My Old Dog

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My Frieda is old.   She’s probably 13 or 14 years old, but it’s not really about years.   Last week, if you asked me, I would have said Frieda was getting old.  But this week it’s different, something in her changed where she went from getting old to being old.  Signs of aging have been gradual, loss of hearing, excessive licking of her painful joints, difficulty getting up, not being able to take walks, having a hard time getting up the stairs, occasional loss of bowel control.  These things came on gradually and until now I saw them as normal old dog behavior.

A few weeks ago, I even tried to communicate with her.  I figured if I could do it with the donkeys I could surely do it with Frieda.  So I sat by her bed and held her head in my hands and in my mind asked her if she was in much pain, if she was ok or if she was done with all of this.  Then I opened my mind and heart to her and waited.  In moments, words came into my head.  “Leave me alone, I’m retired.”  Then I got an image of her enjoying food, not necessarily her dog food which she often leaves in her bowl, but the dog treats.  She’s actually become a treat hound as if it’s the only thing she’s still really interested in. (She gave up 0ne of her favorite things,  barking at people when they come in the house, over the summer).  So I decided to trust those words I heard and the image I saw.  It felt right to me.

Until yesterday.  And it’s hard for me to explain what happened.  It’s not like  she suddenly can’t make it up the stairs or stand up or anything like that, even though her old dog behavior is more pronounced.  It’s more like a change in her psyche.   Not something concrete I can name, but a sense of confusion coming from her to me.  As if a part of her, an essential part, is no longer there.   Frieda has always been a determined dog who knows what she wants and doesn’t want and lets everyone else know too.   Now it’s as  if she no longer knows what she wants and is just going through the motions.

Frieda is physically uncomfortable, probably in pain much of the time.  And her body is failing in obvious and measurable ways.  And it’s these things along with this new feeling, this communication that I’m getting from her that’s making me think about what happens next.  And I don’t think she’s ready to leave the earth just yet.  But now, I do believe that when she is ready I’ll know.  I’ll hear it, see it,  feel it or all three.  Because my bond with Frieda is that tight and I trust it completely.  In the past there were many things I didn’t want to know, so I hid from them, denied them, didn’t trust myself when I knew the truth.  But I have no intention of doing that with Frieda.   She’s been too good to me, we’ve been too good for each other to stop now.

 

 

 

49 thoughts on “My Old Dog

  1. Maria,
    I thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings on Frieda as we are going through extreme “old dog issues” with our dog Chester. I feel as if we waited too long to help him cross over. It is a gut-wrenching decision, so I have let him tell me. And he let me know that he is more than ready. We have made the appointment to help him along on Monday.
    Peace and blessings,
    Beth

  2. Maria, when I read your thoughts about Freida getting “old,” I think back when my previous Shelties, Holly and Stevie, got old. It seemed to come on so fast; maybe I didn’t want to see it, but then I did and it taught me something. There is a grace, a dignity that seems to come upon our older dogs. Not that it wasn’t there before, but it was in a different form. Their aging was something gentler, there was an ease about them that seemed to change. We were always close; they were always close, always together which is the way I will always see them. They gave me a gift, one of acceptance of their getting older. Now I look at what the world calls “Senior Dogs,” and I see them in a different light. It is as if they show their dignity and grace to the whole world as if to say,”Look at me, look closely at how I lived, what I’ve given and what I shared” as it will teach you something that only you can tell. I think you understand my thoughts.
    Freida has given you so much, even taught Jon so many things. She has been a gift that you have shared with us, sort of like the gift that “keeps on giving.” I celebrate her. I celebrate you for the relationship you have with her and I celebrate Jon for letting her bring the three of you together. Enjoy her as she continues, on her journey, to teach us all. Thank you for sharing.
    Have a wonderful, restful, loving vacation. You and Jon have earned it after all you’ve been through these past months.
    Fondly,
    Jane

  3. Best wishes to you and Frieda. You will know what to do when the time is right for her and for you.
    Love to you,
    From Fran
    (You can’t see my tears, but they are there).

