You can teach an old dog new tricks!
So passionately written by Sharon Rogers, doggy Mum to Heidi
I have to stress here before I go on that Heidi was NOT unloved or neglected by her owner – she had been living the past 10 years with a 90 year old lady who could no longer manage her care and there wasn’t any family who were able to take her.
Heidi first came to us as a Holiday Care Dog – we already had 2 dogs for holiday care plus our own 2 dogs but Heidi needed to come due to circumstances and so for a week we had 5 dogs!! Heidi was no trouble at all and was with us for about a month – she was very much a dog that showed no emotion at all, she was a bit of a loner and didn’t mix with the other dogs – she just went along with whatever was happening – used the doggy door, went to bed and stayed there all night, went on excursions with us etc. all the time no emotion or excitement but that was her personality at the time.
Heidi went back to her owner at the Retirement village for about a month or so before the family decided that her owner was no longer able to look after her – they had asked us if we would take her and my husband was very keen – I wanted to make sure our Jack Russell would be nice so we said when they needed to make the decision go through Moving Paws again and we would have her as a foster with the intent to keep her. Her owner was very upset when I collected her from the home because she loved her and Heidi had been her late husband’s dog – I assured her we would love her and she would be part of our family!
Heidi came home and settled in – she was a very clever dog – she knew the “pecking order” – don’t mess with the feisty Jack Russell bitch – give way at all times LOL!! No problems with the gentle giant Chocolate Labrador just watch out for his tail wagging and getting whacked in the face!
We have our own business which at times allows us to take our dogs and involve them – quite a few years ago we had a special “cage” made for the back of our ute to serve 2 purposes – lock our gear in but also allow us to transport our 2 labradors that we originally had. We had a ramp made up so it was easy for the dogs to get up! We often get asked if we are the dog catcher with our mismatched lot of dogs we are always carting around! Heidi loved the wind in her face and being able to look around at everything and smell everything. She loved the beach – don’t think she had ever been before, going to the dog park, running around the lawn tennis courts we look after, going to the dump – all sorts of exciting adventures – even camping in a Winnebago for a week while we worked in the country!
Slowly Heidi’s personality changed – she showed emotion, she got excited, she trotted around with more attitude and interest, she literally ran around, she lept in the air when I got home from a long day at work and zoomed around the house in excitement, she became a pack dog and learnt to sit with our other dogs and want to be with us and not so solitary, she wanted to go out for excursions and fun all the time, she followed our Jack Russell around – she became a totally different dog! And she had never made a sound whilst with us initially but she learnt to BARK and express herself – she would sit looking out the front door and bark at people and dogs – you cannot imagine the sheer joy I felt when I first heard her bark – she had found her voice - thanks of course to the Jack Russell resident guard dog who I think gave her the concept of barking!!
I need to mention that taking on a Senior Dog can be just as much fun as a puppy/younger dog – we were fully aware that an older dog is of course not getting any younger and would be more likely to have health issues etc but to us that was not any problem – we love our dogs and do whatever is needed – our Labrador Chewbacca is 12 and Jack Russell Bernie 10 and Westie Heidi over 12 - all geriatrics! Heidi was deaf so we learnt ways of getting her attention but we never let her out of our sight because she learnt to move quickly and she would be gone in a flash! And soon after we adopted her we found out she had a bad heart condition – her heart would literally stop beating every so often which led to her passing out for brief moments and having small fits. At one point we discussed a pace maker but medication managed to cut down the passing out episodes for awhile – so twice a day she was on medication and we always kept an eye on her – she was happy and not in pain so we took that! Never ever did we feel this was too hard to deal with or not worth the effort - we would have done whatever was needed for her – she was having the best possible life with us and although we knew it wasn’t going to be a long life we gained so much satisfaction just watching her live life!
You know the saying: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”?? Well don’t you believe it!!! I can prove with 2 dogs that this is not the case – firstly the change in Heidi just from leading a different life and experiencing so many new things and secondly our feisty little Jack Russell “Bernie” who has intensely disliked other dogs in the past ended up watching over Heidi and going up to her when she was having a “passing out” moment to make sure she was okay, waking her up in the morning when due to her deafness she couldn’t hear us all getting out of bed and even whilst camping getting into the same bed as Heidi – never in my life would I have believed that!!
We lost Heidi today – her heart gave out and we are shattered – she went to sleep in her bed – Bernie was with her watching over her until we realised. Our house feels strange without that funny little Westie!! One less happy face to greet us when we get home. We didn’t have her for long but she was part of our family. Yes we are sad but we are also so pleased with ourselves that we gave her the best possible finish to her life – there is no better satisfaction.
I want to say that Senior dogs ROCK!!!! They can be just like a young dog – they can show emotion and get excited, they will love you for what you do for them. Remember most seniors have been removed from the only home they have ever known but they can adapt to you and your home – you just have to show them love! So what if they have medical issues – just deal with them! Give them the best possible quality of life until the end – it’s not about quantity! Heidi is proof of that – she came to us August last year for Holiday care and has been with us as “our” dog since October of last year – we loved her and showed her the best time for 12 months – yes we wish it was more but it wasn’t to be. She passed away at home in her bed with her pack mates – she’s left a hole but there are no regrets for the life we gave her!
Please please don’t pass up a senior dog because you don’t think it’s worth it or too hard – they will reward you a hundredfold – they will make you laugh – they will teach YOU new tricks – they will love you unconditionally – they might not be here for long but they will touch your heart and have the best life possible!!!
Run free beautiful girl - always and forever x