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Adopting a Senior

by Joe & Nancy Bison

If asked, "as a senior dog, how do you feel about bonding with a new family?" Cyrus would likely reply "who you callin’ a dog?"

We adopted Cyrus on a perfect June day, with the whole weekend ahead of us. He was in obvious discomfort, brandishing fresh sutures both fore and aft. Between a vet visit and our adoption, Poor Cy had just lost among other things; his loving foster parents, Gail and Bruce, several abscessed teeth and a nasty facial lesion. Through all this, he still managed to show his charm.

Although understandably aloof at first, Cyrus stayed near to our newly adopted gal, Nila, another GSR-SP sweetheart, and us. After his first few days in our home and despite our constant pestering, Cyrus wasn’t merely tolerating us, he wanted to belong, and was exploring to see just how things are. In a week or so, he had willingly accepted most household rules. In less than a month he found his place within the family. That’s when he began to truly relax. Could it be that at about 10 years of age, and after terrible times that lead him to GSR-SP, Cyrus needed to have someone else be the boss? Bet on it.

Cy has played with a lot of rocks through the years; his terribly worn down teeth are proof of that. We started working with him diligently to try to replace his near obsessive fixation with “hiking” rocks for sport. We gave him a Cyrus sized football, thinking what a hoot it would be to see him hike that around. Nila got the most out of this attempt, and reminded us why one should not expect an inflatable ball to last long around a GSD with nice, sharp teeth. Cy spent his last several football sessions rendering the ball down to its separate component parts. So we moved on to catching and fetching balls. Wow! Did we ever make friends! It was then that Cyrus began to show us true maturity.

In the past, we’ve had Shepherds that were absolutely nuts about sticks, balls, or frisbees. It’s awesome to see the raw athleticism of youth! A pure speeding missile of sinew, fur, and desire, wholly consumed by purpose, leaps, captures, and returns again and again. I was a little sad, knowing that our new guy had left this day behind, but that was silly. Cyrus may have traded in speed for finesse, recklessness for caution, and altitude for attitude, but so what? This guy has great fun! Fetch means that he trots off, and we lob the ball over his head so he can get it on a hop. (One hop: preferred, still moving: good, dead stop: OK too, but be prepared for a little scowl, and do try harder next time.) We play frisbee like adults; we play catch, not "run and catch". For good throws, we are awarded with a big Cyrus grin. We also play Buddy Glow Ball hockey. The Flyers could use a goalie as good as Cyrus.

Do we miss this kind of play when Cyrus is not up to it? No. Play helped us to bond, but it’s far beyond that now. The devotion we get from our senior is constant, regardless of how he may feel physically. Ever vigilant, Cyrus-buddy always wants to know exactly where we are around the house, and he comes looking for us if we've been out of his sight too long. Sometimes he just lies on his sofa and watches our cats most of the day. Always the gent, he never moves any smaller critter off his bed. It seems that at his age, confrontation just isn't worth the effort. A deep sigh, his wonderful manners and gentle approach ensure that he’ll get his way.

Sometimes he needs gentle coaxing, but Cyrus never refuses to do my bidding, even when we have to use the outdoor paw wash. "At the paw wash, whoa-uh-whoa-uh, talkin’ ‘bout the paw wash-yeah. C’mon y’all now bark it to me …". Being a little deaf, the Cy-guy hasn't yet complained about my singing. He is my constant companion, and wants to be wherever I am. We go for car rides and walks. Occasionally, we go to work together on weekends. We've been to picnics and ball games, and everyone wants to be his friend. In any situation, he looks to me for guidance if he’s unsure.

This guy is our protector, and tells every stranger so, in a clear, loud voice. Fortunately, Cyrus likes everyone we do, and wants to meet everyone else. His sure, unhurried manner gets him places no young whipper-snapper is welcome.

We know Cyrus must be really happy, because he wears a big ‘ole smile around all the time. Ever since we’ve been together, we all smile more. Adopt a senior? You bet. And we wouldn’t trade him for all the puppies in Pennsylvania.


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