Meet Iris. She is 14 years old and has lived her entire life with my family and me. She has not been the easiest little dog to manage, but we’ve chosen to keep her through all of her stages and phases and we are very happy to be caring for her in her older years.
Iris was the cutest little Beagle puppy ever, her tan a pretty lemon color and with a big splash of white up one hip. At 6 months old, she started running phantom rabbits in our yard, baying her heart out. She had the other dogs fooled for a couple of days; after that they ignored her. In spite of burning her muzzle on the grass and running so hard every day that her body was sore, Iris kept up this odd behavior for 7 years, finally giving it up when she was about 8.
More recently, Iris has become nearly blind, nearly deaf, and her sniffer isn’t working as well as it used to. With such a drastic reduction in the information she was getting about the world around her, Iris began barking almost incessantly. We tried a few things, and noticed that she didn’t bark if she was in a place where she could see her people. As a result of this discovery Iris is spending a lot more time with her human family and less time with her dog family. Of course that means more treats and Iris doesn’t mind that at all.
We could have decided to “re-home” her when she was a difficult, crazy pup, or when she became a noisy senior citizen. Being her forever home has meant investing in fences, spending the money on her veterinary care, and also spending the time to see what it takes to keep her happy. Iris is a sweet dog. Just watching her prancy-dance whenever she anticipates a treat make us so glad we have her in our family. Forever.
Note: This piece originally appeared on my local pets group Facebook Page on October 2, 2014. It was written in response to the common and ongoing practice of “re-homing” semi-adult dogs when they are no longer cute little pups. Pups are cute, no doubt about it. Dogs are wonderful animals that continue to grow and change throughout their long lifetimes. If you keep them for the long haul you get to enjoy them in every stage of their lives.
Update, posted to the same Facebook group in June, 2015: Our beautiful Iris reached the end of her long road in April. She is now certainly delighting the hearts of the angels. We miss her greatly. Our thanks go to Dr. Molly Murphry at Carbon County Vets for helping Iris (and us) with her transition from this life to the next.