Twenty Years of Dogs
October 20, 2015 11:23 AM   Subscribe

"Dog Years": in which a dog's portrait is taken twice, years apart.

A project by photographer Amanda Jones.

[Previously, Metafilter on the origin of 'Dog Years.']
posted by cjelli (65 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Fred has been witness to some disturbing things.
posted by parki at 11:28 AM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

PMS test: can i look at photos of white-muzzled senior dogs without throwing myself to the ground and wailing?

(no, no i cannot. not this week.)
posted by poffin boffin at 11:36 AM on October 20, 2015 [54 favorites]


I was making small talk with someone over the weekend at a godforsaken sports activity where we could only communicate in quick short sentences while getting through intervals or something. I had so far managed to navigate the standard small talk islands of neutral conversation fodder: children (him daughters, me nothing), dogs (him golden retrievers, me chihuahua), siblings (each have one younger), career (him military, me boring stuff). So of course the topic I chose to ask more about:

me: how old are they? your dogs?
dude: 25 and 23
me: OH MY GOD REALLY I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! Are they still kicking around?? Are they happy?
me: *intense fantasizing about SUPER OLD GOLDEN RETRIEVERS*
me: *they probably have pipes and vests and are so slow, probably grey beards* (like lily in the pics)
dude: ha well yes one works at pacers and one is just finishing school and i mean yes pretty happy i guess

So yes of course he thought I was asking about his daughters because jesus of course that would have been a far more normal thing to ask about. Who asks about how old dogs are? Who does that? He was then all smug like yes this young sprite thought I was her age and can't believe I have adult daughters hell yes.
posted by skrozidile at 11:38 AM on October 20, 2015 [88 favorites]

You know, if I didn't want to have tears streaming at the office, I really shouldn't look at pictures like this.

(Not to be confused with the quotidian sobbing one does in one's cubicle.)
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:41 AM on October 20, 2015 [11 favorites]

Having lost a dear and cherished beagle at 8 years old this past month, I figured I'd be sobbing too. But there's something so beautiful and life-affirming about these photos. They (the photos and the dogs) are staring life right in the face. It doesn't matter how old a dog is, they are all golden avatars of timelessness and mindfulness all in one package.
posted by blucevalo at 11:55 AM on October 20, 2015 [29 favorites]

These silver-muzz babydogs are exquisitely beautiful, which is good, but this post is making me think about the aging of my own (eight?-year-old) Boston, which is bad. I feel very fortunate that time hasn't made him any less of a hellion, albeit one who now usually prefers to snore on the couch rather than doing a half-hour of joyous zoomies whenever we get a foot of snow. My only real regret in life is not backing up my laptop before it got stolen when my house got broken into, because I lost all of his gotcha day photos in the process... really, all my photos of his first couple of years with us. I love the silver-muzz version of him with everything I have, but I wish I could still catch a glimpse of his pure seal brindle puppy-self every once in a while, too. He was such a skinny little guy when he got rescued off the street and has plumped up quite nicely in the meantime, having lived in the lap of luxury ever since.

Everyone please snuggle your puppies for me, young and old, spotted, solid, striped, brindle, fawn, brown, black, tan, white, blue, and most of all silver. These photos just reminded me to go home from work early so I can snuggle mine.
posted by divined by radio at 12:02 PM on October 20, 2015 [11 favorites]

Lily. Oh, Lily.

What beautiful photos.
posted by jbickers at 12:07 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

Awhile ago I was at a party where people politely asked how each other's kids were to get that out of the way and then it was "Who cares about the damn kids, SHOW ME YOUR DOGS." Phones were passed. Old dogs got the biggest AWWWWs.

Old dogs are magic, and so are these photos.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 12:08 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Confirmed cat lover here wants to give all those pups a scritch on the neck.
posted by vespabelle at 12:10 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

Dogs might get stiff and pudgy and grey, but I don't think they know what aging is. I think they have one concept of "me! I'm me!" that they get as puppies and that doesn't really change.
posted by emjaybee at 12:11 PM on October 20, 2015 [14 favorites]

Briscoe's doggy equivalent of a Dumbledore beard is sheer delight.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:13 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Audrey! Lily!

