By Joanna Mitzel


Summer, often the most beloved season, means Barbeques and bonfires; Flowers and fireworks; Vacations and visitors. This much needed break from the ordinary provides relief for both kids and adults alike. For a short three months, monotony is often replaced with spontaneity. Then, every September, the lifeguards step down from their posts, the school busses reintegrate into our morning commutes and all of our favorite ice cream shops close early. Sweater weather begins to roll in and life returns to normal.





For old dogs, the reverse is true. Summer can be a stressful time. Established routines don’t always apply. Schedules change last minute for weekend getaways. Rotating pet sitters serve evening meals. Visitors occupy their place on the sofa. And fireworks on 4th of July can be frightening.  But come September, routine melts away all of the stress about what’s happening next.



Each morning, I wake my dogs and shuttle them outside to go potty. After turning on the news, I prepare four different customized meals for my senior pets. Everyone receives their bowls and meds in the same spots, in the exact same order. When the weekend rolls around, I am assured that they can all tell time. For a second, I wish that I could sleep for just five more minutes, but then I remember how my sweet Sal dances as I put her bowl down; How B impatiently barks and jumps all over Jack making sure that I remember he is the alpha dog; And all the while, my kitty is meowing in the background after working up a hunger from a luxurious night’s rest.




Each evening, the process is repeated except after eating, I change into my walking clothes. On cold, dark and rainy nights, I dream of simply shuttling everyone into the yard to do their business while I stay warm and dry; however, words cannot describe the joy our short walk around the block brings to my senior pack. Despite her arthritis, Sal especially looks forward to that after dinner walk each and every day. She patiently steps into her harness, leads me to the mailbox, greets her neighbor dog friends at the house on the corner, and stops to sniff at least 1,000x along our tried and trusted route.






Before bed, everyone settles into their spot, burrowing under blankets on the sofa bed in the living room—because with three senior dogs, a regular sofa simply won’t due for daytime naps and nighttime television. As darkness falls, an hour or so sooner than I’ve become accustomed to, I think about all of my summer adventures—road trips throughout Washington, paddle boarding at the lake, and the visit to the amusement park in Utah. Despite all the fun, courtesy of the season of sunshine, I wouldn’t trade an average day in the life with my animals for anything in the world.



Each day in the life of a senior dog is a gift. As my dogs have aged, they have developed my patience, my kindness, urged me to embrace change and to take some time to slow down and enjoy the moment. I appreciate every snuggle and every long nap. I embrace the senior moments and am grateful for the ordinary. My personal old dog haven has most definitely taught me the beauty of routine.





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