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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Putting Pep in Your Senior Dog's Step

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
Finding Your Senior's Inner Puppy
If you're familiar with horses, you may know that your ride is likely to be more energetic on the way back to the barn than it was as you left the barn. Unlike dogs, horses enjoy the thrill of knowing the end of the walk or ride is near. Horses love the barn for friends, food, family, and familiarity.

Our dogs are quite the opposite. They need--actually thrive on--excitement, new and different experiences, and problems to solve. Unlike horses, they are rarely fearful of the noises or flickering sunlight on the leaves; dogs love these things and enjoy figuring out where they come from and what they can do with them to make the day even more exciting.

As a result, our dogs tend to have stored up energy at the beginning of the walk that means you may need to step up your pace to keep up with Fido for quite a ways. Take Tanner, for example. He's just now beginning to show signs of slowing down, but only on the return trip. As we leave the house my arm needs to be solidly in its socket and I must always remember to ask Tanner to sit as we exit the house, allowing me to lock up and store my supplies before we take off. That departure is sometimes much like a jet.

Fast forward to the point at which we turn back toward the house and everything changes. While Tanner's pace used to remain the same and required multiple walks, bike rides and swims each day, he now is beginning to show his age and will pace himself on the return trip. Some days I think this is simply his way of telling me he wishes we would continue the exploration, while other days it is very clear that he is just plain tired. We had one of those today and I was ready.

We walked during the mid-afternoon when the sun was bright and there was a beautiful, cool breeze. No complaints about being overly hot or freezing cold. As Tanner began to lag behind, I slowed down to mimic his baby steps. This confused the tar out of him and at one point he stopped and looked up at me as if to say, "Where's the pep in your step?" I ignored him and slowed down a tweak more. 

As Tanner became more confused his problem-solving skills went to work. I guess he decided he needed to take the lead in order to speed up the process of getting home to his post-walk treat and a fresh bowl of water. That's what I was waiting for--him to step up and show me what he could do. Yay Tanner!

And there's more. Just before we turned the corner to re-enter our neighborhood, some flickery sunshine under a group of large shade trees caught Tanner's eye. He was curious, yet knew that home was not far. He seemed ready to let this one go and continue on. I held back and asked him to investigate. I wanted him to be reminded of what his curiosity brings him--joy, fun, excitement, and playfulness.

Tanner lost himself in chasing the lights as they flickered through the leaves, filtering and moving without warning. He danced, pounced, and bobbed around the area, totally enjoying this experience with complete abandon. Suddenly he appeared to be a puppy again. 

After he exhausted himself in play, we headed home, eager to see Oliver who was napping off a day of doctor's appointments and shopping with Grandma. At the door, I squatted and took Tanner's face in my hands. I looked him in the eyes and told him he would always be my puppy. I took a vow to myself to find new and different ways to help him find his energy when it is lost after a long walk. And yes, I have more #SilverSlippers ideas that will be coming soon to the #WeeklyWag. Please share yours below....

Grab your #SilverSlippers and let's get walking,

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