5 Tricks An Old Dog Can Teach You

Lovability as an evolutionary adaptation

Dogs manage to maintain their loveabilty, even as they age. Human beings respond to their cuteness by nurturing. We relate to pets much in the way we treat our own children.

We see the combination of cuteness and dependence, which triggers our impulse to protect and coddle. They don’t hide their vulnerability like we do.   This could be an evolutionary adaptation, to ensure someone will take care of them. Cranky old humans take heed.


3-D sense of smell

Have you watched how dogs smell? Every human has a unique scent, and that’s all a dog needs to differentiate us from one another. “To our dogs, we are our scent,” says canine cognition expert Alexandra Horowitz, author of the book, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and KnowThey put their entire body and soul into it, like nothing else matters in the world but figuring out the source, their opinion of it and what to do as a result – pee on it, distance oneself, go for it or go on to the next.
My dog can barely see or hear, but she raises her nose when a new smell wafts into the room. Her favorite smell used to be in the crotch of women’s sexy underwear (she never went for the Hanes).  I don’t know how many pairs of Victoria’s Secret underwear she went through in her heyday.

It appears that it’s quite likely that dogs can smell fear, anxiety, even sadness. No wonder dogs seem to suffer greatly from divorce or empty nest. They also have been sad victims of the mobile phone obsession which has brought them very few conveniences but has shifted the attention of their owners tremendously.


Yoga 

Dogs naturally do yoga moves.  Their movements are not limited to puppy pose and downward dog. They know that stretching will help them navigate the world more easily, with a strong posture and gait. Their bodies, and ours, are designed to move. Increasingly as we age the ability to move depends on stretching.

Dogs do yoga instinctively (or attend Doga classes). If we followed their lead we’d be stretching first thing in the morning and several times throughout the day. We would also be complaining less about back pain.


Napping

Old dogs, much like infants, nap nearly all day. They can sleep 22 hours in a day. They tire more easily and nap to get strength they need to function for a few minutes here and there.  It comes down to listening to their bodies. Are you listening?


Being still 

Old dogs don’t have the distractions that interest younger dogs. The aren’t out looking for mates, chasing squirrels, catching frisbees. They don’t get excited about toys or treats. Honestly, being with an old dog can be tedious.
16-year-old Marley magically brings love into the world even without seeing, hearing, moving or making a sound.

Learning to be still with an aging dog is perhaps the greatest lesson of all. At their age, that’s all they really want. Marley just wants to hang with people that love her. She knows who they are. She’s right beside me now, nudging me to get off the computer. So I will end here and give her my full attention. She has taught me about stillness. A lot happens in stillness.  It’s the least we can do for a creature who is all about love and connection.

 

Got Passion?

Love + Medicine - Passion

One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.

E. M. Forster

Part of our journey as humans is discovering what our passions truly are. Not what is in style, not pretending, not copying from others – really sensing one’s own passion and going for it. If you get rich along the way, so be it. Many famous, successful entrepreneurs attribute their success to their passion about their work. But of course you can much more easily lose money in the pursuit of your passion ;-).

The sensation of being in it is the goal, not the end result. What we chose to be passionate about is our own, to be respected without judgment. It makes us unique. Development of a passion is a fluid and ever-changing process. Some people have one passion that they pursue their whole life – they put in their 10,000 hours – while others flow from one to another.

 

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ARE YOUR EARS RINGING?

There is a common superstition that ringing in your ear means someone is talking about you.

Unfortunately for many people, the ringing is due to a condition called tinnitus (TIN-ih-tus), from the Latin tinnire “to ring or tinkle”. It is the experience of noise or ringing in the ear and it affects about 1in 5 people. Tinnitus may be transient but for many it is a chronic, very bothersome condition.

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Don’t Give Up on Sex

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was first published in 1943. He based his research on observations of rhesus monkeys at the University of Wisconsin. He established that the most basic physiological needs are the solid platform from which one can reach higher goals. Without satisfying basic needs of food, drink, sex, air and sleep, we are unable to move towards self actualization. This does not change as we age. 

As a psychiatrist, I have noted that while we take care of eating and drinking pretty well, sex is often given up, relegated to the young. Relationships are in mayhem because of it. One partner may need it to feel safe and secure, while the other feels like if it never happens for the rest of life, that would be just fine. 

I would like to make a case for the fact that giving up on a sex life- in whatever form you see it- is not a wise option, especially as we age. I’m focusing on the medicine side of Love + Medicine in this post. Putting on my white coat.

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Don’t Just Do Something…

“Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you,
Everywhere you go, always take the weather…”
– Crowded House

Have you noticed that as soon as the weather changes, humans try to shield themselves from it?

Initially everyone is out, car windows are wide open. A week or two later, every car that goes by has the windows rolled up. Restaurant outdoor patios, after the initial period of elation, sit empty as we choose ”inside please” to dine in the artificially cooled air. Dining areas inside are often far too cool, hence we bring a sweater. The other day I was sitting on the beach and a neighbor glided by me on the water, standing on her paddle board, her slight body glistening with sweat. She looked up at me and shouted “It’s so hot!” It never crossed her mind to jump in the water. Surely the water is too cold or too hot or too mucky or too something!

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