I currently share my life with two dogs, but the absolute love of my life is a 17ish year old Chihuahua/Min Pin named Red. She found me while I was volunteering at a shelter in Florida, and decided I was going to be her person. I must admit I fell in love with her quite quickly as well. She was blind with bulging eyes, weighed a whopping 18lbs and was so obese her stomach touched the ground.
We have been together almost 9 years, and other than when I’ve been on vacation, every day has been spent together. I see her as a family member, not just a “pet.”
I love her more than I can express, and cannot imagine my life without her…that doesn’t mean I am in denial. She has quite a few issues that are being well managed, but our biggest challenge is her dementia, which has worsened. I would never keep her “around” if she was in any sort of discomfort, my main priority being her quality of life.
With that being said, we can get on to why I decided to write an article about things you should never say to a senior dog parent.
Updated Feb 18/19
Since writing this article Red gained her wings
It’s simple really
While caring for a senior dog is good for the soul, at least it is for me, caring for one that has health issues has its challenges. We’re dealing with enough we certainly don’t need anyone, whether they are complete strangers, close family or friends, offering their snarky opinions and unsolicited advice.
Wow your dog is so old!!
Complete strangers have felt compelled to comment on my dog. I don’t know why, I’ve never asked for their opinion, yet they seem to want to give it to me anyway.
The most common thing I hear is “wow your dog is so old.” It’s true it’s not a horrible thing to say, after all she is old, it’s the fact that they choose to say anything that is none of their business annoys me, and of course the extremely obnoxious fashion in which many of them express their feelings pisses me off.
Why make a big deal out of a stupid comment from an ignorant person
You may think I’m blowing this out of proportion, but you would be wrong. It gnaws at me because it is part of a wider feeling society has towards the elderly…whether they have 4 legs or 2. That attitude can be found in the veterinary profession as well, which to me is appalling having witnessed it myself on several occasions. How many pet owners have put their animals down because it was “suggested,” for no reason other than a number on a calendar?
It’s sad and it’s widespread
When I decided to write this, I became curious about what, if anything, other senior dog parents have experienced. What better source to go to than my Facebook group, Senior Dog Care Club. The members are such an amazing group of people, kind and compassionate, and they shared some of the comments made to them. I was encouraged to read how many of them set the commenters “straight.”
Only by responding can we help people see not only how insensitive they are being, but we can help change perceptions. Why does a senior have less value than a youngster…human or animal?
As an advocate for animals in general, and old dogs in particular, being on the receiving end of these insensitive comments is actually a great opportunity for all of us to advocate on their behalf. Does that mean having a knock down drag out fight or even a war of words? Of course not, it’s simply a chance for us to get people thinking of old dogs in a new way. Have you heard of “elevator pitches?” It’s basically a line you come up with that describes your business or the services you offer. How about coming up with a line for this occasion as well?
***I have not included the names, only the comments***
Some nasty and insensitive comments
“You should just have him put down now because he’s becoming such a hindrance”
“Why are you spending money on that dog, she’s going to die soon anyway?”
“That thing is still not dead yet?” (from this member’s brother)
“Since taking in a senior dog with a number of issues, I have started feeling kind of alienated with most people that I knew before. I get looks and snappy side remarks when I share details, e.g. how costly vet treatment can get. For instance, I have gotten comments like “think about what all you could do if you hadn’t made that decision”; or “wasn’t that kind of short-sighted to take in this dog, now look at all the difficulties you have.” I even had a therapist tell me it is my own fault if I feel overwhelmed sometimes, since I made a conscious decision for “this problematic dog.”
“When I had to make the decision to have my wee dog put to sleep 5 weeks ago I was devastated, and the so called spiritual healer was very insensitive by saying these things happen!! As if I had lost the button off my coat needless to say they no longer are a part of my circle I dropped them like a hot stone.”
“You can’t just keep spending money on an old dog it’s a waste”
“When I’ve told people about vet visits and they ask how much, they then have said “Guess how much a needle costs? It’s a lot cheaper than what you just spent.” As in euthanasia would’ve been better… WTF?!?!? People are horrid!”
“I don’t get a lot of comments luckily. I have had one “friend” tell me that my dog needs to go ahead and die already when she saw all the medicine I have for her.”
“Maybe it’s time to let him go”
“A friend of my husband’s said “he’s not worth it… just take him out back and shoot him” I was devastated! That’s was the most horrible thing to ever say to me. My husband lost it on him… and I banned that idiot from ever coming over to my house”
“People ask me if I’ll get another dog! ………I have to reply “I’ve still got this one”!
“When Tootie first went blind I told my Dr. and he said “did you have to put her down?” I laughed and said why, there’s nothing wrong, would you want someone to put you somewhere?”
“My husband went to a new Dentist. He mentioned that our dog was sick and she offered to sell him a puppy. Never went back and a couple years later she went out of business.”
“Dang I thought she would be dead already….my reply is I thought the same about you 😊 guess we both are wrong huh”
“He should have been put down long time ago, he must feel miserable”
“I love my boss, but yesterday I told her I was exploring surgery for my otherwise healthy 12 year old Great Pyrenees for his Laryngeal Paralysis and she said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea at his age’. I let loose and explained to her that age is not a disease. She apologized”
“My baby is 18, and is starting to have hip problems. She also has had teeth removed. Two people keep telling me I need to start thinking about putting her to sleep, and go ahead & get a new puppy. She is old, and she will be with me as long as possible. She loves life! And no, she needs my full attention now, so no new puppies, at present!”
“I’m going to have work done on my house, upper addition for master bedroom. I commented to a friend of many years that I probably won’t use the upstairs bedroom right away because Ginger has trouble on stairs. She said, “that dog won’t be alive by the time it is finished.” Probably she will not but that was a crummy thing to say”
“Just put him to sleep”
What do you think?
If you share your life with a senior dog or have done in the past, particularly if he or she was ill, you know how tough things can get. You want support, encouragement and understanding, particularly from those around you.
It’s incredibly sad to know, most of these comments have been made by family and friends, from people who should be there to offer the most support.
Have you been on the receiving end of similar words? How did you react? Share them in the comments section below.
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.