old dog new tricks
Bitch’in Life, My Bitches

How to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and growth.” ~ Betty Friedan

“I look forward to being older, when what you look like becomes less and less an issue and what you are is the point.” ~ Susan Sarandon

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I dug up these affirming quotes from some badass bitches to give my own bitch some strength this week.

And by my own bitch, I am being literal here: my 10-year-old dog is finally showing sure signs that she’s slowing down.

Perhaps it takes an aging bitch to know an aging bitch, but I first notice the shift months ago, when in a moment of extreme bonding where I was lovingly staring into her eyes, I noticed a touch of cloudiness.

That I had to put on my readers to check I wasn’t seeing things was beside the point.

Or maybe that was the whole point.

I’d already noted how much white was now peppering her ginger fur, and had actually Googled “pet dye” just in case she wanted to maintain a youthful pelt as I do. I could see that I’d have even more fun as a blonde if my best friend went for matching highlights.

Less fun was the number of times she was getting up to pee in the middle of the night. Let’s just say she had me beat, and that was no easy feat.

Exhausted, limping and refusing to jump up to cuddle in bed, it was becoming noticeable that the bitch was no longer a baby.

(Can you tell if I’m talking about my dog or about myself? Yup, me neither.)

But it was the relentless itching that finally drove me to take her to the vet. Hers, not mine, although we both grapple with dry skin. Sadly for her, she can’t just slather on some fancy pants wrinkle cream like I can. (I’m not saying I do — I just am saying I CAN.)

As I waited for the diagnosis, part of me wanted to believe that nothing was changing, and she was the same little puppy that we brought home nine years ago.

But who among us really feels our age? In fact, lately I’ve been feeling more like a teenager than perhaps I did as an actual teen.

The urge to rebel is running high right now — call it hormones, call it a second adolescence, call it what you will — but all I know is that something’s up and I like it and hate it at the very same time. (Hullo, maybe it IS Return of the Teen Terror!)

When the vet came back and asked to do X-rays and blood work, I wasn’t surprised. The indignities of aging aren’t reserved for mere mortals.

A little shocking, however, was the new regime for my bitch of a certain age: doggie Glucosamine for her stiff joints, Rimadyl for arthritic inflammation, Tramadol for her pain and to help her sleep, and a thyroid pill.

Is it strange that I had an urge to share all of her meds?

While pill popping could be considered a new trick, it’s too depressing to think that’s all there is.

Lucky for me, I didn’t have to watch my “senior dog” (UGH, gasp, NO) in her new routine, as I had to take my daughter to a weekend softball tournament in San Diego.

This was a welcome respite not just in the getting away part, but I also had planned a meet-up with one of my BBFs (Best Bastards Forever) — an old camp friend that runs a super successful bi-coastal dog walking biz.

The dude was once “International Pet Sitter of the Year,” so I figured I could pick his brain about how to help my bitch get back to having a little more pep in her step. Or at least spin back the canine clock so that we could romp and play like the old days.

But from the minute I saw him, I was personally transported back to my own youth, so the conversation never managed to get to the care and feeding of senior dogs (GAG, spit, NO).

And while I was conscious that having breakfast with someone I hadn’t seen in about 30 years(!) was in and of itself something that could potentially make me feel old, there was none of that.

We didn’t do a whole lot of memory lane stuff — although I’m not nearly as traumatized by nostalgia as I once was.

What we did talk a lot about were all the things that make us feel alive — hopes, dreams, desires and goals… as well as gaffes, missteps, and false starts that we’ve both experienced.

Not just in the way distant past, but right in the very present moment.

The truth is, we both have a lot of fresh new tricks up our sleeves, just waiting to launch.

The difference between back in the day and now is that our plays are backed.

We’ve seen the ball thrown enough times to know what’s worth fetching… and when time’s better spent taking a nap.

And there was great pleasure in seeing how the indignities of youth were wiped clean by the wisdom that comes with getting a bit older. Well, sort of…

Things is, we both reject the thought that we’re “grown up.”

Because dog lovers like us know that you don’t stop playing because you grow old — you grow old when you stop playing.

The day after I got home from San Diego, I took my bitch and her bastard (my other dog, years younger than she so YAASS, my bitch is also a cougar) for their morning walk. The bastard has a tendency to run full-stop out the front door, leaving us all in the dust.

But this time, which was for the first time ever, the elder among us body slammed him and me out of the way and took the lead in the pack.

Old dog, new trick.

And while it was a bit of a bitch move, I’d prefer to salute her for taking charge in a confident manner that only comes with age. It is also possible she saw a squirrel — but that’s what we call an incentive, which we can all use to conquer a new skill at any phase of life.

So if you see my bitch and me popping a few pills and heading out for a 10-mile hike, just know that youth has no age (sez Pablo Picasso), and there’s nothing wrong with a little better living through chemistry (sez EVERYONE. Well, me at least…)

Also: the best way to teach an old dog new tricks is to STOP FREAKIN’ CALLING HER OR HIM OLD!

<<Insert HOWL here>>

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