  4. God bless you and Freida. Faithful friends to the end. Thanks Maria for taking such good care of her. You provide so much love

  5. Maria – I know just how you are feeling, as I went through something similar with both my dog, Pepper, and my mom. I have come to believe that some animals and some people reach a point where they wander or float between this world and the next. To me,it appears that time helps them accept leaving and makes their passage more peaceful in the end. I’m sure that Frieda will let you know what she wants you to do. She trusts you more than she trusts anyone.

    1. The idea of floating between the worlds seems very real and very beautiful Victoria. I have seen it with people, but never recognized it in animals before.

  6. Sorry to hear that about Frieda. But you’re right, you’ll know when it’s time. I lost a cat last week and it was obvious when Archie went from “old with some things wrong” to “itsw time for that trip to the vet because he’s suddenly and obviously not going to get better.” Trust Frieda, she’ll let you know.

  7. Maria,

    I have the same connection with my old dog Stitch. Stitch has many of the signs of aging you describe. I have promised him I will never keep him here for me. Tjatbinwill let him go when the time is right for him. Just recently I knew it was time to ask him what he wanted. I sat with him, stilled my mind and heart and asked him if he was ready to leave this world. Then I waited. I got very clear images of him running and playing; eating treats and sleeping restfully and being brushed. I know he was saying, not yet.

    And, over the next few days he perked up considerably. He’s actively playing with our other dog again and excitedly going for walks. It’s all slower and quieter, but he seems to be happy and as comfortable as he can be. When he slows again, I’ll ask ask again. And whatever answer I get is the one I will follow. It is his life, notice and I will honor his decision. For that is the best way to love him.

    Thank you for your thoughtful writing.

  8. Good morning, Maria,
    I went through a similar experience with my Annie. She was fine in early June but July was brutally rough sledding for her. We euthanized her on the first Sunday in August, as we could no longer carry her up the 2 stairs to the Airstream. She was 140#. Quite a load. The confusion – you sensed with Freida as experiencing -was very real to me as well (with Annie). I believe the dogs miss their old persona, their confusion is in the not doing, not being, their old life is mourned, perhaps?! It is a funk more than a depression, I think.

    You will absolutely know when it is time. There is no mistaking it. I hope you are able to continue your work with her. Communicating, I mean. As always, hugs from Eugene, OR. LT

  9. Oh, Maria… I just did this two weeks ago with a 13 y/o GSD. It was a while in coming… the past year had been hard for him, but he still enjoyed his food, his tennis ball, and being with us. Then it became different. He was anxious, worried about his incontinence, startling easily due to deafness and generally feeling embarrassed. I know, I know, all “human emotions” I attributed to him, but he “told” me about them. I didn’t realize that until I read what you just wrote. My thoughts are with you… this is not an easy time.

  10. So beautiful Maria! That is the bond I had with Dave. I still think i ignored the signs for a bit bc he really struggled to be there for me. I think it is so great to be open to any message you receive from her bc it is so hard to let ourselves see it. You are being strong and honest…that is so hard sometimes:)

  11. I am almost finished with Second Chance Dog – what a wonderful story – Freida is so very lucky that you came into her life. God Bless ~ Teresa

  12. I love all of the comments that have been left for you, and I feel like I have learned some things from them. I have no advice to give because I feel, like others, that you will know when it is time. I only hope that are you are providing her daily with something that will relieve some of the aches and pains she feels from her arthritis or whatever. It may buy her some time and definitely some comfort.

  13. Thinking of you…we are going through this with our 15.5 yr. old brittany mix (a rescue), Biscuit. We will relish the time we have with her, and when that quality of her life is not there, we will help her cross the Bridge. It’s the best gift we can give her. (((HUGS)))

  14. I feel your pain along with Frieda’s. This is the very hardest part of loving a dog. I have been through it. When that time came for my 16 yr.old Robbie, I knew for sure he was so ready to go. In fact, often think maybe I should have helped him on his way sooner. But on that one day, there was no question. My heart was torn in two, but it was time. I am sure Frieda will tell you as well. Dogs are so wise. And when she does, I pray for strength and peace for you.

