A Little Dog with a Big Attitude
This month, our adorable dog Leo turned 13 years old. I’m sure this seems entirely trivial to the general public considering what turning 13 means for most dogs. Elderly dogs tend to be adorable, sweet dogs where turning 13 is a significant age defining milestone of their doggy golden years that is spent quietly relaxing with their guardians at home. And if you’ve met Leo, you probably still back at the first sentence where I said our dog is 13 years old thinking, Really?!
Leo is a blond Pomeranian with more energy than the Energizer Bunny. He lives up to his name with a thick bushy mane of fur and a bark of such ferocity you will jump back in terror. This is mostly because his bark is not just ferocious, but shrill! Shrill and demanding as he struts through the house like the diva that he is. Chest puffed, head up, eyes bugging out at you, a raspy inhale like the rattle of a Dementor as he prepares to assault your ears again unless you give him that treat God Damnit! The king is hungry! And has no patience! And then requires petting.
So much petting…and snuggles.
Few defenses can withstand his brand of annoying cuteness, which usually means that he gets lots of petting and lots of attention from anyone around him. He’s like a living stuffed animal! And if you think he’s cute as an adult…wait for it….
RIGHT??! Leo was a precious little puppy. I, sadly, did not know him personally during this adorable stage in his life so only got to appreciate his sweet puppy face in photos as well. However, I did come into his life shortly after and have been here ever since. Through all the gross things he’s rolled in, all the weird things he’s tried to eat, all the shoes he’s eaten, and all the stuffed animals he’s destroyed (oh the carnage!). He’s my buddy, and he’s Aaryn’s, and we love him dearly.
Recently, we have been dealing with some of the early stages of what are likely some serious health issues for Leo. He is an elderly dog, despite his never ending energy, so it’s not something we weren’t expecting. However, dealing with some of the progression of Leo’s health issues have made us really think about things we can do to continue to support his quality of life and happiness. This birthday therefore seemed like one that we really should try to celebrate with him.
Enriching Birthday Activities for an Elderly Dog
We started his birthday party with a doggie scavenger hunt with a couple of his dog friends. The reason I decided to choose this for Leo in particular is because as Leo has gotten older he’s been struggling with normal dog playtime. He does better with activities he can do more independently. He also loves rooting around the backyard like a pig looking for truffles, so setting up a scavenger hunt for him seemed like an easy win. I set this up by taking some iceberg lettuce and using it as a little “plate” or “cup” for some of Leo’s favorite snacks. Leo has an interesting palette for most dogs and enjoys snacking on many things but really likes hot dog pieces, string cheese, baby carrots, and pieces of asparagus. I put out these little “plates” of food all around the backyard and let him have a couple minutes head start to find the first and easiest prize and get going.
Next was a pile of tiny toys, all with squeakers and crinkly material in them for extra exciting noises! Leo loves squeakers and stuffed animals, but has not shown any interest in any of the toys we have at the house lately. We felt perhaps a private party for him with us and a giant pile of tiny toys might be just the thing to reignite some of his enthusiasm for playtime. As you can see from the photo, the tiny squeaky toy pile was a huge hit.
An Experiment with Dog-Friendly Cooking
To conclude Leo’s little birthday, I decided to experiment with making a dog-friendly and people-friendly birthday cake. If things had gone well, I would be providing you a really excellent cake recipe right now, but it didn’t. This one will require some further work to develop.
I had planned this cake to be wheat and sugar free; using oat flour, applesauce, and honey as substitutes. I’ve never actually baked with oat flour before so this was an ambitious attempt to start with. On top of that, I was going to attempt a goat cheese frosting with a coconut sweetener. Another ambitious goal. Sadly, these experiments did not go exactly as planned from my perspective. The frosting attempt was such a disaster I ended up just using whipped cream instead.
Though the texture of my cake left something to be desired for me and Aaryn as the people taste testers…the dogs loved the end result. To top it off, clean up was also a hit – even one of our cats participated!