if she drops the treat. They know they can find it before she could.

I think she’s had a good life at the Litt Palace of Puppy Love. I will continue to give her special privileges as the grande dame of the pack. I think if she could talk, she’d be in agreement with her DNR.

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