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Posted on Sat, May 22, 2010 : 2:45 p.m.

The 'bucket list' for pets: What does your dog want to do before he dies?

By Lorrie Shaw

Thumbnail image for St. Bernard/Shephard Mix, dog, canine, face

Gretchen, waiting for a sunpuddle to appear on the deck.

Let's face it: We pet owners are very attached to our animals and in most instances, we know that we are going to outlive them.

As both of our dogs are approaching their "senior years," it's hard to think about them not being with us, but invariably, I do - a lot. Gretchen is a very healthy 10 and Bruiser isn't far behind her.

It's not like they are going to go soon, but hearing strangers, and sometimes friends and family remark about their age causes me to give pause. "Oh, look at that chin, it's getting more and more gray..." or "She'll live how long... 12 years, maybe?"

Admittedly, pondering the idea that time seems to be escaping us more quickly than I'm comfortable with makes me think about how rich my pets' lives are. Do they have enough of what they need? Is enough being done to make them happy? Animals really don't need much to be content. What they do thrive on is spontaneity; seizing the moment. I was doing some leisure reading the other day and found an article on The Bark. It got me thinking... everyone should have a bucket list, no matter what age we're at. Animals included. The list need not be lofty, only what makes us happy. Ditto for pets.

We try to make life fun and spontaneous for all of our pets. We make popcorn (the dogs' favorite) frequently and toss pieces to them - as much as they want. We'll set up the tent, and camp out in the back yard in the summer sometimes. There are plenty of campfires on summer nights.

I don't mind if during the middle of the day when none of our neighbors are around that Bruiser barks at squirrels that taunt him in the trees. Ditto for Gretchen, but her penchant is playing basketball. They need to blow off some steam, now and then.

Trips to the pet store: now that's fun - and letting Bruiser stick his head out of the car window on the way there. (Gretchen doesn't care for it.) Oh, and doggy ice cream cones from fast food restaurants. Popsicles. Filling up the kiddie pool and letting them run in and out of it in the summer. Digging holes to lay in under the deck. Running through mud puddles - and sprinklers... the latter is hysterical to watch.

Hiding tennis balls in piles of fallen leaves in the autumn and hunting them out. Going on sledding outings on overcast winter afternoons. All of these things from experience I know make them happy, and maybe they could be considered items to partake in on their bucket list, I'm not sure. They certainly look like they are having the time of their lives while doing them, though. And because of that, I get to live vicariously.

I got to thinking about something else, too: wouldn't it be great to adopt an older pet from a rescue or otherwise and give them the opportunity to pursue their own "bucket list"?

I remember years ago, a friend had a black labrador who, at this point in time was about 13 and really having difficulty getting around. After her daughters' birthday party, we were cleaning up decorations and balloons. A few of the balloons sunk to floor level, and the spry fella, gray around the muzzle and arthritic, began chasing the balloons around like a pup, trying to bite them. When he was successful, he would bark like crazy. What fun! Evidently, he used to do it as a youngster and loved it. It was great to see him get such joy out of doing it again.

I get the opportunity to spend much of my time in the company of animals. For the past week, there's been a puppy who has been holding my attention and it caused me to think harder about not just the needs of the young, but also senior pets. Although that hourglass seems to run faster as it nears the end for all of us, it really doesn't - it's just our perception. I can only conclude that it's never too early to think about fulfilling that bucket list.

Lorrie Shaw is a pet blogger, a regular contributor to and owner of Professional Pet Sitting, and has extensive experience with animals including dogs, cats, exotic birds. Contact her via e-mail.


Lorrie Shaw

Mon, May 24, 2010 : 9:50 p.m.

jns131: Aww, it really does sounds as though her bucket list was fulfilled. Camping is a great activity to do with dogs; there is so much stimulation and activity, it's difficult for a dog to get bored. Life's an adventure and your pup certainly had her full of hers. That made my day hearing that. THANK YOU!


Mon, May 24, 2010 : 12:21 p.m.

I loved this story. When our 13 year old passed away 3 years ago June, we realized one thing. Our little girl went every where. She traveled to more places and did more things then any average dog ever did. We do a lot of camping and our two ankle bitters are also getting the time of their lives as well. They even saw the Great Lakes, most of Ontario and will see the gulf next year. Thank you for making me think of this as a bucket list.

Lorrie Shaw

Sun, May 23, 2010 : 1:20 p.m.

Nuseph: I love the attitude that you've got. It IS important to remember to try and make everyday their best day their best day. Not a bad philosophy to keep in mind for ourselves, too. I try to never think or say: "I can't wait for this day/week to be over with." Every day could be your last, right? :) Braggslaw: Wow, I am so sorry to hear that. I know that had to be tough. My heart goes out to you and anyone who has gone though that. It's hard on pets when they really start having trouble like that; giving them "the goods" during that last week made them pretty happy, I'd say. :) Good for you! Tyna: Ha, ha, ha! So funny how no matter how hard of hearing or sight a dog is, they will get up, to the best of their ability and zoom in when the refrigerator door is opened. 19, wow! That is amazing. Just amazing. Thanks to all of you for sharing your experiences. It's so good to hear them all. :)


Sun, May 23, 2010 : 12:22 p.m.

My little old girl will be 19 years old on July 4th and there is no doubt that food is at the top of her list! Her day consists of sleeping, eating, waiting for food, scaring the cat away from her bowl so she can eat her food, and barking at us for more food. She is the most beautiful girl in the world and still healthy and quite spry, she just doesn't see as well as she used to or hear quite as keenly. She definitely is here for the food and the love!!


Sat, May 22, 2010 : 10:06 p.m.

The last week of my dogs' life I let them eat bacon, sausage etc. Whatever they wanted. My dogs (15 year old brothers) could barely walk and had lost control of their bodily functions, I knew I was putting them down on the weekend so I tried to make the last week as happy as I could for them.


Sat, May 22, 2010 : 9:04 p.m.

Great story. Our first dog is just 3. I'm hoping she's the first dog to live to 100. Whenever I feel too lazy to go to the dog park or go walking in knee-deep snow (which she loves, for some reason), I remember my responsibility to make every day her best day. And afterward I always feel better and more energized than when I was lying comfortably on the couch.


Sat, May 22, 2010 : 3:44 p.m.

bacon popcorn? I will check on that, if it's people safe it would be a combintation of two of my favorite things.

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, May 22, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

Patti, that is so funny! Buddy will undoubtedly love it. Lucky boy! We have a popcorn popping bowl thingy for the microwave and the dogs look up, watch and listen as the popcorn pops. So cute.

Patti Smith

Sat, May 22, 2010 : 8:14 a.m.

Oh, Lorrie! Guess what I found at the pet store? Doggie popcorn!!! Do you believe that--doggie popcorn! It's bacon flavored so I'm sure he'll love it. You put it in the microwave and everything...I can't wait to make it for Buddy (who will be 12 this September)!