May 24, 2007

Our 17-Year-Old Beagle Is Slowing Down

My wife has had our beagle, Molly, in her life more than twice as long as she has had me, after picking up the then 5-year-old hound more than 12 years ago from the pound. Know that line about "love me, love my dog"? Well, it's true. That the dog and I hit it off right away and that Molly was sure about me, likely even before Kristine was, made our dating life and eventual proposal that much more likely to work out, and it did.

But in the five or so years I've known Molly, she's gone from a 12-year-old dog who chased me around the house to the point of her tongue hanging out, and sitting on her hind legs to beg for scraps from the table, to a much more docile hound who sleeps a likely 20 hours a day, is losing her eyesight and hearing, and needs to use a short set of stairs to climb to our bed. And you can forget about sitting on her hind legs or jumping for anything. Those times are long gone.

While much of her aging process, all the way into her 18th year, has been gradual, tonight I came home to see a remarkable change, one that could, sadly, be spelling out the beginning of the end. Something had happened to Molly that has impacted her equilibrium in a serious way, making her disoriented, and frankly, messy, as she can't make her way out to the balcony when necessary... Her eyes are repeatedly twitching, and her head and neck roll back and forth when she sits. Instead of walking straight, with her familiar limp, she meanders about and seems unable to get her bearing.

The good news is she doesn't look to be in pain in any way. Like any good scent-oriented beagle, she hasn't turned down food, though it took her a few tries to get through her dinner. She sniffed her way to a Milk bone dog biscuit I had held in front of her, but her approach was almost drunken in nature. She looks to my wife and me for attention and still wants to jump onto our couch and be next to us.

Since my wife and I were married, we have put some good money into this dog, to remove a toe one year that had become infected, to fix various moles and tumors, and to keep her in strong shape. Others are continually amazed at Molly's heartiness at 17, as it seems she is indestructible, but today, it looks like the wheels are getting wobbly and just might fall off. If they do, and when they do, it will be devastating, leaving our house just that much more empty. We know the end will some day come, but until today, we thought we had more time.

Other Molly-related posts:
Molly the Beagle Sleeping on The Job
Are the Beagle and the Roomba Conspiring?