Dogs don’t speak human. Therefore, to have a healthy relationship, humans have to learn to speak dog. That’s just the way it is. I was lucky. I had a great teacher in Banjo, our late Border Collie/Australian Shepherd rescue. Banjo touched the hearts of everyone he didn’t bite, and even then managed to charm his victims. Throughout his life Banjo taught me about dominance and submission in the dog world, how to wrestle like a dog and that dogs smile and even dream.
I’m not anthropomorphizing here. Dogs really do smile when they’re happy, especially if there’s the chance of getting a tidbit of food. Annie did it, but then Labradors generally smile all the time. Marlon smiles when he’s trying to ingratiate himself, particularly after a surprise midnight poop on the carpet. The one thing dogs don’t do well is communicate pain. Our vet reminded us they don’t really have a means of expressing it other than by resting more as they get older. They don’t whine or complain or understand where to put their paws on a pain scale of frowning to smiling emojis.
Nor do dogs want to grow old any faster than the rest of us. Their desire for companionship and getting out for long walks on the beach doesn’t flag as they age, just their ability to do so. Joints get creaky, backs get painful and generally they slip quietly into what we call the ‘cupcake years’. Those final years, or more realistically months, when a dog can’t walk much, spends most of its time sleeping and breaking wind.
It’s a time of life when they want to be made comfortable and will often slow down or even stop eating. We humans respond by getting them to eat whatever the heck it is we think they’ll keep down – even cupcakes. After all, what’s the downside risk to the dog? A couple of weeks less of life in pain? The upside is smiles and engagement.
If you think your dog is entering their cupcake years be warned. There’s a phase they go through which is really a con. It’s when they’re pretending to be lame to garner a cupcake. Just understand, once the genie is out of the bottle there’s no way to put it back in. And if you really want your puppy back, toss them a pain killer like Tramadol wrapped in a slice of chicken. Once that kicks in the pain eases and all of a sudden your puppy returns, if only for the half hour before Morpheus rocks your drugged up doggie to sleep.
Do people have cupcake years? Undoubtedly, but doctors tend to fill humans up with so many drugs your grandmother may pass into the next life without ever knowing that all she really needed was a tot of rum and a lemon vanilla cupcake at teatime.
Note: This blog originally appeared in Red Thread Adventures in October, 2017.