Devoted owners do anything to keep pets healthy

It was like a visit to a senior center — except the seniors were of the canine variety, and the “center” was actually the waiting room of my favorite veterinary clinic.

Such was the case last week when I brought in Kita, now 12 ½ years, for a vet visit.

Usually, the clinic is a busy menagerie of puppies, old dogs, cats, pocket pets and the occasional turtle. But that day it was like Pie Day at Village Inn: silver-haired citizens as far as the eye could see.

Kita can be embarrassingly stand-offish with some dogs — especially other female dogs. But the practice has started handing out strips of fabric treated with some sort of essential oils to relax them. It seemed to be the equivalent of giving your tiny, elderly, normally teetotaling Aunt Marge to drink a martini. She not only completely relaxed, she also became a social butterfly.

First, she befriended Sophie, a sweet, 10-year-old Shih Tzu. Although Sophie’s mom confessed that she is usually very shy, the little dog and Kita immediately embarked in the standard sniffing/circling/wagging ritual that occurs when friendly dogs meet.

The two ladies (the dogs, not us) were dressed in fall sweaters. Sophie’s sweater was decorated with a snowman — perfect for a lady in her 70s. Kita hates her sweater, but I put it on her because it moves her adorability rating (usually a high 8) to a 9.98. (For some reason, I always believe this will guarantee she receives even better medical treatment.) The two of them together may have broken several laws for monopolizing the cuteness industry.

Sophie’s mom and I visited easily. People often joke that when older people get together, they talk about their health problems. Apparently, when older dogs get together, their owners talk about their dogs’ health problems.

We discussed their diets, their dental issues, their inability to jump up on furniture. Sophie was there for a recurring ear infection. Sophie’s mom noticed that Kita limped. I said she was there for a “spa” treatment — cool lasers that help stimulate healing of injured joints while reducing pain and inflammation. She nodded approvingly.

Our dowagers (bow-wow-agers?) had become so picky, we lamented. We shared recipes on ways to fatten up our girls. Sophie’s mom confessed she sometimes chopped up hot dogs and mixed them in with her food. She knew it wasn’t the healthiest thing, but it’s so hard to get them to eat.

I nodded sympathetically, thinking of the goat milk/turkey burger/egg parfaits I have concocted for Kita.

We talked about what great companions they were and how we couldn’t imagine life without them. We said the last part in hushed tones, just in case they could hear us.

Before long, a second elderly Shih Tzu had also joined us. She was there for back issues, and she’d brought her humans because someone needed to drive.

We also met a big black Lab. Next to our small dogs, he looked like a Shetland pony. He was a former therapy dog, now retired. I didn’t ask what he was there for, just in case it was Viagra. No need to embarrass the old chap.

It turned out to be one of my favorite vet visits to date. Well, except for the family who had to come in and say goodbye to their dog — who looked like a gray-muzzled spaniel. The vet tech turned on an electric candle to remind everyone in the waiting room that a family was going through this, so we remembered to be respectful and speak a little more softly.

It reminded me of what we all have to go through eventually, and why we work so hard to keep our beloved pets comfortable and healthy for as long as possible.

Our dogs deserve the best, because they give us their best.

So enjoy your spa treatments, ladies. You earned it.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at

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