As many of you know, my beautiful Dalmatian Penny, who has been my running partner for a long time, is over 12 years old now. According to Dog Years, that makes her equal to about 75 in human years. While it saddens me to see her slowing down, I am at the same time inspired by how she approaches aging without all the baggage that humans carry with them. In fact, many humans could learn a thing or two about aging gracefully by paying attention to how dogs do it.
It’s Still Running (even when you’re slow)
Exercise is one of the most important factors in aging gracefully. It will help prevent muscle loss, osteoporosis, and a multitude of other diseases, as well as keep you strong enough to live your daily life and help keep your energy level high. If Penny had a choice, we’d go running every day because it just makes her happy. Yes, we both are a bit slower than we used to be, but that doesn’t matter. We are still out there doing it. Find an activity that you love to do and you will be as excited about it as Penny is about her run.
Eat Healthy, Not Too Much, and Savor Every Bite
While I control what Penny eats (she’s vegan, just like me), she has always approached meals as something to take her time about and enjoy. She seems to savor every bite, and sometimes I’ll see her lie down behind her unfinished bowl, presumably to give herself a little time to digest before finishing her meal. Eating healthfully is not about dieting. It is about eating whole food that you enjoy but not too much of it. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and don’t be afraid to treat yourself once in a while (once in a while being the key words).
Think Like a Teenager
If you start to think that you can’t do something anymore, pretty soon you will be right. Penny (and teenagers) never doubt that they can run, jump over a fence, walk on a narrow beam. Penny still makes the leap to jump on our high bed (using a storage chest as an extra step). Sometimes she misjudges and doesn’t quite make it up. Doesn’t matter, she doesn’t feel embarrassed because she missed or scared to do it again. She tries every single time. And so should you. Don’t be afraid to take that jump. Whether it’s going for a bike ride, venturing into social media, dining alone at a fancy restaurant, or participating in “karaoke night,” give it a try.
“Dog” Naps are Good for You
Getting enough sleep is essential for aging gracefully. Not getting enough can put you at risk for a host of physical and mental problems. Penny not only sleeps through the night (yes, on our bed), she also takes a nap or
twenty two during the day. A quick dog cat nap can refresh and energize you. Aim to get at least 6.5 hours per night, though the perfect amount can vary from person to person.
Be the Queen
You have earned the right to be taken care of and to enjoy the small gifts that life offers. Penny does this by lying in a warm ray of sunlight, taking a long stretch when she wakes up, allowing the younger dogs to groom her, and finding the most comfortable spot to sleep (frequently that is my side of the bed). Humans might choose to schedule a massage or pedicure, let their kids take them to lunch, or take a long stretch when they wake up.
Penny has taught me not to worry about the small stuff, the new wrinkles in my forehead, the few extra pounds around my middle; and instead focus on the important things, enjoying life, staying fit, being loved, and appreciating every moment that I am given. She is lying next to me as I write this as if she knows she is the star of this post, all the better to lean over and give her a hug and say thanks.
Have you ever learned a lesson from your pet or your child?