Adjusting to an aging man’s best friend

You and me against the world pal….

I’m finding that sometimes it can be a little trying on the patience dealing with an older dog, but that’s my fault. After all, Jam can’t help getting older (he’s 12) but I can definitely do something about doing a little self-improvement in the patience area.

Just as an example? We live in a three-story older home. We’re not the Romneys so an in-house elevator or escalator has never been under discussion or consideration. Like most folks, we use the stairs. Me, my wife, Jam, and Pepper. Jam is the big dog, weighing in at close to 70 pounds, and a rescue dog from the Detroit Humane Society. We don’t know for sure, but by all indications he appears to be a Rhodesian Ridgeback, no doubt mixed in with who-knows what else. But when he growls or gets upset, you can see that ridge just pop up like a tiny mountain range of stiff hair right along his spine. But he gets upset so rarely that we hardly ever get a chance to see it.

Pepper, the smaller dog, is a rescue dog from the Detroit Dog Pound. He’s some kind of terrier, and that’s about as close as I can call it.

Kinda drifted off point there, so getting back to the house and the stairs and why that matters…? When we first moved into the house in 2003 Jam used to run up and down the stairs like it was nothing. It was great exercise for him and he loved it. But in recent years I’ve noticed him acting a little funny. It’s not that he can’t get up the stairs because he can, although he definitely doesn’t fly up and down like he used to. No, the more irritating problem is that sometimes when he’s upstairs and I’m downstairs, he acts like he’s afraid to come down the stairs unless I come all the way up to get him. Same thing for downstairs, although that’s only occasionally. Seems to depend on his mood. Sometimes he’ll whine and yelp and cry until somebody comes to get him. Other times I can hear him pacing back and forth until he finally decides to make the ‘leap’.

A couple days ago when Jam was downstairs he yelped and yipped off and on for nearly an hour but I simply refused to go get him. When my wife said “he’s really crying for you” I confess I felt a tug inside, but I still responded “He’s got to learn we can’t always be coming down to get him. That’s just ridiculous.”

Today? No yelping or yipping. I just heard the padding back and forth in the downstairs kitchen for about two minutes, and then the heavy paw-steps as he made his way up to my second-floor office. Once he arrived, tongue hanging out, I swear he looked like he was smiling, as if to say, “I did it!” I gave him a hug. I was proud of him.

I still think it’s a good thing to get Jam to negotiate the stairs on his own for as long as he can, but I also am beginning to realize that, in the end, he’s just a 12-year-old dog doing the best he can for a 12-year-old dog. He’s just a dog. And one of the best friends I’ve ever had.


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