Also, I did not realize that beagles lose a lot of their colouring as they get older.
posted by Kitteh at 12:16 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

The black Labs at the end got to me. Mom has a black lab named Katie who is about half-and-half grey and white now, and it just shows so much how old she's getting and I don't want her to get old ever ever ever.
posted by xingcat at 12:18 PM on October 20, 2015

That was great, I needed that after what I call the "year of the country song". Got divorced, sold the house, my 9 year old best friend bullmastiff died, lost my job, wrecked my truck, owed the IRS a shit-ton and broke my hand two weeks ago and was told to fix it I needed to come up with $6K up front (after insurance). To live the life of a dog.... If only.
posted by KingBoogly at 12:18 PM on October 20, 2015 [15 favorites]

My 13-year-old miniature poodle (see Rufus) is going to Live Forever DO YOU HEAR ME??
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 12:20 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, I love these so much.

My Rufus (black lab) is lying next to me on the couch. He refused to go on his afternoon walk today. He is 6 and already an old man and I don't think I can love him more than I do but then every day there's a little more there.

(He looks the most like Maddie at age 7.)
posted by minsies at 12:21 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like the starker lighting in the older photos better.
posted by ian1977 at 12:27 PM on October 20, 2015

Rufus looks pretty good for 13
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:28 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's been years since we took pictures of the dogs with anything other than a phone. I will put my husband on that project pronto.

(Life tip: don't have multiple same-age pets. I know it doesn't stop bad luck, but I look at our 3 10/11-year-olds and I know there is such a reckoning coming in the next 2-4 years.)
posted by Lyn Never at 12:29 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have been on a kick to video and photograph my 17 year old cat recently. I have no baby pictures of her when she fit in the palm of my hand (oh, 21 year old me, you are the WORST) but I have a lot of the last seven years. I just want to be able to remember her angry gorgeous face when she is not around to yell me at anymore.
posted by Kitteh at 12:44 PM on October 20, 2015 [9 favorites]

Cash and I are going gray in tandem. Its an unsettling daily reminder of both our mortalities.

Other than the gray hairs sprouting up everywhere on the pooch, the only signs that he's getting older is the fact that he's snoring more and a round of fetch only lasts 20 minutes (20 hard running minutes…) instead of the former 30-45 minute sessions he'd go, actually, balls out.

Pro tip for all those lab-lubbers out there; if you find yourself with a border-collie/lab mix, it just makes for a forever-lab-puppy. Cash is somewhere around 6 and people constantly ask us where we got our 'puppy.'
posted by furnace.heart at 12:47 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

The black Labs at the end got to me.

Yeah me too. We had 2 elderly black labs, one died in July. They'd been together almost their whole lives, and almost our whole marriage so far. Funnily enough I think the remaining lab is probably a bit happier, because the one who's gone was really an attention hog and would just insert himself in between her and anyone petting her.

After he died she kind of stopped eating and we were a little worried but it turns out she was used to someone being there when she ate, and so she eats more regularly if someone is hanging around with her.

She still kind of seems like a puppy to me, greets us at the door every time, follows us around the house hoping for dropped food or random kindness. Still can't catch a treat to save her life.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:54 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

is this thread just gonna be full of stories about and maybe even pictures of people's adorable old dogs because oh nooooooooooooo i'm still at work
posted by nogoodverybad at 12:57 PM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

Puppies are adorable, but old dogs are just too beautiful.
posted by maxsparber at 12:59 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Here is a picture I took of both of them last year It is not exactly what I wanted but they were not real helpful.

Here is my in-laws dog who we really like a lot and who as a result of this photo shoot literally hides if he sees my camera.
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:00 PM on October 20, 2015 [13 favorites]

Damn, Rufus, play on player. You just get better with age, you old hound you.

I see you too, Cooper, you old sly mutt. You moved about 3 inches in like 7 years you old lazy rascal.
posted by still bill at 1:01 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

The looks on the old dogs faces- content, at ease- so beautiful.

I have gotten both my beasts when they were two, so no baby pictures. I am an obsessive documenter tho, and when I go back in time I remember those endless beach runs and hikes and urban adventures where no one turned us away cause my dog was heeler lab- which meant love with nuclear energy behind it. The new one is a slightly scary looking Husky Mix who gets comments on his pretty all the time- he's a whiny mommy's dog who argues with me .

