Retirement; just picture it, feet up sipping on a margarita, soaking up the sun on a white sand beach. Sound good? For many people retirement is a goal, how often do you hear "I can't wait to retire." To leave the 9-5 world behind? Although it may sound glorious for many of us humans, what does retirement mean for our dogs? First off; retirement is only relevant if your dog is either a working, very active or performance dog. For many retirement never comes into play, and life just sort of slows down. For my three, Tilley is the only true retiree while both Jessie and Luke have slowed down.
And unlike us; dogs don't want to retire. Retiring means giving up or cutting back on what you love to do. For many working dogs it means an end of working, often resulting in a complete change of lifestyle. Retiring is tough for a dog; it is not the envious retirement that we all long for. Many dogs have a very difficult time when they retire, but keeping active can help. Taking part in other activities that aren't as straining on their aging bodies helps. And quality time spent together, that is always a good plan.
Tilley was a high flying frisbee girl; I never taught her to fly, she was a natural. She was first introduced to the frisbee as a means of controlling her chase drive. She had started chasing shadows out of control, which soon became a dangerous situation. I started with a tennis ball which she quickly transferred her obsession to, from there we moved to a frisbee. It was pretty obvious even in the beginning of her frisbee days that she was a flyer. Forget waiting for the frisbee to come to her, she always went and got it. Even if that meant jumping heights that were easily over my head to get it. It was because of these go and get it tactics that she was required to retire from discing.
At first we slowed down, I tried my best to keep the discs lower to the ground which for me was easier said than done. I wrestled with the guilt of her not being allowed to frisbee anymore, it was tough. But there comes a moment when common sense must rule. It was no longer safe to allow Tilley to land her huge air jumps, she could break something. For a long while we went back to the tennis ball but even that had to be done with care. Tilley has an all or nothing mentality and even the simple act of chasing a tennis ball could be extremely dangerous. So after weaning to the tennis ball at the age of 9.5 we had to alter throwing tactics to ensure her safety.
Luke was also an amazing disc dog. He was never an air dog like Tilley and if he did happen to get some air we all cringed until he was back safely on the ground. His frisbee days ended with Tilley's which isn't a bad thing. He still loves ball but like Tilley he has a very strong drive, it's those retriever genes in them. He will do anything to get the ball and often gets hurt in the process. So throwing for him is also a very careful event. Jessie is just about completely deaf and nearly blind, so she is never allowed off leash. She is happy to follow a path along and loves nothing more than smelling all the thigns their are to smell in the park. Gone are her digging days.
So here we are now; Tilley is nearly 14, Jessie nearly 15 and Luke 10.5 years of age. Tilley only now gets a rolled ball and it is only rolled a very short distance. She can no longer join us on long walks, she can't do it. This is another step in the guilt department, when you know they can't do it any longer but feel so bad leaving them that you consider bringing them along. Just yesterday as we headed out to the beach I thought maybe, just maybe we should bring all three. Then I thought about how far they would have to walk, the steep ramp, the sand and all. It was too much for both Jessie and Tilley and we head out with our baby, our 10.5 year old baby. My heart strings were being tweaked, it is very tough but as a guardian it is our job to make tough decisions. It is when we are called upon to do what is right, and sometimes that means going against what your heart is telling you.
Once home from the beach we took the girls out for their snail pace stroll. Up a small path and back again was enough to knock them both out for the evening, but they enjoyed every snail step along the way.