Contrary to Popular Belief, You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

Today, our boy Toby is eleven years old.

You aren't too old to reach your goals
His excitement for his birthday is overwhelming.

Well, we say that. In reality, we adopted Pooperschmidt three years ago today. We’re pretty sure he’s eleven, but we don’t know his exact birthday. We figure today is a good a day as any.

Recently, we went on vacation to Florida. It was a much-needed break from, well, everything. For a few days, we got to warm our bones, bathe in Vitamin D, and see friends and family we hadn’t seen in years. It was wonderful.

Since we can’t board Pooper due to his separation anxiety and fear of other dogs (and men in hats, and life), we hire a house/pet sitter. That way, even though he’s with someone different, he stays in a familiar setting. We can’t hire just anyone; they have to be able to handle him when he sees another dog and goes off the rails.

Upon return, I had a enlightening conversation about Poopsicle with the pet sitter. She said something I didn’t think I’d ever hear: “I saw the behaviors you see. I can help you.”

When we first adopted Boogermeister, he was shut down from the trauma of being in the shelter. However, once we had him for a couple weeks and he started to trust us, his . . . behaviors . . . started coming out.

We struggled for nine months before finally getting him on Prozac, which helped immensely. We hired a trainer for a consultation early on, and she gave us some useful tips. But after a certain point, we just wrote his behavior off as this is how he is. He’s always going to be reactive around dogs. It’s never going to be pretty, and we’re just going to have to manage it as best we can.

Fast forward to that conversation. Our Sweet Potato is a smart dog. He’s part beagle, after all. He doesn’t really know how to “dog,” which is a shame. But he’s come a long way in the three years we’ve had him. Now that I’m working from home, we have the time, space, and luxury of taking the next step with him training-wise.

We know it’s unrealistic to hope we’ll be able to adopt a friend for him. He’s an only child. He gets jealous when our attention is diverted from him, and take measures to fix what he sees as the problem. Our goal is much simpler: to be able to take a walk without him going apeshit every time he sees another dog.

Our pet sitter saw the potential for change and growth in Booger. He’s no spring chicken, but he’s still spry, and his mind is as sharp as ever (even though he does occasionally forget what he’s doing and stares off into space). Just because he’s old, we shouldn’t write him off as a lost cause.

Its says so much, doesn’t it? We can go through our lives not doing things we really want to do. We get to a point where we think it’s no longer possible. “I’m too old for that now,” is the usual excuse. But . . . are you?

No excuses, go after your goals!
Toby is unimpressed with your excuses.

At forty-three, I started taking martial arts classes for the first time in my life. I could barely run around the dojo three times without gasping for breath. I had absolutely no prior martial arts experience. I was going in a winded, out-of-shape, blank slate.

I’m going to be forty-five in less than a month. Yesterday, I ran two and a half miles. I’m going for my brown belt in three weeks (holycrapholycrapholycrap). I’ve got a hyperextended right arm and my knees are still bitching from yesterday’s run. I admit to being jealous of the twenty-somethings in the dojo who don’t break a sweat while I’m there, red-faced and dripping.

Does being forty-five make it easier? No. Do I still have a long way to go? Yeah. Am I going to let something like my birthday stop me? Hells no.

If you’ve got things you want to do in this life, do them. Yeah, age can slow you down. It can make the road a little longer and a little bumpier. You’ve got to pay closer attention because the things that didn’t faze you at twenty-five will at forty-five. But you can still realize all those dreams and goals. You aren’t too old.

You are at the exact right point in your life to fully appreciate the hard work that goes into achieving a goal.

Go, you!

Congratulations on going after your goals!
Toby can’t contain his excitement over your achievements!