If you told me I’d have a dog live past 15, I would have raised my eyebrows. Over 18? I would have laughed! But we’re already at 18 – 3/4 years with Maggie, so that’s actually become a reality for us! It’s a daily blessing to have our Senior Beagle, Maggie (aka old lady, mags) in our life.
A Little Background: Adopting a Senior Beagle
If you are a reader of the blog, you may recognize the picture and Maggie’s name from the earlier post here. She was 13, fast approaching 14, when she came to us. Sadly, her human mom had died 10 months earlier in January of that year, and then her human grandmother died in July that same year. Unfortunately, her other human family members couldn’t keep her and started looking for someone to take her. At that time, we were still a 1 dog household. However, we had been thinking of getting another dog for Pebbles. Mags fit right in with the family and Pebbles became her caretaker and best friend, immediately.
Caring for a senior beagle (or any senior dog) can be a struggle, as well as very rewarding. And over the last 5 years, especially within the last year, I’ve learned a lot. We had never had a dog live past 15 before, so this is new territory! In this post, I’ve pulled together a few thoughts and tips I’ve learned from raising this senior beagle and wanted to share.
thought 1: Food Matters
What they put in their bodies is just as important as it is for us. We use a combination of brands and canned veggies to give balance and variety for Mags. This has changed, especially in the last year as she has lost teeth and can’t chew the dried nuggets anymore. Maggie eats canned dog food made from real food. It honestly looks like something we (humans) could or would eat right from the can. We also add in some pumpkin to regulate her digestive system. And have recently started adding oatmeal and freeze dried meat patties. We mix everything all together with some water. She gobbles it right up! In fact, her internal clock tells us when it’s meal time.
Thought 2: senior beagle [Dog] Dementia is Real
She sleeps 20-22 hours a day, most days. When she is up, it’s very obvious she isn’t the same as she was even a year ago. Part of that I blame on the very sudden loss of her dog caretaker, Pebbles, in August 2017. But also, and obviously, it’s due to her age. We try our best to keep watch over her so she doesn’t hurt herself. She is also rather stubborn, and a creature of habit, so we’ve had to make some changes, which took time for her to adjust to. Example: she no longer is trusted with going up or down stairs by herself. Or jumping on or off furniture. She pushes that stubbornness often, though. Giving us heart palpitations on the regular.
thought 3: Don’t veer off her schedule, much, or at all!
Her internal schedule dictates EVERYTHING. We have very little flex room from her regular schedule. What little room we have, if that gets stretched too far, it can take days to regulate her body back to normal. And, it can mean long nights for everyone.
thought 4: Regular outside visits even more critical
As I’ve mentioned with her schedule, the bathroom visits are just as critical. We are almost back to that puppy stage. Where you take them out ASAP after naps, meals, night, etc. And making sure she actually does her business is also important! Often, she forgets why we are out there, and tries to head back inside without doing anything.
thought 5: life happens, plan ahead for your furbaby
Sometimes, we are lucky to automatically know if something happens to us that our furbabies will be taken care of. But that’s not always a given. So this last tip is a reminder: make sure you have an action plan for them if something happens to you. Senior dogs are the ones most likely to end up in shelters, and they often don’t get adopted. Folks looking for animals to adopt typically aren’t wanting an older animal, for whatever their reasons. Make sure your furbaby doesn’t get forgotten. Have a plan for them, too.
I swear this girl has 9 lives with near death scares she’s given us over the years! I’m so glad she’s held strong and stayed with the family this long. She’s pretty easy going and goes with the flow of the other dogs. But, I know she’ll take a large chunk of my heart when she passes. People have said we are special people for having adopted a senior dog, but I don’t see it that way. Maggie fit perfectly into this family pretty much the first minute we saw her. Maggie’s been with us for 5 years now, and it’s an honor to have had her in our life this long. While I know her time with us isn’t probably much longer, I will continue to cherish the time we have with her and continue to learn how to care for seniors.
Would I adopt a senior again?
Absolutely. In fact, I have a dream to someday open a pet sanctuary, where I will adopt senior dogs for their forever homes. Senior dogs deserve to live out their life with love and family surrounding them. And that’s my goal. One dog at a time. One senior at a time.