Old dog face


What is it that changes in a dog’s face that suddenly makes her look old? Is it the lightening around her muzzle? Or, the increasing milkiness of her eyes? Or, is it the way she smiles, flashing that toothy grin at us?

What is it that we first notice? Is it a moment or an accumulation of moments? It seems like one day we are looking at our dog and seeing a young and energetic face, and the next day we see an old one in its place. It always seems like a surprise to me when I finally see it.

A couple of months ago, I took a candid shot of Cupcake standing out on the patio. What I saw on my camera’s viewing screen made me stop and stare.  “Wait. What happened?” I thought, “That doesn’t look like Cupcake. That looks like an old dog.” And it was. It was my Cupcake, in all her glory and beauty, as an old dog.

It was as if all the little pieces of the puzzle (her diminished eyesight, her inability to hear me calling her in the dog park, and her slowing, arthritic pace) coalesced in that moment to magnify and make me realize what I had not seen (or wanted to see) before. Cupcake was a senior citizen. She was an old dog. What a revelation.

In my mind, I had been seeing Cupcake like this.
My sweet girlNot like this. Cupcake waits

Of course, I’ve known that she was getting older (as have all of us), I just didn’t SEE it. My brain had continued to live in the past while life (and Cupcake) continued to move forward. I guess my brain just needed a jolt to see her as she really is now. 

Seeing her as an older dog hasn’t changed how much I lover her, if anything I love her even more, but it has made  me more conscious of the subtle changes in her behavior and when she is not feeling well. It has also made me more conscious of her ability to get around. Getting up and down on the hardwood floors is a little more difficult now. Keeping the fur in between her toes cut short helps with that (as do rugs). Tripping over the bottom step when coming in does happen on occasion, but lighting the step with my iPhone helps. And I may have to lift her into the car for the rest of her remaining days, but I don’t care. The joy she gets when we reach our destination is worth it all. 

Seeing Cupcake’s old dog face was a good thing. It woke me up and made me treasure our special moments all the more. 

And you know what? She is still just as beautiful, sweet and strong as she was when she first came to join our family. I love her face no matter how old she gets to be. 

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  1. August 2, 2015 at 11:27 PM

    We often talk about animals and their ability to love us unconditionally. It’s true, of course, but we forget that sometimes our animals at the only one we humans can love unconditionally. Looks like you and Cupcake have a good thing going on!

    • Mel
      August 3, 2015 at 6:50 AM

      So true. I think loving unconditionally means loving them when they are young and old for sure.

  2. August 2, 2015 at 11:42 PM

    I first met your blog when Cupcake went ‘walk about’. The aging seems to happen so fast. My ‘puppies’ are five years old! While I hope to have them around for a long time to come,it seems like just yesterday that Lucy and Jethro were 5. They have been gone a long time.

    May Cpcake (and Daisy) have many more good years

    • Mel
      August 3, 2015 at 6:49 AM

      Oh yes, I remember that “walk about” she took. I think it added years to both of us. I agree, the aging does seem to happen faster than we realize. I hope you have your puppies for many more years too. ❤

  3. August 3, 2015 at 12:12 AM

    What a sweet story. Jack fools me all the time. He’s so big, sturdy and strong that when I see his age, it takes me by surprise too. Maggie has a lot if grey, so it’s easier to remember her age.

    • Mel
      August 3, 2015 at 6:47 AM

      I know what you mean Kate. Plus, we don’t see the grey on them, so it is easy to fool oneself.

  4. August 3, 2015 at 3:02 AM

    What a beautiful, compassionate tale.

    • Mel
      August 3, 2015 at 6:47 AM

      Thank you.

  5. August 3, 2015 at 5:48 AM

    For many dogs it is the white in the face that slowly appears, but since my sister Katie is white, we see her age in other ways. Her eyes are different, and her face has just changed a bit. She still looks great, but compared to her younger photos, one can see she is a senior.

    • Mel
      August 3, 2015 at 6:46 AM

      I agree. I think Daisy os like Katie in that way. She doesn’t have the whitening of the muzzle, or at least it isn’t obvious.

  6. August 3, 2015 at 7:36 AM

    A good observation but, after all, I am feeling just as beautiful, sweet and strong as I used to be! There are a few people that may disagree but I just don’t listen to them! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  7. August 3, 2015 at 9:36 AM

    She is awesome. Why do they get old so fast? Roxy is 10 and is really showing it now.

  8. August 3, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    “still just as beautiful, sweet and strong as she was when she first came”…but still with that adorable Sheltie smile. Sweet as she ever was! 😉

  9. August 3, 2015 at 1:00 PM

    Hi Y’all!

    Just so scary that we get old so fast.

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  10. August 3, 2015 at 8:20 PM

    The information the eyes send in play very little role in what we actually “see.” Twice it happened to me that I saw Jasmine when I didn’t know it was her; she looked totally different than she did when I knew it was her. The mind paints the picture, not the eyes.

  11. August 3, 2015 at 8:43 PM

    Reblogged this on DoggyMom.com and commented:
    What a lovely perspective on having an older dog…it does creep up on us yet they are a joy to have in your household – making you value time even more.

  12. August 4, 2015 at 12:57 AM

    I just love this post. My lovely Bella has been with me for 10 years this week, and I was only saying to her the other day that I think her face grows more beautiful to me the lighter it gets. I could never have imagined loving her more than the day we met … little did I know!

  13. August 4, 2015 at 9:07 AM

    OMDoodle – Harley will be 7 yrs old this November, and I too see the changes in his face. His coal black button nose is now pink. Funny how they too change with age.

  14. August 4, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    The changes are subtle The most visible telltale sign is the graying on her snout. Or, the eyes are not as crisp or alert. Or, they just look more tired. For BJ it’s more subtle because he’s white so people are really surprised when they learn he is as old as he is. Me too. For him, he gets up from sleeping and his walking is much slower. He’s also forgetting his housebreaking sometimes. He’s 15 1/2 and I hope to have him around a lot longer.

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