A few days ago, I was invited to speak at a suburban retail establishment catering to companion animals. This place was bright, clean, not-at-all reminiscent of the warehouse-like, cluttered, over-stocked stores with end-caps daring you not to buy. No. This store was different.
So were the customers.
Far too many times, pet parents show up to lectures looking for specific answers or quick fixes to complicated challenges. For many, their search for answers should come in a convenient package, priced affordably, in easy-single-serving sizes. This retail mindset, fostered by “Mad Men” use to accommodating impatient youth and time-pressed parents, rings hollow when we face the aging pet population.
I was recently introduced to a maxim: “Getting old ain’t for sisses!”, and a biography, a bestseller, currently being turned into a movie. The book is about the life of Olympian: Louie Zamperini. I, like most, was taken by the hardships Louie endured after being shot down over the Pacific and as a Japanese POW. However, in my mind, after the book was finished, and the stories of his trials dimmed, his life as a senior – glowed.
This is a man who took up skateboarding at age 81. Granted, top athletes push themselves more than we, mere mortals, physically. However, it’s the mental hurdle to endure which tripped Louie mid-life, as it does most of us, when we age.
Our pets don’t have that crutch. Ever anxious — they want mental stimulation and challenge. And, it’s our job to provide that, to keep them healthy and understand that different life stages may require a switch in approach.
Most animals, especially our sporting and working dogs, only slow down because of undiagnosed pain or illness. With pets now living past 20, undiagnosed pain and illness is unacceptable.
Unlike the big-box store shopper, this store: Dogs and Company, in Columbia, MD want more for their patrons and their pets.
I’ve personally stubbed my toe trying to gauge what parents will do for their pets. It’s an on-going battle for me. It’s hard to determine if this parent wants to prevent or only treat the signs and symptoms.
Prevention take time, treatment takes – money.
Prevention takes planning, treatment takes – an emotional toil.
This is especially so when we learn our hairy loved one mean more to us than we know. Something we, as medical professionals, witness on a daily basis. Something you realize — often too late.