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When Pets are Sick: A Lesson from an Old Dog

When Pets are Sick: A Lesson from an Old Dog

I was organizing my home office recently when I happened upon one of those random books that always seem to collect on office bookshelves. You know the inspiration books you get as gifts, flip through and file away.  I was about to toss it in the recycling bin when I thought it would be a good bathroom book. I now store books in the bathroom for the less obvious reason of having something to leaf through as my daughter plays in the tubby. A week later I randomly opened the book to page 125 titled “Old Dogs” and started to read. The story started, “When my old golden retriever developed major health problems, I knew watching him fail would be painful” and continued to describe how the author’s dog taught him the lesson of living in the moment. I wasn’t surprised at the underlying lesson of the story but what struck me was the slightly different lesson I could draw from it.

Little girl with her two pet dogsLast year, our yellow lab was diagnosed with complete kidney failure. The vet wasn’t hopeful and relatives shared their personal stories of pets who lost the battle with the same ailment. Olivia was just turning three at the time and in the only way we knew how we tried to prepare her and ourselves by telling her how sick Winston was. We showered extra attention on him and prepared for the inevitable. Well wouldn’t you know, he did really well with home treatment which includes a nightly IV and special diet. But in our effort to prepare Olivia, my husband and I, by underestimating the old dog’s spirit, took away from a little girl’s relationship with her dog. Often, she says “Winston’s sick and he can’t do that.” Which is mostly true but there are many times when he’s silly and wants to run and play ball just like old times.

So, as I was reading the story in the book, I realized that my own dog was teaching me a lesson that I could share with my daughter. Life may not go the way you expect but what matters most is that you never give up and you face aversity with strength and humility. Or in a little kid’s world, you tell them how brave the dog is and you give lots of pats. Last week we celebrated Winston’s 13th Woof-day. We had a simple little party for him – just the kind I hope to have when I’m old and tired – surrounded by family and my favorite cookies.

Have you dealt with an ailing pet? I would love to hear how you support your children when pets are sick.

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