Senior Dogs, Kitsune, The Paw Pack

What It’s Like Living With a Senior Dog, From a Self Professed Puppy Lover

November 12, 2022

November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month.  It appears that I’ve, somehow, found myself to be the owner of a senior dog.  My beloved papillon, Kitsune, will be turning 14 next month.

I love Puppies!

I’m a sucker for punishment.  When it comes to my pets the crazier, more mischievous they are the better!  And what’s more mischievous than a puppy?  One thing that’s ultimately true of all puppies, however, is that they grow up.  If they’re lucky, they grow old, albeit always much too quickly for those that love them.  Although I’ve cared for senior pets before, my sweet Mr. Kit, being the first dog that my partner and I got on our own, is also the first senior dog that I’ve had the privileged of sharing my life with.

A New Experience

senior dog Living with, and caring for, a senior dog for the first time in my life has been an interesting experience thus far.  Kit has always been an amazing teacher, and that fact hasn’t changed now that he’s older.  He’s helped me gain a newfound appreciation for just how amazing senior pets can be.  But I also feel like there’s sometimes some pressure to portray life with older animals as all sunshine and rainbows.  Sometimes it is.  There’s something so special about snuggling up next to an animal that I share an almost 14 year bond with.

But sometimes life with a senior dog is stressful.  So far, I feel like the hardest part about watching Kitsune grow older has been the increase in health issues.  Kitsune’s doing really well right now, thankfully, but the older he gets the more I find myself thinking about what it will mean to lose him someday.  That’s really, really hard.  On the plus side, it does make me appreciate the time we spend together that much more.  I wouldn’t change a thing about the life Kit and I have shared together.  I love him all the more now thanks to the 13+ years we spent growing together.

Senior pets in shelters are often overlooked by adopters because of their age.

Sadly, senior dogs, in general, spend more time in shelters waiting to be adopted.  They also generally have higher euthanasia rates compared to their younger compatriots.  Seeing senior animals in shelters always seems especially sad to me.  They so deserve to be warm, happy, and loved – beloved members of a family where they will be cherished in their golden years, not forgotten about in a cold shelter kennel.

Older animals make amazing pets! 

senior dogMany people come to appreciate the fact that senior pets are, in general, easier to live with.  With them, you don’t usually have to worry about things like potty training, teaching basic manners, frenzied play biting, and destroyed furniture.  Most older dogs don’t require as much direct supervision as puppies do.  With a senior dog, you know exactly what you’re getting!  You don’t have to worry about Fido growing too big and exceeding the size limit in your apartment building, or hitting puberty and suddenly developing behavioral issues that you, perhaps, weren’t totally prepared for.

I think a lot of people have preconceived notions of what senior pets are like. 

They’re lazy, all they do is sleep, they’re not as fun as younger pets.  I think, perhaps, before experiencing living with a senior dog myself I may have, at least subconsciously, bought into those notions myself.  I’m sure some senior pets are quite lazy, and so would make amazing companions for less active people.  I wouldn’t, however, call my Kitsune lazy!  He’s not quite as crazy as he was as a puppy, sure, but I’d describe it more as him developing an (appropriate) off-switch more so than becoming lazy.

Kitsune, at almost 14, is the perfect combination of snuggles and fun!  He’s very happy to spend a rainy day snuggled up inside with us, something that would have been a struggle for him when he was younger.  He’s just as happy spending time with us outdoors.  He still loves exploring the woods with me, chasing (but never actually catching) squirrels and birds, and playing with our younger dog, Fenrir.  In fact, Kitsune oftentimes still outplays Fenrir, despite Kit being 6 years Fen’s senior.  Kit even still humors my love of mischievous pets by getting into a bit of trouble every now and then.

Old dogs SO CAN learn new tricks! 

I feel like I can’t emphasize that enough.

