Top 5 Lessons I Learned from my Older Dog by Ann-Marie Fleming

29 December, 2011


As many of you are aware I lost my 15 year Pug (Mackenzie) a few months ago and it broke my heart. I think about him and miss him everyday. During this time I have been able to reflect on all the amazing memories he gave me over the past decade and a half, and the many lessons he taught me about myself and about life in general. I am a better person because of Mackenzie so I wanted to share the lessons he taught me.

Take time to smell the rosessenior pug

Our lives are hectic and it is so easy to get caught up in the chaos by letting the stress overwhelm us, but sometimes all it takes is to see the world through our dog's eyes. Mackenzie had an amazing ability to soak in everything around him. He would take his time (no one was going to rush this guy), smell every little thing in the yard or on a walk, savour every bite of his meals like a food reviewer, appreciate every sip of his water like it was the first time he'd tasted it and embrace every touch from his family. Sometimes when I was feeling stressed I could almost hear him saying "relax, slow it down and enjoy." I learned to appreciate all that I had and not let life pass me by.

Know yourself

Having Mackenzie since he was 8 weeks old until he was 15 1/2 years old meant that I had the privilege of seeing him move through many stages of life. He started out as a very anxious and insecure puppy and then as a result of many adventures became the most self aware individual I knew. Over time he really understood what he needed, what he liked, what he couldn't be bothered with and who he wanted to be around. I truly believe knowing who he was and what he wanted from life was a big reason he became such a laid back dog - a transition I would not have believed possible if I wasn't there to see it. I know many humans that are incapable of change, but my pug took life's experiences and used it to explore and understand who he was. I found it comforting to be around such a secure man. :)

Keep an open mind

Some dogs love to run and play, but Mackenzie was more along the lines of an adventurer and scientist. While my other dog would be chasing a ball, Mackenzie would circle the area inspecting everything in great detail. Once the exploring was done he would sit and think - in my mind it was as if he was solving the world's problems. His curiosity continued throughout his entire life. He was always open to new things and would light up when we would go to different areas, take road trips, visit new parks etc because he loved having something different and interesting to explore. Whenever I find myself unmotivated or stuck in a routine, I think of him and try something new in my life.

Life is about change

If you have ever had a dog in your life, no matter what age, one thing you will undoubtedly see is the changes they go through as they pass through the various stages of their lives. The whole reason I started Dog Quality was because I wanted a better life for Mackenzie and Churchill as they began to face the challenges of old age. I learned very quickly that getting older doesn't mean the fun has to stop, it just means that you need to have fun in different ways. When Mackenzie struggled with mobility issues, we continued to have adventures thanks to the help of  a dog stroller. When he had trouble walking on tile and hardwood I gave him traction socks, when he became stiff I made sure he had an orthopedic bed. And when he had so many teeth removed I gave him softer food so he could continue to savour every bite. Throughout all this time Mackenzie had a blast. He continued to enjoy life, he continued to show me love and appreciation and we continued to have an amazing time together. He taught me that life is about change, so rather than fight it, just embrace it and enjoy the ride.

Family is everything

From the very beginning, Mackenzie has been a family man. When he was 2 months old I brought a little French Bulldog into his life named Churchill. The two of them were inseparable from the first moment they met and together the 3 of us became a family. Wherever one went, we all went. Whether it was around the house or across the country we were always together. I can honestly say that I appreciated every moment we spent with each other - I always knew life was short and I reminded myself constantly to treasure every moment which we all did. Mackenzie and Churchill showed me how strong a bond between dog and parent can be - they would have walked to the end of the earth for me and I would have done the same in return. The love I felt was unconditional and something I will never forget. It taught me that no matter what is going on in your life not to worry because the important part, the part that really matters, is right there next to me.

Even with both Mackenzie and Churchill gone I still feel them with me in my heart and in my memories and I find comfort in that. I have Paige (my 6 year old French Bulldog) who I adore and eventually I will open my heart again to new four-legged family members and I am sure I will continue to become a better human being because of the lessons my dogs teach me. What have you learned from your older dog?

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