Blue-Violet Iris Interior

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dogs Old and New

In my previous post about birds, I mentioned that the photos were taken during a three-week stint looking after the collie, Mr. Gorgeous. While birds were my primary photographic preoccupation during that time, my lens occasionally strayed over to where Mr. Gorgeous was relaxing in the grass, as he was often my companion during my hours spent staring intently at the trees. His coat is in prime condition right now, fully grown in after his yearly summer shave, so he always looked very regal. I have hundreds of photos of Mr. Gorgeous looking gorgeous, but I can never resist taking a few more...

While he remains as attractive as ever, there is no doubt that Mr. Gorgeous is getting old. Twelve is an advanced age for a dog of his size (he's much larger than your average collie). He spends most of his time sleeping, has lost interest in games, and while his arthritis isn't as bad when the weather is warm, it became clear during my time with him that his back legs are no longer getting full information from his nervous system. His balance is increasingly affected, jumping or climbing stairs is nearly impossible, but most worrisome of all, sometimes he'll knuckle under--that is, step on the top of his back paws instead of the bottom. It means he no longer knows how his paws are oriented in space. Hopefully, any further progression of this breakdown in communication will be slow, but there's no getting around the fact that my good collie friend is on the decline.

He still is pretty, though.

Collie in the grass.

He's barking his fool head off at something in this photo. Most likely, it's the threat posed by the robins.

One day he settled himself in the verdant greenery by the pond while I was taking pictures.

Occasionally, he does look a bit disheveled, especially when first waking up from a nap.

And every now and then, he manages to look ridiculous, like when he valiantly chased off some towhees.

Most of the time, he looks like this. He remains capable of running vigorously in his sleep.

I always like the way he appears to float atop the lawn.

While not overly interested in much these days, he still liked to be more or less in my vicinity.

Fortunately, age has done nothing to diminish his regal appearance.

In other old dog news, I was saddened but not surprised to learn that the dear old dog I've referred to as Lady passed away this winter. (Lady is not to be confused with my other golden retriever client, Goldie, who I take care of more regularly.) Lady was fifteen years old and had lived a long life that brought much joy to those who knew her. When I first met her, she was thirteen and still spunky enough to go swimming and on vigorous walks. The last time I cared for her, she was almost fifteen, badly hobbled by arthritis, and could only go for short walks. She no longer played with her toys, though she still liked to have a ball near her. It was clear that her life was winding down, so, as I said, it was not a surprise to learn that she'd passed away. Lady was a very sweet soul--playful, watchful, and benevolent--and very much missed by her owner. It was a lucky day for everyone when I fell into conversation with her owner while walking Mr. Gorgeous at the park and mentioned that I was a dog-sitter! I may not have cared for her as frequently as some of my other clients, but I'm very glad to have been part of her life.

This is one of my favorite photos of Lady.

She'd watch the world go by through the front windows from the comfort of her bed.

She was capable of great silliness and loved rolling around on her toys even after she was too old to chase them.

She was a beautiful, loving soul.

Dogs on the decline have been a bit of a theme, so I'd like to introduce you to a dog I'll call Smoky, who belongs to the woman who cuts my hair. He's seventeen and is down to his final days or even hours, so I offered to take some photographs of him before he passed. I took some shots both indoors and outdoors so his loving family will have some special images to remember him by after he's gone. (And, thanks to Photoshop, they will not have to remember the thick green snot that he has been producing in great quantities during his final illness.) I've made memorial photo books for Sweetheart, Lady, and the Ancient Kitty's families; I love that my camera can help keep the memories of a beloved pet alive after it's gone.

Indoor Smoky with backdrop. He's actually had that grizzled muzzle since he was a puppy!

Smoky on the lawn.

So, I've had a lot to say about old dogs in this post. The next dog is old, too: at the age of nine, he's considered geriatric. But he's also new, as in a new client! I've long joked that my dog-sitting business should be called C's Large Geriatric Dog-Sitting Service because other than Cutie the Pyrenees, who is large and young, everyone is currently eleven or older. I haven't planned it that way, it's just what life has tossed in my direction. Goldie has been my smallest client, and while she's on the petite side for a golden retriever, she hardly qualifies as a small dog! I was actually a little trepidatious about taking on a small dog because I'm not always all that keen on them. I dislike yappy dogs, and dogs with super-runny eyes (especially that stain the fur), and I don't care for the appearance of a number of long-haired small dog breeds, like yorkies or shih tzus. I also don't like it when people allow or even encourage their small dogs to act in an aggressive manner because they think it's cute. 

Fortunately, my new client, a King Charles spaniel that I'll call Little Buddy, has none of these issues! He seldom barks, doesn't have goopy eyes (Goldie's are much worse!), his super-soft fur is trimmed short so as to not to collect debris in the yard as he goes in and out of his dog door (best invention ever!), and is sweet as pie. Thanks to the doggy door and a disinclination toward long walks, my primary responsibility was to simply spend time with him. So that's what we did: we hung out together, which mainly consisted of him sleeping somewhere in my vicinity while I read or used my laptop or watched TV or slept. He'd come to me advertised as a lap dog, which I was eager to try, as I've had cats on my lap but never dogs, but as much as he enjoyed my company, it took him a few days to be ready to settle on my lap for a snooze. Of course, it also took me a few days to get the hang of picking up a small dog! But other than the lap dog learning curve, Little Buddy proved to be cute, sweet, and easy. I particularly liked to give him an extensive ear massage, which he'd then repay by carefully and thoroughly licking my hands. It's a very different thing to be licked by a little dog than a big, slobbery dog like Sweetheart! I did find myself falling a bit into the I-must-baby-the-small-dog mindset: I was far more reluctant to leave him for more than a few hours than I am my other clients. He just seemed be out there alone in this big world. But he always survived those short periods when I left him and was very merry upon my return before settling back into snorting and snoring sleep. I very much hope to see Little Buddy again!

I have to say, I thought he looked pretty cute when he slept, as he often did, with his head between his front paws and his flowing ears draped over them.

After sleeping in the sun, he'd cool down by sprawling on the cool tiles of the hearth.

Little Buddy sniffs the wind...

...and then settles in a sunbeam just his size.

There was something very charming and doll-like about him, which extended to his personality!

He loves people and is eager to meet anyone and everyone.

A soundly sleeping Little Buddy.

His snub nose profile.

And how has my own geriatric dog felt about all of this dog-sitting and dog-photographing and dog-passing? It's made her ready for a nap!


  1. Oh my gosh - i love them all so much! That first photo of Lady is perfection -- you can see so much in it. Each one of these lovelies, full of soul. Old dogs rule my heart!

    1. It's my plan to eventually get Yellow Brick Home portraits of all of my dog-sitting clients once they pass away. I think that photo of Lady is the one I'll want for her portrait!