Watching an Old Dog Sleep

Aspen Skye Hanntude McBounce

Aspen Skye Hanntude McBounce

It’s been a big morning, already. My almost 16-year-old dog peed in her crate again last night.  I bathed her, and rubbed her dry. She used to get antsy at bath time.  Now she likes her bath. She stands calmly in the sink as I spray warm water onto her back, tail, under her tail, and her belly. Meanwhile, she likes to sniff for left-over food that sometimes sits in the adjoining sink. Licking dried fried sausage remains from the night before is a special treat.  She happily allows me to massage soap into her coat, and rinse her off with warm water.

After her bath, my old dog begins her pacing ritual. She paces the length of our family room–one foot in front of another, slow and methodic. Back and forth. Back and forth. Not frantically, but endlessly, it seems, like a wind-up toy unwinding. With one arm, I lift her–14 pounds–onto the couch where she continues to wander. My younger dog gives a low growl and, disgusted, jumps off the couch to find peace in his crate.  He is mirroring my impatience.

How can I relax when my dog is pacing back and forth? I push her gently to her side and she doesn’t resist; I give her a massage. She closes her eyes, obviously enjoying the special treatment, but pops up as soon as I stop the massage, she jumps off the couch and wanders into the kitchen to drink some water. She returns to the family room where she again starts to pace. Finally, she stops. With an audible sigh, she lays down, her head, like a weight, drops between her front legs. A moment later, she moves her head to the right, gives a little, pig-like grunt, and closes her eyes.

Almost immediately, her ribs move up-down-up-down, slow and steady, like a sleeping baby. Then, with another grunt, this one more of a sigh/grunt, she moves her head to the left where she settles into the V created between her leg and chest. I know she is sleeping 15 seconds later when I hear a teeny, tiny almost inaudible wheeze, then a rumble. With a groan, she shifts her body onto her right side where her rhythmic breath exudes a slight snore. Fifteen minutes later, she is finally completely relaxed.

When I return from my errands in a couple of hours, she will still be sleeping.  I will let her out to relieve herself.  She will find a patch of sun and take another nap. She she will come back in and start pacing in the evening about an hour before she has her dinner.  I will lift her onto the couch and rub her back until she relaxes into slumber.

I hope that somebody cares for me like an old dog when I’m elderly.


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