Damn I just got something in my eye....
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 1:14 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Must go home to schnuggle with doggie.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:17 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Aw dogs. I don't even like dogs, but they deserve our love.
posted by Segundus at 1:36 PM on October 20, 2015

I would like Rufus as my life coach. What's your secret, Rufus?
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:40 PM on October 20, 2015

I see you too, Cooper.
posted by valkane at 1:41 PM on October 20, 2015

Oh, good old doggies! Cute young doggies you were, too!
posted by rmd1023 at 1:55 PM on October 20, 2015

Audrey is so very Audrey.
posted by Splunge at 2:13 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think Audrey may have the most appropriate name a dog has ever had, because if ever there was an Audrey it's her. And Briscoe really does rock his beard.
posted by scalefree at 2:15 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Grey muzzles always get me too. Have to share mine.

Here's my newfie / lab mix one month after we adopted her. She paused her non-stop barking long enough to give her opinion on the local flora. According to the shelter, she was a year and a half old.

Fast forward eight+ years and here she is now. Quite happy because the cats are pestering the other dog and not her.
posted by honestcoyote at 2:20 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

Awwwwwwwwwwwwww doggies doggies doggies!!! Especially senior citizen doggies!
posted by magstheaxe at 2:25 PM on October 20, 2015

Even on the worst of days, pictures of happy smiling dogs make me smile the truest of smiles.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:26 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Aww, now I want to go home and cuddle my Tugboat. Then and now
posted by ghharr at 2:47 PM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

Wow, I forgot how striking the contrast was on my dog's face (age 4) between his black fur and the white blaze down his snoot. Nowadays it's much more diffuse due to all the grey (age 9).
posted by misskaz at 2:50 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh old dogs. Old dogs fill me with so much happy/sad. We adopted our Shaggy when he was guesstimated to be somewhere between 5 and 9. We've had him 4 years now, and he's gone from a black muzzle to gray, with silly gray old-man eyebrows.

Sometimes I get very sad that I never saw him as a puppy! Then I chastise myself, but really, I'm sure he was the cutest, floofiest puppy ever.

Shaggy four years ago

Shaggy now

I wouldn't give up a moment I've had with im, but sometimes it hurts how fast he's moving to the end of his line.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:51 PM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

This thread is my entire heart.
posted by misskaz at 2:53 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure we can talk about awesome, old dogs without linking out to Denali.

Don't watch unless you've got a couple cases of tissues on hand.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:02 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Bo The Goth Husky

Cause I'm a proud mama.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 3:43 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yeah dogs!

Boo, old dogs, but still yeah dogs!

I miss all of my old dogs terribly and it's always a little heart stabby to see my current crop get whiter and lazier. But I wouldn't want to miss a single moment of snorfling with the goons. Plus we have a now 1.5 year old who's a goofy, overly energetic turd. Love her too.

But yeah, the short time we get with them really, really bites.
posted by drewbage1847 at 3:44 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Awwww dogs

Samson at 4 and 14

posted by moonmilk at 3:47 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

MetaFilter: snorfling with the goons.
posted by Splunge at 3:48 PM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

My dogs are shop dogs; they come to work with us at our motorcycle shop. They are both middle-aged (7 and 6-ish-we-think) and they are my soul.

I took this today in the store.
posted by workerant at 3:49 PM on October 20, 2015 [10 favorites]

My boyfriend lost his really sweet, adorable, old pup just about a year ago (I think she was 15 as far as we knew) . I was just thinking today how much I still miss Penny snuggles.

She had a rough life before he got her, but she lived out her last few years being indulged and adored. That girl loved French fries and tater tots and loved to take care of babies (her toys or real ones -- she was one of the few dogs that would run toward a crying child).

Old pups are the best. Young pups are the best. Basically, pups are the best.
posted by darksong at 4:07 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Max is 14ish. His muzzle is greyer, his eyes are cloudy and blind, he's diabetic and a few months ago he spat out a tooth. Last December I wrote an AskMe about him because I thought he was going to die. He rallied and is currently sitting on my foot trying to lick pizza crust crumbs off of my jeans.

Old dogs are amazing, but hard on my poor human heart.

