2014-07-15 17.50.02-2When did Harvey get old? 

It only seems like yesterday that he was in his prime, the handsome, glossy coated, fit staffie that people used to comment on. When did the comments change from ‘what a handsome boy’ to ‘oh bless the old boy’?

I don’t remember when it changed. I do know that we have been living under the cloud of his advancing years for the past 18 months as he gets slower and has to work harder.

Harvey has severe osteoarthritis in his front legs, and degenerative myleopathy – a disease of the spine which means that there is a loss of communication between nerves in lower body of the animal and the brain. So the poor old boy is working extra hard all the time using his painful front legs to keep his back half going!

I am sure it is sheer determination and will power that keeps him going – a staffie trait.

We knew things were going downhill when he gave up trying to get on the spare bed – his favourite sleeping place. The last time he tried (about 6 months ago) he fell flat on his back much to our horror. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt, but he has never tried again.

Since then he has taken to sleeping on the sofa, but now that is becoming a problem. He won’t let us help him, and it takes several attempts to get up on, but he still makes it …just.

When you buy a cute pup, you think you are committed and prepared for everything to come. Nothing really prepares you for living and caring for an older dog. Harvey has had a great life, he was our first ‘child’, thoroughly spoilt and loved to death. In his advancing years however he has become harder to live with and whilst you hate to admit it, some days are not pleasurable.

Staffies’ tend to have a voice and Harvey certainly has one. His incessant ‘crying’ because he wants to go for a walk (even though you know damn well he will struggle) drives you crazy! If you don’t take him, he will cry for hours at you until you give in (against your better judgement!).

Worse still is the evening crying – when he thinks he is hungry. He is hungry it’s part of his old age, despite having his two meals. He will cry until you feed him – we can’t deny him that and if it makes him happy I am certainly not going to worry about his weight. Plus once he has been fed he stops the noise, which to be honest after the hour of crying for a walk is a blessed relief.

The loss of control of his bowels is not pleasant, Fortunately until recently this was a rare occurrence. It starts with the ‘walking poo’, then when he was over excited, or just didn’t get out of the door quick enough. This week however I have been coming down in the morning to see that one has escaped in the night and is sitting in the middle of the sofa. Right now I can handle this, but with a 4 year old in the house – when do we decide this is not acceptable. How much washing down and disinfecting can I do every day? Plus how is this affecting Harvey – he is obviously distressed by it as he knows he shouldn’t do it indoors? We never tell him off.. but every day we are a day closer to making the call.

The cost of an old dog is not one I am sure many people consider. Thankfully Harvey has been insured all his life. But we pay more in dog insurance premiums that we do for car insurance! Plus at his age we now have to pay 20% of the monthly vet’s bill for his pain relief medication.  I don’t begrudge this at all, but how many people can honestly say that they factored this in when they committed themselves to being a dog owner?

Living with an old dog is hard! I am not ashamed to say it. I love him with all my heart, but a small part of me acknowledges that there will be some relief when he is no longer here.