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.
I have always believed that the only bad thing about dogs is that they don’t live long enough. But it sounds as if you are managing Kali’s senior years rather well, and even able to see the dog that she has always been through the changes that aging brings. The final years of a dogs life do bring challenges, but they also bring gifts. Our vet once called it “the gift stage” of their lives, as every day is a gift, and should be treasured. Just as your are doing with your dear Kali.
Thanks Ann. I like that, the gift stage. Much better than the senior stage. I appreciate your perspective. Take care.
Such a precious girl. I’ve watched her from the time you adopted her and have enjoyed her seeing her life unfold like a beautiful flower. Please give your sweet girl an extra treat and ear rub from me. 💖
Thanks M. Will do!
Mikey, Mikey, Mikey… Your sweet words and love for your girls always bring more than a tear to my eye.
As you know, Blake and Hope are my 8th and 9th Goldens! I have been blessed to have this breed in my home for my entire adult life. I’ve often said that I wish I loved another breed more, because of the pain of losing them. Zeke was 13 and our first Hope was 2 and 1/2 when we lost them. We have thoroughly enjoyed and embraced the Golden temperament and have not found another creature like them!
Make everyday a Kali day. Celebrate the little things unique to her. Know that she loves you more than she loves herself.
Also know that you, my friend, are an awesome dog dad!
Hi know Dee you’ve walked the same path and appreciate your support. Thx for the reminder to appreciate and celebrate the daily blessings of my first and best girl Kali! ❤️
Hi Michael – As you are well aware, our beloved Ray is a little behind Kali in years (he will be 11 in November) but we are noticing both visual and activity differences that simply reinforce the unfortunate fact that he is not a young dog any more. Trying to get him to understand that is hopeless, and we hold our breath as he goes through another “puppy bout” of charging around the garden in the snow! He skids, slides and seems to forget where his feet are relative to hazards … but he is still a big kid at times, and we can’t take that away from him.
Like you, we wonder just where the time went. Five minutes ago (or so it seems), Ray moved into our home and became a major part of our lives. Now … his greying muzzle and eye lashes tell us an unfortunate truth, while his mannerisms tell us that he is (at least mentally) still a youngster!
The inevitable fact of life for all of us is that it will end one day, so all we can do is hope and pray that “one day” is way down the road … and that applies to not only Ray, but also to myself! Until then, we should all celebrate life and, in our case, Ray will always be a part of those celebrations. 🙂
Fact of life for sure. And yes indeed; celebrate life! Cheers to that, to you, and to Ray.