    Hugs,
    ~Trella

  15. Dear Maria,

    What a beautiful tribute to a faithful companion. Your effort to really hear and understand her touched me greatly. Our furry companions communicate with us without words, and your communication with Frieda you described beautifully. Sharing this with the world helps people understand that we do “speak” with our animal companions on a different plane. You touched not only her heart, but her spirit. She couldn’t ask for a better human to be with her at this time.

    Blessings,

    Kathleen

  16. We have an old Lab, Luna, and we put to sleep her best friend, Rascal, in late Spring. She has been through some days where she is so removed from us. She too struggles to get up and walk but, boy, she still enjoys her slow, slow walks. All these beautiful, heartfelt comments resonate with me. Thank you all for your insights and thank you Maria for your writing.

  17. Maria, this is exactly how my very first dog Buddy told us he was feeling last year. So incredibly put into words. We had a wonderful vet to our home and he ate liver treats and passed in our arm. Beautiful Frieda and you have a tremendous love. Good luck….

  18. Everyone has replied so eloquently, Maria, that I can add
    nothing new. This is such a hard time that comes
    to all who love dogs (and cats). You and Frieda
    are a truly bonded pair, and she has loved you
    and protected you from day one.
    A bond like that becomes intuitive. And so it is with
    you both. And that is why you will hear her when she
    finally asks for help.
    Love to you both, right now and in the days to
    come.

  19. Kindred souls, you and Frieda. Keep listening, as you do so well. Be present for her now, in this slowing-down time, and remember that she will always be present with you, whether in physical or spirit form.
    My thoughts are with you, Maria, as you and Frieda make this journey.

  20. I am reminded of something a hospice nurse friend of mine said – that this journey to the next life is not ours, but if we are lucky, we can have the opportunity to witness and be a part of it. (You can’t see my tears either, but they are there. She looks so much like my own rottie). Bless you and sweet Frieda.

  21. Thank you so much for sharing…..reading it was de’javu for me….I had to make a hard decision for my girl 2 weeks ago….I lovingly referred to her as an 85-year old…she was 14 but feeling every bit of it in her body…been missing her today quite a lot….my only consolation- she was an 85 year old, and that’s just the way of things..I miss her every day, she had such a joy for life as long as I was by her side.

  22. Thank you for sharing in such a straight forward, yet sensitive manner. This post is filled with emotion, yet not hysteria. Thanks.

    Your words remind of something some one tried to teach me two years ago…When an animal gets ready to leave this earth (in a somewhat planned manner due to illness or age – not sudden tragedy) their spirit literally lightens (not in the happy light kind of way-in the fading kind of way). They begin to ‘be of another world’ and yet still of this world, too. It’s part of ‘the transition’. It can happen months, weeks or days before they die. I know some people won’t believe that and I am still exploiting/trying to understand what it really means. When I read your words though that is instantly what I thought of.

    Peace and love to you and Freida. Peace and love…
    Always,
    Lisa

  23. Maria, I am so sad for you. We are losing our wonderful, gentle, sweet GSD Emma soon. She has cancer and the tumor is in her mouth. There are still glimpses of the younger dog and she so loves our grand kids and comes alive when they are over. I just can’t bear it and I don’t know how to ‘know’ when the time is. It’s so sad. We love her so much.

  24. My heart goes out to you and Frieda both, Maria – you are honoring her and your mutual love by facing the reality and being emotionally present as she prepares to leave this world. It is the greatest honor to one we love. You and Frieda are soul spirits and I wish you both peace and love in this transition.

  25. I’m sitting with tears running down my cheeks. These furry friends are so precious to us. I’ve had to say “Goodbye” to numerous dogs and now my Libby is not doing well but she is not that old. I will try to listen to her and find out what is troubling her. I think about you and Frieda and can understand.

