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December 13, 2022

Warning: Rescuing Old Dogs and Senior Citizens Might Generate Happy Dancing

“I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.” – Gilda Radner

She wanders around the house without purpose, toenails clicking on the hardwood floors. The pitiful sounds emerging from her small toothless mouth can be both heartbreaking and annoying.

Her name is Matilda and she is a treasured member of our family.

She has morphed from a playful, cuddly terrier puppy that used to snuggle under the covers with me, into a blind, deaf, demented old lady that can’t seem to remember her purpose anymore. Her physical disabilities have caused her to be insecure and fearful and her dementia often times has her just standing and staring at a wall for long periods of time.

If you do manage to pick her up, she will relax for a moment into the crook of your arm. You can feel her little body release tension as she seems to remember the safety of a loving hand stroking her back.

The moment passes quickly though and she struggles to be released to continue her seemingly random wandering.

Her life consist of only two joys. One is the daily terrorizing of our bigger dog, with shrieking barks in his ears as he tries to avoid her. None of us are quite sure why she does this, including her 60 pound victim. And then there is meal time.

At 4 p.m. every day she becomes that overexcited puppy again. She corals our other two dogs into participating in her ecstatic ritual of leaping and dancing and squealing happily to encourage us to hurry up with the her dinner preparation.

We truly witness a small miracle of rejuvenation every afternoon.

Matilda is a rescue dog that my daughter took in years ago, before her marriage. That marriage then included her husband’s rescue dog, Lucky, a small pug mix, that reminds me a little of the dog in the movie Men In Black. Their little family grew with the addition of 2 boys, my grandsons.

Unfortunate circumstances required that I relocate my rescue dog, Willie, a well fed, lovable Border Collie They immediately agreed to make him a part of their family.

Recently I retired and they rescued me as well, making us one big happy menagerie.

It is, as you might expect, a chaotic but love filled house and I wouldn’t change one drama filled moment of our lives.

I have found myself closely connecting and relating to our little Matilda though.

We are sort of on the same path in our journey.

After being a workaholic for a big part of my life, my days are now mostly filled with wandering around the house, making little dissatisfied grunts, trying to find a purpose.

I usually find it by annoying the grandsons (much like Matilda takes joy in harassing the other dogs). I find a secret pleasure in disrupting the quiet with my meaningless arguments with the little ones over my dislike for their favorite cartoon, Captain Underpants.

My fear of seeming too needy keeps me from actively seeking physical connection but when one of my family randomly offers a hug or my big dog attempts to climb up into my lap, I immediately relax into the comfort and memory of those warm fuzzy feelings.

And, like Matilda, I get very excited at dinner time. My son in law is a great cook, and family meals, with the kids laughter and the dogs begging for scraps and the discussions around the table, catching up with the family’s daily happenings, always generates my own version of Matilda’s happy dance.

Getting older has its challenges for both dogs and humans, even when we are surrounded by loving kindness.

Us seniors can sometimes feel invisible, so next time you are around an older dog or person, forgive them their little eccentricities, give them a hug – especially if they don’t seem that receptive to it, and celebrate the good times with them- even if it only feels like an average mealtime to you. It is probably the highlight of their day.

Because someday you might need rescuing and if you are very fortunate, like our dogs-and me-you will get old and someone will take you in, tolerate your annoying grunts and barks, and fill your days with unconditional love and care. And you will find your own version of the senior happy dance.

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