(also, I am heartened that other MeFites use the words 'snoot' and 'snorfling' with regard to their dogs!)
posted by kimberussell at 4:11 PM on October 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

Always dogs forever.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:16 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

ahhhh i love this so much

on a related note, my facebook experience got infinitely better once i started following the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary page. i want to be buried there someday. or maybe they can just feed me to the old friends i don't care
posted by burgerrr at 4:48 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Ten year old Fred has Just. So. Much. Gravitas.
posted by prettypretty at 5:02 PM on October 20, 2015

+1 to the Old Friends Sanctuary - it's amazeballs.
posted by drewbage1847 at 5:06 PM on October 20, 2015

I would strongly advocate for the eradication of all human life from the earth if it weren't for dogs - we made them, it's the only good thing we've ever done as a species, and they would miss us.

Off to scritch the belly of mine, who at 9(?) is as energetic as ever, thankfully.
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:09 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

The photos in the FPP are sweet, but the comments here (and the pictures!) have made me tear up.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:18 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Imagine how your life would be if you had not at least once experienced this: a dog stretched out on her side on the floor, in an exhausted slumber after a lovely day on the beach, or playing tug-of-war with you in the backyard. She snores soundly and gently and then takes in one deep breath. Holds it a little longer than the other breaths. Then: floosh! It comes out all at once and her lip flap thing does a little dance. The sleepy-doggy-lip-floosh dance.

They say that to be a full and proper person you should travel and read widely and do charitable deeds, but you also need to see the sleepy-doggy-lip-floosh dance. And it needs to be your dog. And you need to be able to reach out and gently stroke along her neck to her shoulder to let her know you are there and always will be for as long as she needs you.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:04 PM on October 20, 2015 [14 favorites]

Here is the most early handy portrait of my golden retriever Shady. That was 10 years ago, she was 6.
Here is her, this year, in January.

Shady grew to live to 16 years old. She came to my life when I was 16 and going through a very rough time; and she left peacefully at 16 years old.

She kept me company at 3-5am walks as a teenager, and 9-5 days in the office as an adult, and camping trips my "whole" life. She went "pee" crazy with happiness when I got home (that stopped, eventually, thankfully), she sucked at fetch (all the take and none the give), and she was the sweetest, kindest, most patient dog I've met.

The week she died, someone asked me how old was she - 2,4? - and she was skipping and hopping down the street - but for 5 minutes at a time, instead of 10 hours.

I loved her to bits, and I am sad but peaceful with her passing away - it really was her time. She started to be painfully old.

But my memories of our long walks, those shiny eyes, and that excitement ... these photos capture that difference, from a wild happy teenager to the happy, wise elder.

I miss her, and I am happy we had such a good life together.
posted by olya at 8:50 PM on October 20, 2015 [13 favorites]

Back in the eighties, when I was just a cog in the machine, struggling to keep a roof over my head working in an office in which I was paid a hair above minimum wage to monitor machines duplicating the cockpit voice recordings of pilots dying in plane crashes, over and over, when I was holding out the thinnest shred of hope that one day, I'll pull it all together, and that my life would eventually get better, and easier, and lighter, I used to spend my weekends visiting churches, temples, and other sacred spaces. I didn't believe in anything by then—years of bullying and the frustration of having to take so much longer than anyone around me to figure out who I was and where I fit had burned gods and angels into shells of dust, and reason came to me and blew even that away—but I was drawn to something, and I kept looking for what it was.

The Solid Rock Foundation of Christ Baptist Church was another old storefront in my rundown neighborhood, a former five and dime colonized by a small congregation, and I'd slip out on Sunday mornings, leaving my boyfriend curled up in a tangle of magenta polyester satin, and go to church. The sermons didn't move me, despite the preacher beating the pulpit and punctuating his points of an order with a reverberant "HA!" and a snap of the head in something so much more muscular and alive that the limp suburbane of the Presbyterian church we attended when I was still a kid. The sermons didn't speak, and the readings and rhetoric were all just words hanging in the air, as empty as anything else that was meant to mean a lot, but the music…well, fuck.

The gospel choir would open up and the volume of wild, uncontrollable joy in that low, beat-down place was just enough to stand your hair on end, particularly when you were a little smalltown boy in a strange land, and the only white face there on all but the rarest days. There was a drummer and a bassist and those voices, speaking a language of love for something I didn't care about in the least, and yet, I just couldn't stop showing up, mostly because of the perfect magical moment when the women around me would start to get happy. I knew everyone by name, from the ritual of that stop in the service when everyone would be invited to share the peace and the whole place stood, smiling, and shook hands and shared pleasantries. I'd reach out and shake hands with men in beautifully tailored suits with shoes polished to the sheen of bright beetles in sunshine and socks keyed to match neckties and take the hands of women in hats as broad and blue as the whole entire ocean, and I'd wonder, sometimes, if I was just some sort of tourist, or a spy, a single sodomite hiding my sin so as to drink in the music and the strangeness, but it wasn't like that…entirely.

