TRAVEL IN THE TWILIGHT YEARS (Musings about Travel and the Aging Dog)

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I see Tessi’s face becoming whiter and whiter. It’s hard to believe she‘s nine years old. My girl is a senior. It’s dawned on me for future journeys that I’ll plausibly have to take in consideration her elderly status. I’ve been noticing she isn’t as rambunctious on breaks during long car rides. There was a time she’d be wired from excessive sleep while en route. When set free, she would scamper about and run wildly unfocused. Now she runs nose to the ground with intent if there’s an intriguing smell or walks with casual interest of the unknown surroundings. Janet, a friend we made while on the road to Alberta last summer, commented to me that she finds her nine year old golden retriever, Max, is calmer these days. She tells me, “He used to be a wild thing, but now he (and I) are much more calm about life…and travel.”

Max at the Pet Pit Stop; Grenfell, Saskatchewan

She tells of a recent outing, when they hiked from her sister’s cottage in Georgian Bay: “We went with young people...went way too far up and down the rocks. It took a toll on Max and his feet. Thought I would have to carry him the last bit home. So remember how far you go...you have to come back!!”

What will Janet and I face in the future?

Most of the difficulties of the elderly haven’t occurred yet with Max and Tessi. What will Janet and I face in the future? The usual necessities and issues will likely magnify as their ages increase – sensitivities to food and water, for instance. A lot of dogs of any age, but especially older ones, can’t tolerate unaccustomed food. It’s recommended you bring theirs just in case it’s unavailable at your destination. And because each municipality’s tap water is treated differently, bottled water may prove a better choice. Since older bladders become weaker, there’s the need to increase the frequency of pit stops. A visit outside before retiring for the night will likely be required, too. Arrange for a room on the ground floor to make it easier for any middle of the night disruptions. Tessi’s bladder is still freakishly awesome. She’s in outstanding shape – though thickening a bit around the middle. Her eyesight is still efficient. Her hearing, despite being selective at times, still works. As her senses dwindle, I’ll have to be more careful with her, such as when I unleash her in new surroundings – she may not be as aware of what’s around her. And, at new, unknown places, it may prove to be more of a challenge for her to find her bearings. Tessi is comfortable with travel. Not all dogs are. Even younger ones have to adjust to a world beyond home, as Tessi once did. The aged - human and canine alike - become fussier and don’t adapt well to anything new. Even those that once enjoyed getting away may reach a point where they prefer to stay in their own cozy home. If our animal companions want to accompany us, bring a bit of home for them in their bedding, toys and other familiar items. For an elderly pooch unacquainted with travel, concerns can be discussed with his or her vet. It’s important to ensure our pets are healthy and fit enough to handle not only the physical challenges, but also the stress. Carry your pet’s medical records and scout out the location of a vet at your destination in case of an emergency. Touring the world beyond home can encompass meeting many people, children and other canines, especially at family-oriented destinations. Our four-legged companions, as they grow older, will likely be less tolerant, again depending what they’re used to. Tessi, being the social creature she is, still loves to meet others, though young exuberant dogs annoy her. In all ways, she’s still capable of enjoying life on the road. As her face turns more white than brown, we’ll just have to be more diligent in keeping it enjoyable. For Further Reading

 (c) Cheryl Smyth, 2013

Max the dog with Max the moose; Dryden, Ontario

   
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