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Losing a friend: Senior dogs have different care requirements than younger pets, St. Lawrence dog owner says

By Arthur C. Green

Special to SaltWire Network

ST. LAWRENCE, NL – Losing a pet is never easy.

For dog owners, nothing is more important than knowing your best friend is happy and comfortable in their last days.

Last October Holly Edwards was devastated when her 11-year-old black Lab, Harley, passed away.

As the owner of a senior dog, Edwards knew she had to be patient with her best friend, because Harley truly was hers.

“I raised her since she was three months old,” said Edwards. “The last couple of years, typical to Lab genetics, I dealt with her thyroid issues and bad hips.”

This made it impossible for Harley to lose weight. She had trouble getting up and down the stairs in her last year, and sometimes had problems getting in and out of the car.

But Edwards was patient with Harley and waited on her as much as she could.

She was devoted to making her dog comfortable. This included having a friend make ramps for her split entry house to help Harley get up and down the stairs.

“At night she would get too hot and bark or pant to go outside,” Edwards said. “I’d get up and put her out whether it was 2 a.m., just for her to lie on the back deck for a half hour.”

Harley also had recurring urinary tract infections in her last year that had to be treated, and she also had an issue with her eye.

Taking care of her was not easy, Edwards said.

Harley died a natural death, but often, older dogs must be euthanized. Veterinarian Natasha Noseworthy says no matter how many dogs she euthanizes, it is never easy.

“Euthanasia is something that we do on a regular basis and we do it with compassion, knowing that someone is losing a family member,” Noseworthy said. “A lot of times we can see the difficulty and pain the owner is going through.”

This is especially difficult for Noseworthy when the pet is an animal she has treated for many years.

“We take on a lot of sadness as well,” Noseworthy said. “I tell people there is no right or wrong way to cope with a loss of a pet and everyone has a unique way of doing it.”

Edwards remembers struggling to cope with Harley’s death, which was not easy for the St. Lawrence dog mom.

“Honestly, I took a week off work,” Edwards said. “I texted my boss and coworkers, I was crying and bawling.”

Edwards decided to cope with her loss by helping other owners and dogs. She began to volunteer at FurEver Young Senior Animal Rescue group in St. John’s. Its mission is to rescue, adopt and rehome dogs over the age of eight.

Harley died on a Friday night. When it happened, Edwards could not think clearly, and one of her friends with the volunteer group helped organize Harley’s cremation.

“It was pretty hard,” Edwards said.

Through her involvement in this group, Holy has since given Aster, a severely ill black Lab, a new lease on life.

Aster spent his life tied onto a dog house outside. He is now boarding with Edwards, enjoying a warm dog bed inside and only going out as needed.

Arthur C. Green is a journalism student at College of the North Atlantic.

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