Letter From an Old Friend

My dear master,

I woke up this morning thinking of all the wonderful years we’ve had together. We’ve had quite a time, haven’t we? You’ve changed a little, but take a close look at me. Sometimes I don’t think you realize how far I’ve come since I toddled across your kitchen floor for the first time. I’m told that 12 or 13 years isn’t too long for a human, but you must realize that it’s nearly a lifetime to a dog like me.

I think you’ve noticed that I’m moving more slowly these days, but I’m not sure you realize why. I’ve heard the vet asking about whether I seem to be in pain. A couple of things could be causing my hesitation at the base of the stairs and my troubles getting into the car, even my subtle increase in grumpiness, but joint pain is right at the top of that list. I haven’t complained about it; that’s not my way. But in my defense, you haven’t asked. Remember, I’ve been pounding around on these old joints since I was a pup, and I’m a senior citizen now—no matter how strenuously you may try to ignore that fact. Please, take home that pain medicine trial that the vet keeps offering. I might surprise you by showing a little more spring in my step. If you want to protect me from joint and back injuries, you might place a ramp or a miniature flight of stairs to help me get on and off the bed safely. I may need some support under my rear end when getting in the car and some help keeping my balance when using the stairs. You can handle that, right?

Speaking of injuries, I might need a hand with these younger dogs. That rough wrestling and rambunctious behavior used to be right up my alley, but I’m becoming more fragile. I might object to save face, but I really need to spend more time on the sidelines these days. They’ve been my pals for years, but one of these youngsters, one of these days, is going to start a genuinely aggressive fight. I’ll be the one to get hurt, so please be alert for any subtle signs of an impending power struggle.

I’m at the age where little things may bother me quite a bit more, so it’s safer for me to keep a comfortable routine where nothing changes too much. Please don’t bring home unusual treats or give me special meals that will jolt my digestive system in any way. If I get sick from that, it could end up being quite serious, and I don’t want us both to regret it afterwards. Try to feed me the same amount every day, so that you can estimate how much I’m consuming. If there’s a change in my appetite, that could be the first sign of a problem with my health.

I have a little more I want to share, but first I think I need a little mid-morning nap…

Dr. M.S. Regan