The canine stages from puppyhood to adolescent to adult and finally senior is very much like us humans. I’m sure there is a more scientific and accurate manner in which to define stages of life for both canine and humans. And there are probably more than four stages. But this not a scientific blog. This is a blog about Kali, her sisters, and our collective life in the mountains. So I’m gonna stick with these four stages that serve my purposes in this post.
As a father I’ve watched all three of my children through the first three stages; baby/toddler, adolescence, and now adulthood. I observed my mother go through the last two stages: adult to senior. When she was in the senior stage she initially was quite healthy. She had her physical and mental facilities intact and was capable of caring for herself. Then, over time, her health declined and she began requiring increased help to get around. She began losing her cognitive ability. Eventually she was diagnosed with and ended up dying from dementia.
Hang in there. I’m getting to the part about dogs now… 🙂
What stage are my girls in? Koda at two and half is my adolescent and Kloe at almost five is my adult. Kali at almost 12 is my senior. But wait a second. When Kali joined the pack seven years ago she was an adult. And so was I. I felt as though we were contemporaries. My best friend was the same age as me and we’d share a long life and grow old together. But now Kali is a senior and I’m still an adult (although my wife might argue otherwise at times…). The average life expectancy for humans in the United States is 78 years. The average life expectancy for a Golden Retriever is around 12 years. Time moves faster for Kali and at times it makes me sad.
I observe similar characteristics in Kali that I saw in my mom as her health was declining during the final stages of her life. At first walking with help, then with a walker, and eventually a wheel chair. Kali has hip dysplasia. It is increasingly hard for her to get up or lay down, she walks very slow and wobbly. Under certain circumstances I have to pick her up to get her where she needs to be. Other than for meals my mom spent her day in her chair looking at the TV and out the window. Kali spends the majority of her day sleeping and watching the world go by around her. Over time my mom forgot things, repeated herself, and eventually had limited awareness of where she was. She eventually stopped talking, only nodding her head in response to questions. Kali at times is disoriented and seems confused. She has stopped responding to commands. Her hearing is either very bad or very selective. And her eyes are clouded with cataracts that diminish her vision. My mom lost her appetite and had to be coaxed to eat. Good news here for Kali is that meal time is still her favorite time of the day and she remains very passionate about food!
My mom was 97 when she passed away far exceeding the average life expectancy. At almost 12 Kali is creeping towards the outer edge of life expectancy for Golden Retrievers. In spite of her advanced age Kali still exhibits some of the same behaviors as she did seven years ago as a much younger dog. Like the fixed stare she gives me about 30 minutes before meal time. Like head butting me as I prepare her food. And in spite of her bad legs and poor sight at times she still sits at the gate waiting for me to return home or comes looking for me in the house if I’m in another room. This is heartening and encouraging to me. It reminds me that my Kali is still in so many ways the same dog that came into my life seven years ago as an adult, as my contemporary, and as what turned out to be my best friend.
Time moves faster for Kali. I wish I could slow it down.