The Rollercoaster of Senior Dog Care
I love senior dogs. They give me purpose and make me feel like I am doing something that matters in the universe. At the same time caring for them is a constant rollercoaster of ups and downs. This week, after almost 3 years, I lost my Bamboo. I adopted him when he was estimated to be 15 years young. He had dementia so I was fully aware of the challenges ahead and I openly accepted.
We will never know exactly what caused his cognitive issues. Was it just age and overall degeneration of his brain and body or perhaps given that he was found on the street, did he possibly have a brain injury that no one knew about that caused long term problems? I guess we will never know the full truth.
When I adopted Bamboo and so many of my other seniors I knew that my time would be short. Instead of focusing on the time we would have together, I decided to focus on how to make every moment count. I believe in being aware of how fragile life is and embracing every magical moment we are fortunate enough to have with our seniors.
I have always been prepared to face health issues and I think I am a better person when I am caring for a senior or a special needs dog. I am sure a therapist would have a field day with my need to be needed, but that is my reality. But what I did not anticipate is the impact I feel every time I lose one of my dogs. It's not so much that I cannot accept the loss, I go into every adoption preparing for this, but what I didn't anticipate is how it impacted my inspiration to keep pushing hard at my own life.
I love Dog Quality. I believe that we can make a significant difference in the lives of senior dogs and the families that care for them. I know this because I rely on our products for my own dogs and I honestly love them. They are born out of an honest desire to make a difference in the lives of our senior (or special needs) dogs and to help the families that care for them find joy so they can appreciate each and every moment together. But when I lose one of my own I often find it incredibly difficult to push through the challenges of trying to build a business.
I bet I could track the roller coaster ride of my business against the roller coaster ride of my heart and it would line up perfectly. I mean how do I find the strength to face all the obstacles that running a business presents when my heart is broken?
Dog Quality has the most incredible product road map. We have plans for a specialized senior dog wheelchair, a Big Dogger for large breeds, a stair escalator and even a device to help senior dogs with hearing impairment, but the path to putting these products in the hands of pet parents is so difficult financially and that degree of difficulty is made exponentially harder when I am facing such great loss.
And I am sure that Dog Quality aside, each and everyone of you faces this same dilemma when you are trying to cope with the loss of your beloved furry family member and your career or your family or just daily life demands your time. How do we move forward when we cannot let go of what we have just lost? How do we prioritize bill payments, payroll, house maintenance, you name it, when the universe should be acknowledging the loss that we just experienced?
I am not sure of the answer to this roller coaster ride, but I do know that the joy and happiness I feel when I can give a senior dog or a special needs dog a chance at a new life gives me purpose. I also know that when I hear from our customers on how our products have helped them to improve the quality of life for their senior or special needs dog I have purpose and I have something that gets me out of bed every morning.
I am personally committed to finding ways to extend the lifespan and healthspan of our dogs so we can see them living longer and healthier lives. I will never stop bringing senior and special needs dogs into my life, but I am on a constant journey to figure out how to better cope with the immense loss I feel each and every time I lose one of my family.
The memories I have and the amazing moments we get to experience make it all worthwhile, but it is never easy and combined with life's or Dog Quality's challenges, the burden is sometimes too much to take. It is only because of the constant support that I am so grateful to receive from customers and fellow pet parents that I can wake up and face it all over again. So thank you everyone for your understanding, for your support and for believing that we can make enough of a difference in the lives of our senior dogs and they in ours, that it is worthwhile to ride this intense roller coaster.
Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of innovative assistive products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.