In summer, the place would heat up like an oven, and the music was a kind of magic tied right into some almost forgotten part of us that remembers our mother's heartbeat in utero, and as the choir pitched and roiled and I broiled in my seat, sweating through my paltry go-to-meeting sport coat, and something huge and hot and unstoppable would wash in like a wave until it crashed over us…and the women sitting near the spot I always picked out for just this reason would get happy, leaping up, arms reaching out, shouting "Hallelujah!" over and over until the ushers would converge and walk them out into the aisle and lay them down there, fanning them to keep them cool as the spirit fired them like clouds of neutrons in a boiling reactor. Sometimes, the ushers, just in that first touch, would get it like an electric current flowing through that moist and salty touch, and they'd get happy, dancing in the aisles until they, too, would end up on their backs on the floor, smiling and mumbling and just being there, in that wild moment.

I never caught it myself, though the frisson would take me and just bounce up and down from my head to my toes, and still, I knew there was still something, somewhere, that knew me and dreamed of me and called for me.

So the years rolled on and life rose and fell and I arrived somewhere more secure and more comfortable, and when I was out of college for a year, I decided one day that it was time, and I was ready.

I went looking for a beagle at the shelter, recalling the fat little beagle of my childhood and how she was the tender to our household, always looking out for us and carefully monitoring our every meal, and I'd picked one out, except the volunteer working that day intervened to show me another dog that she said would be a better match. In a cold concrete cell, a medium-sized tan dog with an odd face was curled up in the corner, head down, and the volunteer brought me in, but the dog kept her head down and looked mangy and nervous and awkward. She was a mix of Shar Pei and yellow labrador, with a wrinkly face, a dudley nose, and backwards ears, and I…well, I wasn't convinced.

The volunteer, though, was one of those kindhearted people who get involved and play against the rules because that's what you do when you're truly kindhearted, and what she knew, but did not say, was that that dog was on her very last day, and because no one in all the months she'd been there, lurking at the back of her pen, had ever requested to visit her, giving her the little check mark on her papers that would give her more time, but once I'd visited, she got one more day, and I came back the next day with my boyfriend to show her.

"She looks sort of mangy and afraid," he said, in a perfectly valid critique, but her furry face had haunted me all night, with her hazel eyes that almost perfectly matched mine, and I just dug in. Another check mark got her another day, and the next day, I showed up with a checkbook and signed papers. A home visit suspiciously wanted to ensure there were no children in my home, and the visiting official from the shelter was concerned that I didn't have a fenced yard, but he, too, knew that it was nearly her last day, and that there would be no one else.

So I had a dog. Her first vet visit determined she had severe dysplasia and would need three thousand dollars of surgery to fix her hip, and I cried a lot that night, but the shelter counted it as a preexisting condition and paid for the surgery, an amount so high that it was a line item in their next year's budget, which is why I donated generously to the shelter as long as I could afford to, and Rose had what vets described as a "Shar Pei temperament," which meant she could not be loose in the company of children, old white men and young black men, and most other dogs, but she watched over me like Kali, a warrior goddess for me in a time when I lost everything, and when I would spend the nights sleepwalking in a numb, unconscious acting-out of my mounting frustrations that's a big part of why I've had a hard time finding a mate in the world.

Sometimes, when the bank was selling my home out from under me, I'd wake up shuddering in panic attacks so serious I was convinced I was actually dying, when I'd get up and get dressed so when they found me dead I'd at least have some dignity, and as I lay there on top of the sheets vibrating like a tuning fork from fear and anxiety, she would step lightly up onto the bed, pad over to me, and tuck herself into my armpit with her head draped over my shoulder and her snoring like the songs of monks in Tibet, and I'd sleep, in spite of everything.

She was bad at being a dog, and I was a bad at being a person. I came up with workarounds for her irregularities and inexplicable raging bigotries, and she learned to walk with me when I would climb out of bed, lost in dreams, and rearrange the house for reasons only the dreamer at the controls could explain, and would walk me back to bed and find her place.

