Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

By Parker Heinlein
Outdoors columnist 

Old dog, no new tricks


March 14, 2018

My wife and I live with a pack of dogs -- one a pup, one in his prime, one a few years past his prime, and an old girl whose expiration date is long past due.

As much as I love dogs I never expected to have four of them at the same time. Three, sure, but not four. Four is encroaching upon weird cat lady territory.

It’s not happenstance, but instead part of a great plan. When each dog reached its prime, I’d get another puppy. Spacing them four or five years apart would assure I’d always have a dog in its prime to hunt, an older dog that was slowing down, and a puppy in training.

Unfortunately, I based the plan on the average life expectancy of springer spaniels, which is about 13 years. Spot, now a few months short of her 15th birthday, threw a monkey wrench into that plan. I’ve been anticipating her death for a couple of years now, but the old girl just keeps on truckin’.

I may have a few more years to wait.

Perusing the Internet a few days ago I came across the story of an Australian sheepdog named Maggie, who had recently passed away at the age of 30.

I can’t say I was heartened to read the story. It’s hard to imagine Spot living another 15 years.

Unlike old people who are typically put in the care of others when they get a bit addled and lose control of their bodily functions, old dogs are either lovingly tolerated or put down.

Spot gets coddled. She eats special food, takes special medicine, and has a bed in front of the fire. She poops when and where the urge hits her.

Despite her frail countenance, Spot suffers no debilitating ailments. She still comes and goes at her own pace.

We worried that the new puppy would torment her, but instead, Baby Ruth adores her old stinky sister, as do the two males, Jem and Ace.

Jem is a bit of a senior citizen himself. He’ll be 12 this year, and like me has already begun to show his age.

Until I read the story about Maggie, I figured we’d be down to just a couple of dogs in a few years. Now I’m not so sure.

There’s a good chance I’ll be chasing a pack of geriatric spaniels for years to come. I just hope I can keep up.

Parker Heinlein is at


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