Those Happy Golden Dog Years
What with doggy day care, companies dedicated to picking up dog messes, dog groomers who make house calls, and all the rest of the myriad businesses dedicated to man's best friend, I guess the dog nursing homes were just a matter of time.
So I learned when I saw a brief article in the Boston Globe on the subject. (AP News, I think, was the source.)
Now, while I do not at present own a dog, I am a dog person. I am also a past and future dog owner, with vague plans, at some vague future date, to once again have a dog. Current fantasy plans call for a black Lab (as yet unnamed) or a black standard poodle, fantasy code name: Pantaloon, after the eponymous "hero" of one of my favorite books as a child.
When I think about the time I will send with my future pup, I of course dwell on the rollicking good times I will have playing Frisbee, scratching behind ears, and talking baby talk. I do not tend to think of the less pleasant aspects of dog ownership: pulling out ticks, picking up poop, and, eventually, putting the dog down.
As anyone who has watched a beloved pet become enfeebled, or who has had to walk that pet that last, longest mile to the vet to get put into the Big Sleep, I can certainly understand why someone would come up with the idea of a nursing home for dogs. I just don't particularly like it.
The dog nursing home, which just opened in Japan, will have the usual nursing home amenities, like "round-the-clock monitoring by doctors." The dogs will also be fed fortified food to, I guess, keep them alive longer, which at $800 a month, would definitely be in the nursing home's interest. The company that runs the nursing home is a pet products company which, I'm guessing, produces that fortified food. What's most intriguing about the nursing home, however, is that it:
...will also employ puppies to play with the aging dogs to help them keep fit and feel younger, the release said.
It seems to me that, if a pooch that's getting on in dog years is still capable of keeping fit and feeling younger, it doesn't really belong in a nursing home, does it? Couldn't it just stay at home, growing old with family, in familiar surroundings, where it could still rely on an occasional scratch behind the ears or round of baby talk?
And I've always thought of Japan as a country that revered old age, that didn't cast aside its elderly or warehouse them? I guess they're getting like everyone else in the modern world these days: we don't like being reminded that, however many face lifts you have, however many wonder pills you take, however often you look in the mirror and say, "not me," life for all of us is only going in one direction.
I know that there are some circumstances under which there is no choice other than to put a loved one (of the human variety) in a nursing home. I've seen friends delay a decision about parents as long as possible, but sometimes they're left with no other recourse. I was fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it.) never to have faced such a decision. My father died young. My mother died while she was still very active. At the time of her death, she was volunteering several days a week, and had three trips planned: Chicago for a great-niece's wedding; Cape May New Jersey bus trip with the parish retirees' club; and Vienna-Prague tour. Not bad for 81.
Like everyone else, I hope to die with my boots on, but I know that we all can't be that fortunate.
Nor can our dogs.
But one big difference between humans and dogs is the famous "dog year." The twilight years for a human can last for quite a while, and in their final years, a human being may be so infirm that they need round the clock care. That's not quite the case with dog twilight years, and here's where the one-to-seven ratio really pays off. However long your dog takes to grow old and die, well, it's probably not really going to take all that long.
Another big difference between humans and dogs is that you can humanely, legally, morally, and ethically, put a dog down when the time comes. Wonderful as dogs are, they are, in fact, dogs and not humans.
If a dog is still frisky enough to keep fit and frolic with puppies, maybe they should be at home and you can put your $800 a month to better use. If not, maybe they should be at home, where it's probably just a matter of not very long a time. Or they should be at home for as long as they are comfortable and continent, when they may well be better off put - as the euphemism has it - to sleep.
This is not to minimize the pain and anguish that comes with dealing with the death of a beloved pet. (Hey, I'm already tearing up about Pantaloon, and he doesn't even exist yet.)
It's just that paying $10K a year for a dog nursing home - there just seems to be some greater good that all those dollars could fetch.
*My ever-alert sister Trish, who pointed this story out to me, wants to know what the puppies who are "employed" to frolic with the geezer dogs get paid. (She is also a big Pantaloon fan.)