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My beautiful, almost 12 year old, sidekick has just been diagnosed with a grade 3 / 4 heart murmur. The vet has advised me that there may be an impact on her well being but it won’t be clear as to what extent until we have a heart scan.

It may be managed with more regular vet checks, maybe medication, but one thing it does throw into light is that Dita, unfortunately, is not invincible.

I have noted her signs of aging with a serene sadness, her grey hairs are spreading, her speed is slowing and she sleeps more during the day. Life with a senior dog requires an acceptance of this inevitable decline. It isn’t easy though. We just do our absolute best for them, here are some of the ways we have been adapting:

·       Shortening the length of her walks

·       Planning walks in quieter areas away from lots of people and noise

·       Only taking her on group walks with calm dogs who give her space  

·       Allowing her to set her own pace, aiming for a loose lead if not off lead

·       Stopping to mooch, do some training together, scatter some treats for a good snuffle

·       Ensure she has excellent nutrition and supplements. Less variety as her tummy is more easily upset. Weight management to lessen any strain on her joints

·       Reduce the likelihood of extreme highs and lows, so avoiding over excitement and stress

·       Ensuring she has supportive, warm areas to sleep and steps to help her onto higher surfaces

·       Brain games to keep her cognition skills sharp

·       Rugs on non-carpeted floor to reduce likelihood of slipping and subsequent limb injury

·       More cuddles, as many cuddles as she wants

Those of us with a senior dog must accept the increased vet bills, adapt our homes and routines to accommodate their increased needs but most importantly try to enjoy every day, week, month and year we get to share with them.

I had the portrait above commissioned recently and specifically asked for the autumn leaves, it is both my favourite season and the stage I feel Dita is in her life. Here’s hoping it’s a long and happy season.