  26. Maria, Jon’s book, The Second Chance Dog, told the story of Frieda and you in such a beautiful and eloquent way that I felt a strong connection to all three of you. While I am a cat owner, I’ve been through this passage with many pets. It hits me hard each time, but I feel so glad to be able to honor their lives and spare them pain. As I’ve grown older myself, that, too, changes the experience. You described your communication with Frieda so beautifully. Warm thoughts to you on this journey with Frieda and best wishes for a restorative time away.

  27. Such beautiful, and comforting thoughts from everyone.
    I can only add that I am thinking of you and Frieda, and your amazing life together, and because of the bond that you share,
    you will know when it is time…….
    Love to you both.

  28. Maria, this happened to my dog, Sammy. You may remember I sent you a picture of dear Sammy with one of your streaming pieces that I purchased. He was just beginning to fail. And, it was more than “old dog” issues. He had lost the essence of who he is. I had him for 15 years, and he was at least 17. But such a good dog, faithful and true. When I put him down one week ago, I stayed until his spirit left his body, and then wailed with sorrow. What the head knows and the heart feels are often at odds with one another…but it was the best decision for us.
    I wish you well with your decision. You will know, Frieda will tell you. My thoughts are with you, Dear Heart.

  29. Maria,

    Enjoy your vacation with your husband. And when you return, my hope is that you have a little more time with Freida. I am writing this through tears. I know how painful it can be… What a wonderful relationship that you and Freida have. Something never to be forgotten.

    Kathy P.

  30. My Nitro-Boy (13yrs.4 months) is slowly walking his winter journey. I can’t but think of Freida and Nitro on the path together. My heart follows them both and tries not to think beyond today. Thank you for sharing. xo

  31. Maria, you and Frieda have such a beautiful and loving relationship. I hope that the next time we face this time in our dog’s life that we can do it with the grace and compassion and love that you and Jon show. I hope your vacation will be restful, enjoyable and energizing.

  32. Dear Maria,
    I’ve experienced the same and am reminded of my 15 year old Standard Poodle, Louie III. He let me know two weeks after his Birthday Party where he strutted around in a gold sequined cape and ate salmon cake. Your beautiful post and all the others I feel honored to read help me appreciate even more my three doggies and the time that we have right now. My past and current dogs and cats teach me how to love and then how to let go. They are my best teachers. My thoughts and prayers are going out to you, Jon, and FREIDA. Love, Barbara

  33. There is nothing so sweet, so wise as an old dog. Blessings to you as you enter this space. I’m certain Frieda will guide you.

  34. Hi Maria, I’ve been putting off reading this post,as you can imagine.I want to say what everyone else has said to you. This brings me back to the day I was giving my 14 year old sweet Yorkie his s.q. fluids. He was in my lap and my spirit connected to his. I asked him how he was and he looked up at me and his spirit said, “No more.”
    Sending a heart full of Maverick love to Frieda and to you. 🙂
    Cindy

  35. When I read Jon’s book, The Second Chance Dog, I fell in love with Frieda… and you… and Jon. To have loved so powerfully and connected so wholly with each other and the “hell dog” is an amazing and inspirational gift to all of us. I’ve no doubt that you and Jon will celebrate Frieda to her end and beyond; Frieda will live on in many, many hearts (mine included). Please give Frieda a kiss for me and tell her I love her — we all do. I’m sending a virtual hug your way, too. I believe in you. Always have. Always will. Your heart knows the way.

  36. Oh, Maria, this is so hard to bear! My Ellie looked so much like your Frieda! I know I have been more connected to Frieda in my mind and heart than I have any right or good sense to be. It is so wonderful that you are so willing to give Frieda up to the next life at the right time in the right way. I have foolishly been thinking that a dog so strong and who had survived as much as Frieda would live many more years and the pain of her separation from you and this life (and from me)would be put off indefinitely. HOW I LOVE THIE PIC JON POSTED OF YOU AND FRIEDA!! Annie