She was with me fourteen years, longer than any relationship I've ever had, and then I killed her.

She'd gotten white in the face, dull in the eyes, and her mind was nearly gone, and she could hardly walk, or even stand, and I would wake up in the early morning when she'd cry for me and carry sixty-five pounds of dog and one beach towel down the four steps of my porch and sling the towel under her stomach to help her stay on her feet long enough to pee and otherwise take care of business, and one day, one seizure after another came and it was time. So my ex and I, joined by my mother, convened in a little room at the vet and stood with her staring back at us on that stainless steel table and I made the single most difficult decision I've ever made, and that was the end of her story.

The fact that we run on different clocks is the complication of the thing I know to be true—that humans and dogs are not different species at all, but one more of the natural miracles that make living on Earth almost unbearably amazing and frustrating. We came along, such a young, fragile species, and the wolves that followed us at first to figure out if we were good to eat changed their minds, and they helped us to evolve and we lifted them up, too, and the signals started bouncing back and forth between us like that hidden hallelujah in the roar of the music, a little spark as old as mountain ranges and the stars overhead, that can fill us up and give us light enough to let us rise.

And yeah, this is where reason leaves me and poetry begins, and my life with the dog that no one wanted is a long, tangled path between then and now and if I have found some sort of success at being a person, it has been under the watchful eye of a bad-tempered wrinkly-faced guardian with backwards ears, and that's why I see old dogs, and see the old dogs lurking in young dogs, too, and see a lifetime of careful stewardship of a human soul framed out in white, half-seen by fading eyes. The dog with me now is young and strong, just coming into middle age at seven, and I have been through her terrible twos, when my couch disappeared one day, her boisterous threes and fours, and her maturation as a dog with a whole new set of tricks as a member of the pariah landraces that manage to delight and exasperate, and as I sit and make myself bawl watching beautiful tributes to old dogs on my tablet with her snoring next to me, I look over and know she'll be old sooner than I think, and I'll kill her, too, but not before she walks me into more wisdom and more understanding and more acceptance.

And when the box came, after I killed my protector, a little rosewood box engraved R-O-S-E and carrying the ground up bits of what was left of her, and when I sat on my sofa with my hands resting on the box and thought of our adventures and our quiet moments and who I was when I met her and who I was by the end, and the charge came to me like gospel voices thundering in a hot, dumpy church twenty-five years prior, like that charge of inexplicable grace and kindness and love in the face of all that is wrong with the world, and without a word or a movement, brothers and sisters—I got happy.
posted by sonascope at 8:55 PM on October 20, 2015 [41 favorites]

This is Tess. She's 12 now, though has no knowledge of it--the world has simply sped up while she wasn't watching, and she definitely has Thoughts about that.

She is a purebred "working" border collie with everything that implies. Relentless energy, smarts and quirkiness in spades. The kiss she's giving my hand in the photo is a rarity. She's super friendly--from a distance--and will wag at everyone, but doesn't much care for petting, even from her favorites people. From strangers? No way--attempts elicit deep rumbling growls and a display of impressive dog teeth (even if her canines are flat-topped from tennis balls in her youth, before we learned they were a bad idea).

I think I'm up to six times in those 12 years where she has snuggled with me, those occasions all the more memorable for that. She'll tolerate being petted most of the time--with definite time limits--but not if there is something more important going on, like watching out for C-A-T-S (she knows the word, along with a couple of dozen others, so be sure to spell it), or food. Tess is all about food.

If you want to see a model citizen, get some food out. She'll be sure to make you aware "here I am, lying peacefully on the floor, calm, quiet...I'm like this all the time, you know. I probably deserve a crumb or two." Which is a lie--not the deserve part, that's true enough, but the calm and quiet part.

Tess lives life at 100 miles per hour. (80 mph now.) When I have my sandwich in the evening, she and her fellow B.C. Kipp (a young man at 10) will come help ease the burden of eating the whole thing from me, a purely charitable act on their part. After Kipp has left (he gets up promptly after the turkey or ham has stopped falling from the table), she'll start singing me the cookie song.

(I have a cookie oft times after the sandwich, can't disappoint the dog, eh?)

The cookie song consists of rumbles and "coos" and other non-barking vocalizations, in her deep voice, and are the best thing. The height of Tess' love is lying 10' from you, putting her normally straight-up ears down, and singing you a song. Love on her own terms. Sometimes she'll do that even if there doesn't seem to be any food.

