When Thirteen is a Lucky Number

imageI wasn’t around when he was born. In fact, our paths didn’t cross until he was a bit over four. But I feel like he has been with me for a Very Long Time.

Finn turned thirteen today.

Until last year, he was defying any major signs of age. He was slowing down a bit on our hikes, particularly in the heat, but other than that, he hadn’t changed all that much except for a slight sprinkling of grey around the eyes.

Things have changed a bit over the last couple of months, though.

His body is getting lumpy, and we’ve had to biopsy and are “watching” a couple of these lumps. He has had a few episodes where he has lost his balance — perhaps a bit of Old Dog Vertigo (I am armed with proper meds now) or perhaps a bit of a “neurological event” (he now gets a small dose of baby aspirin every day) and we’ve had a couple of eVet visits. He has mild arthritis in his lower spine from what we think are possible puppy injuries (this is not new news, I’ve been aware of his lower back issues since I got him), which require regular laser sessions.

imageAnd then there’s the sleeping. This is a dog who used to come flying to me whenever I started to say a word that began with the letter w…(because every word that starts with the letter “w” was going to end with a “alk”) Now, often times, I have to wake him up to go on the last walk of the day. Sometimes, it’s only Lucy who greets me at the door when I come home. My heart skips a beat every time this happens, but thus far, I have found him dead asleep in his crate or the floor right in front of his crate — and I have to tap him on the shoulder to say hello to him.

Lest you think that Finn is an old, tottering dog…. some evidence that he is still very much young at heart…

1. Got a present the other day on a hike. Sometimes, if I go hiking really early in the morning, I will let me dogs off leash (most places I go there are leash rules and I tend to obey them). Guess who went back on a leash after bringing me a present that had a bushy tail on it? Gross. Thanks, Finn. Fortunately, “DROP ITTTTTTT” seems to be a command he still understands well. Especially if it is shrieked at the top of my lungs while I run away. (Lucy thought it was a game and started jumping up and down. NOT FUNNY, LUCY!)

2. I figured that, since Finn’s hearing is not so up to par, that I would brush up on my hand signals/commands. I use my arm strait up above my head as my down signal. Or I used to. Clearly, we had moved on from this signal meaning “down” to “give any raised hand a high five and you will be rewarded”. On my first test run to see if Finn remembered this hand signal, he came at me, full speed, leapt up and gave me a high five. And yes, he hit my hand with his paw. I was stunned, laughing, and worried about his back all at the same time. Unfortunately, I felt that it was only fair to reward this amazing effort (I think he knew I have a piece of liver in my hand) so he got the treat, further cementing the fact that a hand raised above my head meant I wanted a high five. (Don’t worry, trainers, I changed tactics on how I was going to “remind” Finn what that signal meant, and put it back on him with the leash on, then with less distance. I’ll try it across my apartment soon and report back.)

3. He’s still mentally as sharp as a tack. He is a manipulator extraordinaire with my parents. Yes, I DID make sure that Finn thought that going to my relatives to say hi was an extraordinarily good thing. But now, he has them buying imported Swiss cheese (gruyere is his favorite), poaching organic chicken (without salt, of course), and cooking “Finn’s (and Lucy’s) portion” of dinner (usually the protein that is being served, cooked without any salt or spices) every time I go over. And, my Mom peels carrots for him, too. (I just give it to him with the peel still on — you’ve seen what dogs want to eat off the streets, right?)

imageI am so lucky that I’ve had Finn’s best years. He is such good company on hikes (the occasional presents aside), he’s still trying for me, and he’s gracefully conceded the lieutenant dog position to his pesky little sister in the last year. (I remain top dog, although Lucy is vying for that position every day.)

Happy birthday to my Finn. You are my one and only.

PS Everyone go hug your dogs.

  1. Betsy said:

    What a lovely post Kei. It is so bittersweet as our dogs age. Our lives become so emeshed with them and I find as Lily gets older we have settled into this perfect relationship where each participant knows what the other will do and when.

    • I know, right? You work with them, they get to a good happy place, and then poof! They are old dogs.
      Here’s to keeping our dogs healthy, and for us to be strong enough to recognize it (without being too selfish — it’s going to be hard!) when it’s time.

  2. Sheila said:

    I loved this story. I had to put down my 15 year old Shadow a couple of months ago. This story reminded me of what I went though. Bittersweet.

  3. Cartervater (aka Ewa) said:

    Another bittersweet enjoyment of your lovely post. Carter made it to 12 years and finally his body decided enough was enough seven weeks ago. I so agree with your ‘go and hug your dogs’ command – I do this to every dog I see now!! Having said that, Carterboy loved his hugs and cuddles so we know he was always full of love ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for your lovely birthday round up! x

  4. Tina said:

    Lovely post and I know what you’re going through, I’m going through something similar with my baby. She’s slowing don but she still get spunky when there are treats involved ๐Ÿ™‚

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