As Kit has gotten older,  I’ve found myself having to foray into some lower impact activities with him.  Especially now that he has IVDD, he may not be able to run around and jump quite like he did when he was a puppy.  But that doesn’t mean his mind has slowed down any!  We do nose work together, a completely new (to us) dog sport that Kitsune learned entirely in his senior years!  More recently, since we moved onto a 5 acre wooded property a bit over a year ago now, I’ve been training Kit to find deer sheds (antlers).

senior dog

You can 100% still have fun with a senior dog!  Sometimes that fun may be at a slower pace, and we may have to accommodate a bit to match our dogs changing abilities, but none of that means that you and your senior pet can’t still have fun together.

senior dog My Kitsune still does silly, goofy things every singly day.  He makes me laugh all the time.  Watching him run around and play now, I’d say, brings me even more joy than it did when he was a puppy.  His snuggles are sweeter too.  He knows exactly the perfect spot to snuggle up next to me in bed at night – that spot by my legs where we can lay touching each other, but I can still maneuver around him without kicking him in my sleep.  I know, by just the tone of his bark, whether he wants food, or attention, or help getting his annoying ‘little brother’ away from him.  Despite his propensity to be loud and boisterous, he somehow always knows when what I need most in the world is a quiet, warm snuggle.

So no, caring for a senior pet, as with any pet, is not all fun and snuggles.  It’s stressful at times.  Heartbreaking at others.  Yes, it can be expensive too.  But I wouldn’t trade my Kitsune for any puppy.  Senior dogs are amazing, and it took living with one for me to finally realize just how much so.

I couldn’t find who to attribute this quote to, but the sentiment rings so true for me…. “I love puppies, but there is nothing like the sweet soul of an old dog”.

If you’re ready to adopt a pet of your own, please try to remember not to overlook senior animals just because of their age!  Remember that old age is not a disease.  Senior pets need love too, and they have so, so much of it to give back in return. 

senior dog

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  • Reply Britt K November 15, 2020 at 9:54 am

    I will admit that I had considered senior dogs to be low energy and ‘lazy’ until my girl Daviana grew up. She’s 12 now and has the energy of a young pup. In fact, when we go places, people are always shocked to hear how old she actually is. It has definitely changed my outlook.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack November 17, 2020 at 3:34 pm

      That sounds so similar to my experiences with Kit. In our case, Kit is starting to get a bit white around the face, but most people are still surprised when they hear his age – especially when he’s busy running circles around their, usually much younger, dog lol.

  • Reply Sadie November 15, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing this post. As mom to FOUR senior companions, I can attest (x 4 ) to them being the perfect combination of cuddles and fun. Although, with four, the fun can be a bit crazy, and the cuddles often leave me trying to find space, even in a king-sized bed!

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack November 17, 2020 at 3:38 pm

      I feel like I can somehow relate, despite the fact that I only have two small dogs. Yet I still find myself without any space in bed on a nightly bases!

  • Reply Beth November 15, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    I think you are right, a lot of people are hesitant to adopt an older dog because they worry about the dog’s energy level and possible medical bills. My dogs are all over ten years old and still have fun playing and thankfully, are in good health.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack November 17, 2020 at 3:40 pm

      That’s awesome! I have to admit that I have had more vet bills come up now that Kit is older, but he is 100% worth every penny. You never know what’s going to happen too. Puppies hurt themselves all the time and can sometimes be just as expensive, or more so, than an older dog.

  • Reply Marjorie @ Dash Kitten November 16, 2020 at 12:24 am

    Agree 1,000,000% about senior pets. Your Kitsune is a real super star and looks super cute (whatever his age!!!)

    I miss our Harvey who passed in June, very single day. He was a senior and a character. He was stubborn but we watched him grow in confidence after his adoption. The privilege is entirely ours when we adopt a senior pet.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack November 17, 2020 at 3:42 pm

      Aw thank you! I think he’s just the cutest, but of course I know I’m biased.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your Harvey. Loosing them is always, always the hardest part about sharing our lives with animals, but the amount of love they give while they’re here makes even the hard times so worth it.

  • Reply Jana Rade November 17, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    The saddest thing about senior dogs are the inevitable health issues that are bound to crop up. It becomes even more challenging when the dog decides to ignore the fast–keeping Cookie from hurting herself with too much enthusiasm is a daily struggle. Right now we are trying to get her elbows in a good shape.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack November 24, 2020 at 1:43 pm

      Health issues in senior dogs are tough to go through for sure, not to mention expensive. I always like to point out, though, that health isn’t a guarantee even in puppies, and we need to try our best to be prepared to to deal with medical issues in our pets, no matter what stage of life they’re in. I hope you find a solution that works well for Cookie!

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