The pup will eventually warm up to you if you visit frequently, but it's going to take a long while. Tess is a thwarter of "dog people", those people convinced every dog loves them on sight. The kind of folks who take your warnings and pooh-pooh them, saying "dogs love me" and then get offended when offered dangerous sounding growls and a huge show of teeth when looming over the dog and threatening it with the dreaded snuggle.

But if you don't corner her or look likely to pet her, Tess will eventually come investigate, and then, just a few months later, might actually let you pet her. Once, for a second. "You did bring dog cookies, right? No cookies, no touch."

Tess is my wife's dog, really; I'm here to un-train her and occasionally baby-sit. Tess is like certain kids--when mom is around, everyone else is more interesting and they would rather spend time with anyone else. But if Mom leaves, the only thing they do is wait for Mom to get back...and when the door opens, mom's boring again. So it goes with Tess, too.

We're convinced she understands more English than she lets on, though I don't know if you'd ever be able to explain "calm" to her.

Tess is amazing and frustrating and wonderful and annoying and just the best thing. I love her more than anything.
posted by maxwelton at 12:02 AM on October 21, 2015 [9 favorites]

I pretty much only ever adopt old weird dogs that other people don't understand. Is that strange? I figure that way we can sit around being standoffish and awkward together and take naps. And nobody appreciates a comfy bed like an old dog. I can see why it makes people sad, because we lost ours at 13 just a couple of months ago and I'm still not over it. But really, they're worth it; old dogs are the best.
posted by thetortoise at 4:14 AM on October 21, 2015 [7 favorites]

Thanks for sharing all the great stories and pics you guys. We lost Emily at 13 years last October and still miss the hell out of that girl. Here's one of the first pics of her ever, one of the last, and one in glorious prime.
posted by nenequesadilla at 1:32 PM on October 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

Very often, pictures of old dogs remind me of the couples (actually, actors portraying real couples) featured in the interstitial segments of "…When Harry Met Sally": visibly content, visibly old, usually a little tired, but visibly happy.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:42 AM on October 26, 2015

Oh fuck. Why did I come into this thread? Just last night my random photo screensaver served me up one of Ginger, who we had to put down about two years ago now. I took it when she was a puppy, half-grown, giving me a play bow out in the snow. Made me sad.

Now a bunch of pictures of old dogs. I need the kleenex.
posted by nubs at 10:56 AM on October 26, 2015

Having to put your dog down is one of the saddest things a human can possibly go through. I'd imagine the next thing further down on the list is the loss of a human loved one, but there can't be many things in between the two on this awful, terrible list - whatever it is called. I personally like the Bible's take on it:

I also thought, "As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?"

I also like Robert Louis Stevenson's take: You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.

Dobermans don't live nearly as long as a dog that good should, typically cancer gets them in the 10-12 range. This is what happened to our beloved Harriet. She was a 90 pound nut, claustrophobic to the point she'd lose bladder control when you put an arm around her neck. She was also second mother in the house - mom used to put my 1 year old brother down with her and she would just take care of him on her own for hours on end. Most of all she was a GOOD DOG.

I've told the story on AskMe before, but it bears repeating here:

My folks still live out in the country on the 6 acre plot they moved to when I was 10. I was away at college when we lost Harriet - the dog I grew up with, dad had to take her to the vet to have her put down, she had pretty advanced cancer and was in a good deal of pain. Anyway, he brought her home and dug a 4 foot or so hole for her (not a small task, dobies aren't small dogs) under the cherry tree that she used to run straight at to pee under when you let her out in the morning (dad always had a weird sense of humor). They put her rawhide bone in with her, covered it up, and my brother had a little cross that he built to mark her grave.

Well, about a week goes by and one morning mom is out in the garden and she notices something funny over on Harriet's grave. Turns out its one of the jackrabbits that we see running around in the back field, which Harriet used to love chasing when she could find her way back there through an open gate or something. To this day we still have no idea how Jack (the german shepherd) and Bo (the english sheepdog) found their way back there much less how they managed to catch a rabbit, but you could tell that they didn't think of eating it or even chewing it - it was in almost perfect condition save the fact that it was dead. The dogs' own funny little way of saying goodbye I guess.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:51 PM on October 27, 2015 [6 favorites]

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