  37. On Jan 30th of 2013 I had to let our Koji get his wings….He did know it was time and rather than have us suffer with him through the last stages of kidney failure he chose another route and yes…I did know that on that evening before I would be giving him the biggest ‘gift’ I could for all the ‘gifts’ that he gave to me and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he knew I knew he had to leave his earthly body and become a true ‘SPIRIT’ and has been with me ever since. We know he is here….they have ways to intuit that to us and you feel them near…your heart shifts and tho no words are ever spoken you continue to receive their messages of love. I pray that you will know and I’m sure that your Frieda will communicate to you as only she can. Prayers and blessings for you all. Be sure to sit quietly on the days that follow for her to revisit you and then in the days and years that follow know that she will make you laugh, cry and jump with joy as she continues to send you ‘gifts’. The following is a post that we shared when Koji chose to leave..

    For Koji (1999-2013)

    Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you…I loved you so…it was Heaven here with you (Isla Paschal Richardson)

    Today I gave my Koji his final gift from us….he has his wings and he is getting used to them around the house…..Miko our rescue silky terrier keeps talking to the air in the rooms about the house….I know from experience that his spirit will stay until he knows I’m okay and I so do appreciate that in our beloved companions…always thinking of us first….Last Friday Koji was outside with his dad and brother when a neighbor and their dog approached the space in the street in front of our home….as is always the case….the two of them let out across the yard with lightening speed and a loud announcement that they are on duty, along the fence, around the water garden and finally reaching the gate in the driveway where they always greet their canine buddies….of course we are always primed with treats and the dogs make our yard a daily stopover of sorts….some several times a day…..Koji ended up with resultant injury to his rear leg and has not been able to use it….he became an arithmetic dog “put down three and carry one”….we spent the days since visiting the chiropractor but the use of his leg was not improving….given his medical verdict of last Tuesday….I knew only too well that Koji had yet again realized how extremely difficult it was going to be for us to watch him decline with his ‘Kidney Failure issue, the loss of muscle mass which made it difficult lately for him to get around and his diagnosed COPD along with an enlarged liver/spleen cataracts’ (he knew we would be in for the long haul and he was not going to ask us to anti up for that tour of duty)….so he chose to have one last run for his life with his brother…..Last night I spent holding him and loving him as only I could do and as only he would graciously accept….we talked and snoozed in each others arms and I knew that he knew that I was going to have to give him a final gift of release to God…..his spirit was strong but his body was weak….I knew this and I knew that he chose that injury so that he would get the gift of our love one more time as he did not want to see us suffer through his illness…..I do believe that dogs do know what to do for us….they connect through our hearts….let anyone who has loved a dog argue this point….when we finally rose from the comfort of each other at 7:00am and I told my husband that I had promised Koji that today we would let him have his wings…..he always flew around the yard at break neck speed and in fact the sign on the front fence stated that “I can make it to the fence in .3 seconds…can you”…..but he was a love….never hurt a fly….but killed a few rats, a couple of mice…one of which he sat in front of the refrigerator from 8 in the am til 5pm tip he finally got it, has shortened a few squirrel tails and argued with a skunk on one occasion and lost….so he was a ‘terrier’ through and through….gee I do hope that they have rodents in doggie heaven….why they’ve got to…..After morning breakfast and tea we took the boys to Burying Hill Beach here in Westport CT and this was one of his favorite spots…as we neared the area I lowered the window and he took long deep healing breaths of the sea air…he was excited and licked my face with a frenzy….we stepped out into the sea fog and he was home…..he loved for me to pick up a handful of pebbles and throw them high into the air while he leapt with joy into the air while barking and spinning around….this was his trick and it always made folks laugh….bit of a clown he was….and he would walk into the water no matter what time of year up to his chest and bark at the waves….salt water always made his hair beautifully soft and shinny…..we walked to the waters edge and sat down looking out into the foggy mist while the wave broke in front of us just rolling up to our feet…..I looked down to the left and there lay a beach stone in the shape of a heart…..I knew Koji had orchestrated that one too and that we were on the same page….a gift from the sea to us in memory of our beloved Koji…..later we walked