Old Man Lucky is close to 15 years old. We feel really lucky (no pun intended) to have him around for our vacation this year. (It was last year at this time he was diagnosed with very serious and deadly heart disease and was given about 6 months to a year to live.)
I've been noticing some odd, but intriguing changes in the old man lately. If you've got a senior dog, you may be seeing some changes, too.
- Decreased patience. He begins to pace and whine in the evening about 5:00p – dinner time. If I'm not up and moving toward getting the dogs their dinner, he paces. And whines. Louder and louder. In his younger years, there was never any rush for dinner. Yes, he'd always be hungry, but never did he seem so impatient.
- He's a bit less gracious with his doggie social skills. He's always been the patriarch of this pack, but he's begun to break even the most basic social rules. If another dog is drinking water and he's thirsty, Lucky will barge in and begin drinking. I don't think he's trying to be a bully – that's not his nature – but I think he's losing the normal social graces due to declining mental ability.
While he's lost patience with dogs who live with him, he's gotten much better with dogs he doesn't know. I think part of it is because physically he knows he's no match for them. When my parents brought Copper home, he gave her a cursory sniff and never investigated her again.
- Ability to "hold it." Sometimes he doesn't make it to the door in time and he leaves little poops on the floor. He consistently leaks when he sleeps and needs a weekly bath to keep him clean and smelling good. We've got wood and tile floors, so there isn't anything we can't either pick or wipe up (and disinfect!). Of course, he's never scolded or reprimanded – he's an old man, after all and just can't help it.
There are, of course, the inevitable physical changes, too — his arthritis is horrible. When the cardiologist took x-rays of his heart, he couldn't believe that Lucky could still walk because some of his vertebrae are actually fused together. And our regular vet couldn't believe Lucky still chases the UPS truck (from safely behind our fence!). Lucky won't stop chasing kids and trucks and motorcycles until his heart stops! That's one of the things I love about him: his tenacity and dedication!
He can't hear very well anymore, which is actually nice sometimes because the neighbor kids can hoot and holler and Lucky doesn't even notice (he used to bark incessantly if kids were playing nearby). Thankfully, all our dogs know hand cues (in addition to verbal cues) for all their behaviors, so I can stil get Lucky to come, sit, or down when needed by using the appropriate hand cue.
And his vision is deteriorating as well. He's gotten rather "grabby" when taking treats. At first I thought it was a behavioral change related to his impatience, but the more I watch him, it's a visual deficit — I don't think he can judge depth very well and just doesn't know how far he needs to reach his neck to get to my hand.
As long as he's happy and not in pain, we're happy to have the crazy old man around. I use that term affectionately — he's earned the right to be a little eccentric, I think!