Meet 17.5-year-old 'Rudy' and his human Sue Darby. Oh, my aching old bones. Rudy has kidney problems, is losing his sight, and has had 3 back surgeries. But he's happy. The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colorado, had a look at the tough choices humans face as our pets age. Here's an excerpt: Rudy has that grizzled, old grandpa look about him.
His steps are slowed by three back surgeries and assorted aches and pains. Kidney problems awaken him a couple of times each night, and he's losing his sight. He prefers long naps in the sun, but rallies for walks in the yard and some bickering with his canine companions, Sam and Casey.
Rudy, a miniature dachshund, recently turned 17 1/2 years old - about 88 in human years. And if aging is hard on him, it's been equally challenging for his owners, Sue and Terry Darby.
They have a calendar in the kitchen to track times for Rudy's vet visits and medicine, which includes pills for high blood pressure and saline solution for his kidney ailment. They don't vacation or leave home for extended times - the last time they went away and left a house-sitter in charge, the stress and worry put Rudy in the hospital.
Such is life with a geriatric dog - an experience that more and more people are encountering with their canine and feline companions.
The Darbys got Rudy in a pet store in Denver years ago, and the rambunctious little dog ruled the roost. "And he used to run like the wind," Sue says with a catch in her voice.
Now he spends most of his time sleeping in a warm, fluffy bed in the kitchen with the other pets. He eats senior pet food with an occasional hamburger, although for his birthday, he wolfed down a Twinkie and a doughnut covered with powdered sugar.
They say Rudy's life is a balancing act - an issue that confronts all owners of elderly pets.
"It would be easy for us to be selfish and keep him alive at all costs. But we have the vet monitor him and there is an agreement that when Rudy is in pain and has no quality of life ..." Sue says, her voice trailing off.
"We are prepared to lose him," Terry says. "Every day is a blessing."
Read more about Rudy and get some tips on aging pets from The Gazette.