the beach…him bundled in his red pouch in my arms and we gathered beach glass and pretty pebbles and sea finds as we always did but this time he needed me to carry him…..we walked out to the jetty with all the gulls and within 6-7 feet and Koji was intent on connecting to them….he must have said that he was getting wings later like they had….a couple of them jumped into the air as if to show Koji how it was done and they gently returned to their favorite piling…..one last event was to taste the sea on my finger for one last time…..after this we rode with the window down to freshen up and it was off to the ‘trout brook’ another of Koji’s favorite spots in the spring, summer, early fall when the beach is ‘off limits’ to ‘four legged dog people’….Koji and I squatted by the stream and tossed some rocks into the water…..and again he barked with joy for this is what we did….we arrived home and we walked the property and visited with ‘Shogun’ his other brother who got his wings 5 years ago….we checked everything out for good measure and then it was onto the front yard which needed his last going over with a special trip outside the fenced yard to the garden in front where all the passing dogs leave their calling cards….I put Koji down and he was only too happy to ‘read the news’ of who had been by and I knew that he was appreciative that he could leave one last card of his own for everyone to know that he was still ‘The King’……our final spot was to sit in the rocking chair on the front steps and survey the neighborhood and as we sat overhead flew a vulture….the sign of Purification–death and rebirth–new vision…(in the book ‘Animal Speak by Ted Andrews he says “Communion with the Spirits and soaring above our limitations and that the vultures are links to the ancient griffin. The griffin was often given the features of a variety of animals, but it was always a protector, particularly of Nature and all of her spirits…To encounter a griffin was to meet a guardian of sky and earth and usually meant that great magic and power would awaken within our own life.”) I definitely saw Koji as a guardian spirit and I pray that this sign given on behalf of Koji means that I will have the Magic and Power of Koji’s spirit with me always…Koji was happy all night and all morning because he knew I understood and would grant him his wish even if it meant I would never feel his warm licks again and he showed me by constantly licking my face all night and all morning….he was thanking me for understanding that he needed to rest and be free from any form of hinderance, pain or suffering and that he wanted dignity in his life….and he knew that we would support him….When Koji took his last look about it was from the back of the couch in the living room looking out onto the yard and street where he spend his days watching the world go by….he so loved that we put a magic mesh screen on the front door this summer and he could come and go at his leisure….but when cool weather arrived you could find him sitting on his cushion on the front steps patrolling for anything of interest…..he never was able to get a chipmunk and they tortured him running up the steps and leaping off through the rail putting the Koj in hot pursuit but giving them ample time to dive into a nearby hole…..for some reason I believe he knew I had a fondness for them and he valued that in particular….oh he dug a few holes to china but hey he was ‘The King’……Koji finally found his resting place where he always felt loved and protected in my arms….with Animal Healing music playing softly, candles lit, treasures laid about (stones, crystals, feathers, beach finds, he looked lovingly and thankfully into my eyes, kissed me until his kisses were no more and grabbed his wings at 12:48pm……Our Koji knew what he was all about and he was a gift to the Universe….he shared his life with us and we shared ours with him….but he has miles to go before he sleeps and with his new wings I am sure he will be soaring in no time……We will miss Koji terribly…but we knew when we contracted with him to be his guardians and he was to teach us how to be better people and to evolve to a higher plane and that when his job was done sufficiently that he would need to leave…..this is the choice that they have made and unfortunately for us they don’t live long enough…..but they have no concept of time or death and they never complain, taking everything in stride….only asking us to love them beyond belief (which we all do) and to treat them with honor and respect….they know best what is in the stars for them and we are the ones who are thankful that they chose us to love….There has been so much to the life of this special little dog and perhaps there is a book in here who knows….he certainly had a lot to say to me and he did make me listen…no doubt of that….his wisdom and actions have given me so many learned lessons and I will be forever grateful to him……For Koji I now wish to ask a prayer for a most benevolent outcome for him…..thank you AMEN…….Gods speed, you fly like an angel because you are are our ANGEL….Love you lots Mom and Dad and Miko XOXOXOXO See you on the trail Champ……

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