Willow has been a member of my family for 3 years this month. When I adopted her, she was a month away from her third birthday and she had already spent a year in a shelter and lived with 3 families. She was very nervous, stressed out, and scared. Over the years, I’ve seen her settle down a little bit and become a bit more confident in certain scenarios. But now, with her sixth birthday looming over us, I’m noticing some other changes in her that are frankly breaking my heart.
Now I realize that Willow is not an old dog. 6 is middle aged at best for most dogs and they have the potential to live for 10 more years. I also realize what stress and anxiety does to a person’s life expectancy and overall health. One of her kidneys is already being a little wonky and I’ve been told by several different people that most dogs who live such a high stress life don’t usually live past 8-10 years old.
I’ve been noticing differences in her, physically, too. Where she was once pristinely white with black spots under her fur, now she has gained lots of tan doe spots. Her ears, which used to be the faintest tan, are slowly deepening to a definitive brown. The skin under her chin is a little more wrinkly than it once was, and she’s a little bit slower to get up and move around in the cooler weather. She takes more naps and is quicker to cuddle than she used to be.
It’s hard to watch someone you love so much change. It’s a reminder to me that every day that I get to spend with her is another day that I love her more than I’ve ever loved anyone. The only thing I can do is give to her everything that she has given to me.