"Oreo cookie" effect
I was listening to the news as they played a story about the "Sandwich Generation". This term describes the group of folks in their fifties with kids in college or possibly even high school who are still 100% dependent on their parents. Also depending upon the"Sandwich Generation"are their parents who may be in their 80s and dealing with all kinda health issues. As sons and daughters, these adults are like the meat between two pieces of bread, a sandwich where the middle can never get free of obligations. It is a tough row to hoe requiring complete sacrifice and selflessness.
Ushering a senior dog thru their final phase of life is also a difficult thing to do and not all together unlike the dual obligations of the Sandwich Generation. Caring for our old canine family members as they decline is heart breaking and at the same time rewarding and feels like you're sandwiched between the opposing emotions.
Our beautiful Riley, a 15yr old shepherd-mix rescue, has begun the last chapter in her life. Three months ago she had a scary neurological event that rendered her dazed and unable to balance or walk strait. She was confused and seemed in a trance. After rushing her to the emergency, once we got there, gone were the symptoms leaving nothing to diagnose, the episode had ended. A few weeks later, we noticed a protrusion under Riley's tongue that made it difficult for her to drink. Riley was dangerously dehydrated and another emergency evaluation revealed a sub-lingual malignant tumor. The dehydration could have been the reason for the initial neurological event. Since the cancer diagnosis, Riley's treatment has been strictly for her comfort and she has responded well.
Watching Riley, we notice the changes daily. It was only yesterday she was running laps around the house to burn excess energy after a 4 mile hike. Now, she makes it to the top of the driveway and that is enough. Only a short time ago, Riley was keeping up with Winnie stride for stride as they jumped and played in the yard. Winnie must now be reminded to play gently with Riley, no wrastling, and Winnie mustn't invite Riley to a sprinting match even tho Riley would be willing. Rough housing is too risky as the cancer grows and spreads.
Along with the changes to Riley physically are the adjustments within our household. Different foods, a mid-day snack to accommodate Riley's hydration needs, and separate walks, many things we need to consider for Riley's comfort. And then I realize this dynamic has been part of my life thru many dogs. I have always had an older dog or two and a younger dog or two.
There are advantages to having the experienced dog to lead by example and "teach" the youngster the ropes. There is also big responsibility for humans to participate, especially when there is a breed size difference. This means we are there for a senior small breed dog when confronted with a puppy large breed dog to make sure the puppy gets the idea about how to control his enthusiasm. Making sure an older large breed dog will be gentle if/when needed while teaching a puppy small breed dog the "rules". The many scenarios in between depending on the combinations of young and old, large and small, are all part of a dance we do in a multi-breed, multi-generation household.
Being in the middle of a young dog and an old dog is challenging, rewarding and heart breaking all in one. But the good news is when there's a puppy in the house, I still have the adult dog who is stride for stride right there with me. And when I loose my senior dog, the stabbing emptiness is softened by the ever present youngster who reminds me what I still have.
Like an Oreo, each dog represents the protective cookie and I am the creamy filling. When one end of the cookie is gone the soft center, tho vulnerable, is held in place and stabilized by the remaining cookie half until another cookie half comes to help protect it. Short in duration for me by choice is the half-cookie phase. And of the time in the middle when the cookie is complete, when both sides of the cookie are present, that is the bliss. That is where the true happiness takes place and I will sign up for that deal again and again.
When life gives you lemons just say, "No, seriously. Where are the Oreo cookies?"