July 27, 2015: Safety for Senior Dogs

~by Susi Pittman

The night air was heavy and calm, typical summer fare for a Florida night and I was enjoying conversation with the family on the back patio. When there was the sound of a large splash and I heard my daughter say, Oh no Bud!

I turned around in my chair to see my elderly Dalmatian struggling in the water and then going under in the dark.

I leapt and made two steps, jumping into the pool and reaching for my beloved pup. Wrapping my arms around his girth, under his front legs, I pulled him up, getting his head above water and getting us both over to the edge of the pool. The two of us just rested there, Bud panting hard and I could feel his heart pounding. With Bud under my arm, I swam over to the shallow end and my daughter and I helped Bud out and onto the patio where we wrapped him in a blanket. He immediately laid down, his whole body shaking, an indication that he was highly stressed. All the family gathered around him, loving on him and helping to dry him. Soon he sat up with his smiling face a beautiful sight in the dim light.

Once collected, my first thought was gratitude to mine and Bud’s guardian angels and for the instantaneous where-withal to have first…been where I needed to be and second…to have been able to lift my struggling 84-pound pup up to fresh air.

Bud is a senior dog, 11-years-old. In his younger days, Bud had legs that carried him like the wind anywhere he wanted to go. Several times he decided to follow his nose as hounds love to do, and he had us running behind him in a losing battle to catch up and stop him from leaving the property. But now, Bud has arthritis in his hind legs and takes medication to assist him in dealing with it. Bud is also deaf, but has shown me his amazing ability to compensate for that with his sense of smell and eyesight. I communicate with him by hand signals and he loves when I snuggle his ears and talk to him. He feels the vibrations of my voice and always responds with great affection.

Falling into the pool can be blamed on Bud’s left eyesight which is very dim. He had miscalculated where the curvature of the pool was and had just stepped off into the depths. When he fell into the pool, as hard as he tried, he could not get his hind legs to kick to aid him to swim and I do believe he thought he would die as he sank to the bottom of the pool.

So many times in the past, I had never given a thought to our older dogs being around the pool, even unattended, never once thinking that they could have slipped into the water. They had been around the pool years and years, how could they fall in?

It is just one of the moments in life, after all my experiences, all my knowledge and care of animals, all the diverse moments of animal crisis that I have handled, I just had to say to myself…stupid, what in the world were you not thinking!

It then made me think that this event was indeed a great time to not only share how incredibly fast a serious occurrence can manifest with a senior dog, but to also look at some of the safety tips to remember in order to thwart any future events.

Cesar Milan has a great article that I think should apply to every senior dog owner. The title is Caring for dogs that are blind or deafbut don’t let the title mislead you. Most senior dogs will lose some of their eyesight and most senior dogs will become hard of hearing. The methods applied here are still the same. This is a great read. Our senior dogs are like little children, they need our attentive monitoring in their old age, no matter how comfortable the environment. It can only take a moment for tragedy to strike.

And finally another great article from the Dog Channel is 9 must read tips to keep your dog afloat. Each year approximately 40,000 pets die in drowning accidents. Here are a few simple pool safety tips that can help keep your dog safe while still enjoying the pool. These tips are also helpful for dogs going to the beach, lakes, rivers, and streams this summer.

Enjoy your best friend safely! And don’t forget to thank your Angels.


Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference; a member of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Council of Women in Jacksonville, Florida; an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine;a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.

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