Old Dog Love–I Got It Bad

My Great Love! Darla Louise!

My Great Love! Darla Louise! (Before her summer cut)

Many days she smells no better than an old blanket that’s been soaking in a bucket of sour milk for week.

Her body sports more lumps than a bride’s first attempt at making mashed potatoes.

Still, I look at her and know that I’m in love.

She is my 14 ½ year old dog. Together, we’ve reached a bittersweet chapter.

I now know Old Dog Love.

Darla going through the McDonalds drive-thru after her annual, dreaded trip to the vet for her check up.

Darla going through the McDonalds drive-thru after her annual, dreaded trip to the vet for her check up.

Our story goes back to the year 2000. I was single and living alone when my house was broken into. Three days later, the thugs came back and stole my car off the street using a set of spare car keys I hadn’t realized they had taken.

The police shrugged their shoulders. “Lady, get a gun or get a dog,” was their big advice.

Since I’d never even held a gun, my choice was clear.

I headed to the Humane Society where I knew her the moment I saw her—a delicious ball of yellow fur rolling around showing off her pink belly. “Lab Mix,” the sign in front of the litter said.

“How very generous,” I’ve thought about that description over the years, realizing my dog is much more “mix” than “Lab.”

Darla catching snowflakes on her tongue.

Darla catching snowflakes on her tongue.

Turns out, needing some protection was just the excuse to lead me to one of the best relationships of my life.

We had Puppy Love, which is much like it sounds. A crush on someone who loves you instantly, unconditionally, and ultimately unrealistically.

That led to Teen Dog Love where I realized my dog wasn’t perfect, needed guidance to stay out of trouble, but so fun because she was always up for adventure be it countless hours in the dog park, a swim in a river, or a trip to the beach.

And there’s been plenty of Full Grown Love, when it seems she has just always been here. She’s known me as the single career girl, met and sniffed out various beaus.

Darla with our 3-legged cat, Pisa.

Darla with our 3-legged cat, Pisa.

When I married last year, she effortlessly made the transition to Family Dog, somehow charming my previously non-animal loving husband. If we both are in the house, but in separate rooms, she makes a point to go lay by his feet, instead of mine. When I go check on them, she gives me that dog wink as if to say, “I got this.” My otherwise astute husband has no clue he’s been suckered into a special friendship.

Where you'll now find Darla for most of the day.

Where you’ll now find Darla for most of the day.

Hanging out with our chickens is now a fave past time.

Hanging out with our chickens is now a fave past time.

My dog is 14 ½ now and I know our time together is shorter rather than longer. It’s in the way I give her back legs a boost to hop into the back seat of the car. It’s in the way our three long daily walks have been replaced by one. She much prefers her day-long snoring snooze fest in her self-created cave behind the couch in the den. It’s in the news that other dogs she played with in the park as a puppy have passed on.

I know in my head, the contract she signed to be on this Earth is shorter than mine.

Yet the idea of her passing on instantly fills my eyes with buckets of tears and makes it a little hard to breathe.

If you’re a person whose heart is being kept by a dog, I know you understand.

That’s why every chance I get, I drink in that stinky smell like it’s the world’s finest perfume and run my hands over her lumpy body.


It’s a case of Old Dog Love. And I got it bad.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.




  • Tracey Reidy

    I needed this today as my husband and I made that worst of worst decisions to do right by our sweet girl, 151/2 year old JRT Angel. For the past several days we have alternated from being walking zombies to cry globs of goo. But we know what we did what was best for her even though it doesn’t feel like it was best for us. Give old Darla dog an extra hug from Angel Reidy today. And enjoy every minute…

  • Tracey–I so understand. Here’s sweet Angel and all the joy she and her memory will continue to bring your family forever.

  • Donn S. Miller

    Ms. Kagan:
    Over the years I have become confirmed in my belief that I shall not go broke betting on the trustworthiness of dogs or the perfidy of humans. People, knowing of my cynophilia but not realizing its depth, will try to ingratiate themselves with me by proclaiming their love of dogs; some of these, who own dogs (but seldom adult dogs and never elderly dogs), do not know that I see right through their monstrous lack of loyalty toward creatures who deserve much, much better. To me, for one to see that one always has a dog — as long as it is a puppy — does not qualify one as a dog-lover. I tip my hat to you, Ms. Kagan, for your fidelity to elderly dogs. My favored candidate for a Nobel Prize will be the scientist who develops the means for dogs to have lifespans comparable to those of their humans. Until then, though, I have found that it soothes me, on the instance when I finally lose one of my dogs, to immediately take steps to replace it with another (definitely not purchased, but rescued). In this way I see myself as requiting what dogs have unselfishly given to me over the decades.
    «Senex Ægypti Parvi»

Old Dog Love–I Got It Bad

by DarynKagan time to read: 3 min