We’ve come to appreciate the senior years with our dog Salem.  He’s 11 now and will be 12 in June 2014.   He’s our first dog we’ve had together as a family and he is truly the inspiration for Four Muddy Paws.  We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for moving our life in a new direction.

As our dogs & cats move from their crazy zoom-zoon puppy/kitten years to their active middle years into their senior years we continually need to make adjustments for their abilities and most importantly we must continually enrich their lives. 

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Time for another Big Adventure!

Susan Garrett is a renowned agility trainer and has had many senior dogs of her of own.  She likes to call her senior dog’s special moments as Big Adventure Times or BAT.  We love this idea and try to incorporate as much of this idea into Salem’s life as we can.

We’re very fortunate that Salem, as well as Foster and Frankie, can come to work with us.  As you can probably attest after coming into our shops, they take their job very seriously!  While Frankie and Foster are definitely the more social of our three dogs, Salem has a quiet dignity that he chooses to bestow on special guests of his choosing.  He has an old soul and there are a definitely persons he’s most attracted to, especially anyone who does any kind of healing work (e.g. Reiki or other types of energy work).  So just coming to work is enriching for Salem.  But even for Salem our daily routine is exactly that – it’s predictable and not always so stimulating for him.

Salem on the beach runningSo that’s why we do try to incorporate BAT into his life. A Big Adventure Time can take on many different forms.  The key with BAT is that they are events, sometimes big and sometimes not so big that your senior pet gets do alone with you.  The exception is perhaps a group outing but to a new and special location.  For instance a once or twice a year car trip to Ted Drewes for frozen custard is definitely an exciting trip for our boys as is a winter walk through the woods including lot’s of new sights, smells and sounds to explore.

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Found it!

The goal for your senior pet should be one BAT per day.  Planning to do something alone with your pet is a very special event for them.  The goal is to continue their mental stimulation especially given the fact they might not be able to do all of the physical activities they could do in their prime.  Short little training games can be quite fun.  Targeting exercises like 100 Things to do with a Box is an excellent example of a fun game you can play.  We’ve also started to do Nose work with Salem and he loves it.  His goal is to find a small container scented with birch oil that is hidden in a search area that he has to locate.  He’s able to put his problem solving skills to the test and it doesn’t require any strenuous physical work plus it can be done outside or inside your home.  Nose work day is always an exciting event plus it’s something that we get to do alone together.

The Big Adventure Time does not only apply to dogs, but cat’s can benefit from individual attention too.  Finding something that your cat likes to do, whether that’s chasing something, playing with a flirt pole or simply letting them safely explore the outdoors with you can be immensely enriching.  Studies have shown as little as 15 – 20 minutes a day of play can be very beneficial to cats of all ages.  Teaching some fun tricks can also be enriching for our feline friends.

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Where did the time go?

We try to approach every day by planning some sort of Big Time Adventure for Salem.  Do we achieve it each day?  Sadly no, we admit we fall short of our goal some days and for that we’re very unhappy (and frankly so is Salem!).  We treasure our senior boy and hope that we still have many years together.  His companionship and loyalty over these years has been so consistent.  He’s been a special dog for us and giving Salem his Big Time Adventure every day is just our very small way of saying “Thank You Salem” for enriching our lives beyond measure and for making us better people and advocates for helping our pets live long and happy lives together.