Old Girl New

The following post was sponsored by CANIDAE all-natural dog food. Thank you for enriching the lives of dogs old and young with your quality food, CANIDAE. 
This morning, I woke up to a bag of dog treats in my face and Bo on the other side of them.

"Hi, Mom. Can I give Zadie two treats before breakfast?"


Routines are strange in their randomness and the morning treat thing, which has been going on for several months, is no different than, say, a bedtime story or walk around the block.

Bo has become the keeper of the morning treats, and she wakes our thirteen and a half year old Boston Terrier with them every morning, smelling salts style, if you will.
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Zadie was my first dog-daughter. She came into my life in the summer of 2002 when she was just a pup and Cooper, my first born (dog-son), was six months old. I was working out of the house at the time and felt very strongly that Cooper needed a pal. 
The two of them immediately became inseparable. 
IMG_9576 Zadie & Cooper, Dunsmuir St, 2002
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When my boyfriend and I broke up months later, Zadie, Cooper, and I became an inseparable threesome.  We went on daily hikes together in those days. I fed them the best food our local organic pet store had in stock. I took them with me on road trips and even to boyfriend's houses when I slept over. They slept in every bed with me. Had the entire backseat of my Jetta to themselves. I even bought them clothes!
And then? I had my first human child. 
And everything changed.
The daily hikes became daily walks with the stroller, and while they still went with me/us everywhere, they no longer sat in the backseat of my car with their faces out the window, but in the trunk of my station wagon. I started feeding them the food they sold at Trader Joes because it was convenient...

They were my babies, still. But my human child took precedent. We lived in a crowded one bedroom apartment with no yard and far less time for cuddling. I went from THE GREATEST DOG MAMA OF ALL TIME MY DOGS ARE MY LIFE to.... I love my dogs but I also have a new baby and ten jobs and no sleep and and and and... yeah. 

I would always be their mama, but they no longer took first priority in my life. I was grateful they had each other, however, and when we lost Cooper in 2013, I didn't think Zadie would be able to live without him. Not after years of being second class citizens in our household of 7897897 human children. 

But on the contrary. I began taking Zadie with me on errands... to pick up the kids... on walks to get coffee... smoothies... window shopping. And Zadie, in turn became more affectionate with the kids, playful... allowing them to dress her up and going to them for pets and play time. 
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Zadie turned 13 in April and at the time she was eating very little and having a hard time making it around the block without having to lie down under a tree for half the time. The growths on her back were becoming worse, scabbing over and regularly bursting open and her fur was (literally) falling off. Between that and her near-blindness and inability to hear much of anything anymore, I was beginning to prepare for the inevitable. 
IMG_3315 Zadie rests on a walk, last year, before we changed her food. 

I discussed Zadie's age and health issues with the folks at CANIDAE when we first decided to experiment with a new dog food. I had heard nothing but great things about CANIDAE from friends and fellow dog-parents and was curious to see how Zadie took to it. I learned a little bit about the company on the call -- one of the last family-owned and operated petfood businesses -- a microbrewery of grain-free dog and cat delicacies.
They assured me that Zadie's appetite would return. That she would love the food and that I would notice a change. 

I hoped they were right but also, I mean... she's old, guys. I think this is just the way it is now. 

I was wrong. 

Within the first week of weaning her onto the new food, I noticed an immediate change. And then, a month later, she became an entirely new dog. 

1. She was eating. Every last drop. (Something she had not done in over a year.) 

2. Her skin, although lumpy and bumpy, was no longer open-wound-bleeding, and her fur, which in the past had been flaky-and full of dander, became silky-smooth like when she was a puppy. 

3. Her energy returned with a vengeance. Not only was she able to make it around the block but MANY blocks... sometimes even running and grabbing her leash. 
Zadie, last week
I've been thinking a lot about what it means to have an old dog, lately. I really struggled with Cooper's aging and death and feel immense guilt, still, at my inability to be 100% there for him in his last two years. He, like Zadie, stopped eating his food, had a hard time on walks, struggled to see and hear...  And my denial coupled with being overwhelmed with twin babies led to my inability to be as accommodating to his elderly needs. 

I should have changed his food. I should have been more sensitive to his slowness. I should have/could have/should have...

And so. With Zadie, I am. 

As opposed to resisting her inevitable demise, I now know to embrace it. To respect it. To care for it differently and to recognize how fortunate I am to have her here with us in our arms. She is a different dog, now, than she was ten years ago, two years ago, one year ago... and so, we adjust... and readjust. And readjust. 
In dog years, Zadie is in her mid-nineties, but you would never know it. I mean, yes, her eyes are cloudy and her muzzle is gray and she doesn't look like a puppy anymore but her energy is there. She still plays... she still scampers from the door to her bed 7897987 miles an hour when we come home from walks and in the morning, when Bo puts her dog treats in front of her sleeping face, she still perks up, snatches the treat and devours it. 

She's a new dog and she knows it.
She is also an old dog and she knows that, too. 
(And so do I.)
CANIDAE has coupons available for those who wish to try the food with their pets. P.S. Zadie recommends the Salmon and the Bison. (And the Chicken. And the...) Thank you, CANIDAE for sponsoring this post and for filling our Z's belly with goodness. 

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