The Joy of Living with an Older dog!

An edited version of this article appeared in the December issue of 'Dogs Today'. This is the full unedited repawt!

Barked By Guest Barker | 19th December 2018

The Joy of Living with an Older dog!

Hi, my name is Ruth and I’m owned by Mackenzie the toy poodle. A small dog with a huge personality who has been in my life since 2005.

Mackenzie came to me at 8 weeks old, the largest pup in a small litter, chosen for me by his breeder as I really hoped to do agility with him in the future. From the minute he arrived home I was stunned at how bright he was, picking up commands extremely quickly and demanding a lot of attention! I had big plans for my little pup and we began training for agility as soon as he was old enough. We learnt together as I was completely new to the world of agility too.

In 2006 at just a year old Mackenzie and I featured in a Animal Planet episode of ‘Top Dog’ hosted by Shauna Lowry. It was an amazing day on the set with me a bag of nerves in front of the camera but Mackenzie performing beautifully with confidence and enthusiasm! It’s a day I’ll never forget.

In early 2007 we experienced the worst day of our lives when an early Sunday morning walk on the beach turned into a nightmare as a dog ran up to us and with no warning took hold of Mackenzie by his lower back and began shaking him like a dolly. The dog would not let go of him despite all my effort – as you can imagine my poor boy was screaming and hardly visible underneath the other dog. As a last resort I took hold of the other dog’s collar and twisted until it needed to take a breath and thankfully let go of my dog. We were at the emergency vets as soon as we could and Mackenzie had a large hole in the muscle on his abdomen and a puncture wound in his jaw. We were able to take him home with antibiotics and I nursed him back to health. His physical injuries were healed in around 3 weeks but I was concerned that this awful experience would affect his happy, confident personality. I needn’t have worried! We went back to training classes and it was as if nothing had happened. What an amazing, resilient little dog! Sadly I cannot say the same for myself as it took me a long time to walk on the beach again and even now I find myself constantly scanning the horizon for loose dogs that may pose a threat. 

We began competing at agility shows at the end of 2007 and we were a great partnership, both improving as the years went by. Mackenzie retired from agility in 2015 having won a total of 37 1st places! Alongside the agility I taught Mackenzie some canine freestyle moves and although we never competed we did perform dance routines at many dog shows/country fairs and we were even asked to perform a Christmas routine for the local WI group!

Just before he retired from both agility and dancing, Mackenzie damaged his shoulder falling down a rabbit hole and the muscle took a while to heal. We used hydrotherapy alongside painkillers to help him heal. Shortly after this he developed a cough. We had a few trips to the vets who prescribed a couple of weeks of antibiotics to try to sort out the cough but he was eventually diagnosed with a collapsing trachea. I discovered that it was only a problem to him when he took in a lot of air, as in either getting overexcited or running at speed. Also his collar putting any pressure on his throat would set off the coughing. It is a condition we can easily manage. Mackenzie loved to perform and compete so I needed to find something else that we could do together that wouldn’t affect this issue and so together we discovered the fun of Rally Obedience. We learnt the ‘station positions’ off the internet and began entering shows. At every show we entered Mackenzie would achieve an ‘Ace’ and seemed to really enjoy it,working in a harness for the first time, and us both meeting new friends. I decided to retire Mackenzie from Rally in October as he has developed age related cataracts and was finding it difficult to follow my hand signals. He scored 209 points out of a possible 210 points at his last show so we went out with a bang! 

As Mackenzie has aged I’ve noticed that he’s more tired after a walk. He’s still the most keen of my 3 dogs to go out for a walk! He will tear around for the first few minutes of a walk and then happily trot at heel for the remainder. He still enjoys an hour of exercise a day with the other dogs and is not put off by the weather. I’m aware of his aging bones and he has a warm fleece for colder walks. I love my little ‘soul dog’ so much. I remember worrying that when we could no longer ‘work’ together we wouldn’t have the same bond but that has not been true at all. I remember all the amazing times we’ve had at training and at shows and I’ll be forever grateful for him for being my first agility dog and the reason I now have my own dog training business. I feel I’ve learnt so much from him, as much as I’ve taught him things. We’ve learnt together. I nearly forgot to mention that together we discovered the kennel club Good Citizen Dog Scheme and worked our way through the levels to achieve the Gold award in less than a year. 

What would be the greatest joy of living with an older dog? Well, personally I am grateful that Mackenzie came into my life 13 and a half years ago. I’m over the moon with all that I’ve learnt from him that has hopefully improved my dog training skills and I’m grateful that he is still so fit and well for his age. I hope we have a few more years together yet as he’s been a huge part of my life for a long time now and we still have more adventures to come!

Woofs Ruth & Mackenzie.

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