I coexist in a house with my son and a roommate (my best friend). We also live with 5 dogs, 5 cats, 4 ducks (who stay outside), 2 lizards, and a fish.
It sounds like a lot, and it is. I'd probably be better off if I opened up as a petting zoo and told kids my great dane is a pony. The work involved with keeping all those tummies full, terrariums scrubbed, wading pools filled and coats clean is sometimes exhausting, but the love given back is at least 100 fold. There is very little in this life that compares to the devotion given to you by a pet. So the work is very well worth it--the relationships I have with my pets is far from one-sided. But don't quote me on that on a day when the great dane has an accident in his kennel. On those days, it's best not to talk to me at all.
Two of my dogs, Capone (Cap for short) and Georgia, are seniors. Their aging is something that never really leaves my mind given the continuous graying of their fur and tendency to be a bit cantankerous. At 32, my own aging hasn't really affected me yet. I remember my own mother crying and being depressed on her 30th birthday, but I hit the big 3-0 without too much insecurity. The older I get the more I dig myself even my looks. There are no lines and wrinkles that bother me, no gray hairs (especially since I dye mine so often I can't remember the natural color anyway), nothing too saggy yet. I can't say the same for the dogs, though.
Breed: Great Dane
Hobbies: blowing himself
Favorite past time: refusing to eat until he gets his way
Favorite treat: Poptarts
Accomplishments: World Record for most Toilet Water Held in Lips then deposited in Mom's lap
Hobbies: Catching flies
Bucket List Goal: To eat her own weight in sweet potato fries
Favorite Past time: burrowing under the covers
Favorite Smell: Cat Ass
As you can see, their grays are pretty obvious. Their teeth aren't as strong nor do their bladders hold as long. They still run and play and get around pretty well, but the other dogs and the cats know better than to bother them when they're napping (usually). I see it every day and help make sure I'm taking extra precautions. We play easier with these two and give them special treats with added glucosamine and chondroiton to help battle any arthritic joints. Their age is constantly a presence not only so we make sure they're happy and comfortable but also because I don't know what I am going to do when they're gone.
Cap has been a part of my family since he was only 4 months old. He turns 7 on Valentine's Day. Great Danes have a limited lifespan of only 8-10 years. He has grown up with my son who is 8, and the two have always been buddies. I can't imagine a day when there is no Cap around to haul his 150 lb ass into my lap as if he only weights 1.5 lbs or to jump onto the bed like he owns it. He makes me laugh out loud even when he's covering me in drool and dripping toilet water in my lap from his jowls. I love him even on the days when he barks at every noise he hears because his hearing isn't so keen anymore, and he loves me even when I refuse to give him more rookies (cookies) no matter how many tricks he does. This dog made me just as much a dog person as I am a cat person because he's just that fucking awesome.
Georgia came to this house about 4 years ago. I dogsat her for my roommate's parents. She never left. It was only supposed to be a couple days, but I fell in love. So did the kiddo. She is a total lap dog that never leaves my side. I see Moms complaining all the time about their kids not letting them have privacy in the bathroom. I never really had to many problems with that...it's the fucking dogs that love to watch me take a piss especially Georgia. She loves the cats and cuddles with them as much as they'll allow. She enjoys car rides and still looks good in a dress even though her boobs are pretty sadly saggy these days. Given that she was rescued in 2004, there's no way to really gauge her age. She's been with me 10 years and was nearly full-sized when she was rescued, so a good estimate is maybe 12. Life expectancy for this mix (guessed mix given her looks and temperament) is roughly 13-17 years. Most days she tends to nap and eat and nap some more. But, that's okay. She makes an awesome couch buddy. I can't think about life without her without tearing up. She has made that big an impact in the few years she has been here.
Both dogs are close to entering the low side of their life expectancy, and it almost seizes me up with fear and sadness. A lot of people like to question why I have so many animals. I don't *have* them. They live here just like I do. This is their home, and they're part of this family. That's why it is so hard to imagine a day when their presence is gone...when their fur isn't part of the technicolor fur coat that I have to remove from my clothes every day, when their barks aren't echoing through the house, when their silliness is just a memory that makes me laugh and cry at the same time. It's hard not to feel that sense of impending doom when you think about two beings which have done nothing but love you unconditionally for the past several years without the drama and bullshit that comes with human relationships not being a part of your every day life anymore.
Maybe one day my own aging will actually be a topic that concerns me, but I'm still of the frame of mind that I'm aging gracefully like Parker Posey or Gillian Anderson. For now, I'm only worried about what aging means in terms of losing two of my best friends.