Old Dog Love

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

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 13 ½ year old dog.  Together, we’ve reached a bittersweet chapter.

I now know Old Dog Love.

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.”

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.

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.

My dog is 13 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.




  • Christine Saikaley

    When I was pregnant with my first child I took my cat to the vet for her usual annual check up. Just like you, I was single when I got my Pooky Loo and she also became a family cat. She was thirteen and I was informed that she did not have long to live. My son was born and she was with us for three more months. It was almost as though she hung around to make sure I was fine with my new life and baby and then she passed away. As I write this fiftteen years later, my eyes still well up with tears thinking about all the uncondititional love she gave me throughout the almost fourteen years we were together. .

  • Beth

    My sweet best buddy Heidi is also 13 1/2 and I know exactly how you feel.

  • Susy

    Thank you for this! Reminds me so much of my old Jeckyl, who charmed my husband in much the same way. I shared on FB, for friends who have either just been there or are going through it now…

  • My Dad sent me your column from the Dayton Daily News. I have a 13 year old lab-mix that I believe was sent to me from my mother in heaven. She now has her own snooze fest in her cave under my home desk, she can only walk a few houses up the street now, but can still take command and has gained mothering respect with the 6 year old adolescent poodle-mix in the household. She gained certification as a therapy dog at the age of one year old. She would lead me into the hospital room that she felt needed her love for the day. One hundred percent of the time she was right on.

    She was the first dog I owned by myself and will also be the “once in a life-time dog”. She had a recent medical scare that I now know that soon one day I will have to make the decision when to let her go and let her work on this earth end.

    I just want you to know that you words are right on and will even after my dear Cinder is gone I will always have the case of “Old Dog Love” for her.

    A great story I will share on Facebook with my animal lover friends.

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Old Dog Love

by DarynKagan time to read: 3 min
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