Monday, May 23, 2011

Suddenly, a horrible thought occurs to me

As you know, I'm always preoccupied with the fact that Tinky-Winky is going to die. This is inevitable, and barring some unforeseen circumstances, she's going to die before me. This bothers me, but actually, I'd be even more upset if I died before her, because she has no one but me to take care of her. But that's not the point.

According to the vet, shibas live "9 to 12 years", which would have her dying this year. According to her breeder, dogs of her bloodline have generally lived to approximately 16 years, barring unforeseen circumstances, like the fact that her father ran away and was killed by a car at a young age. And since Tinky-Winky shows no signs of being near death yet, I'm thinking the breeder is right. She would know, anyway, she keeps in touch with her dogs. So, I've been living with the idea that Tinky-Winky will die in 2015. But then, because she eats healthy, gets a lot of exercise, and looks nowhere like a 12-year-old dog right now, and looks better than photos of 12-year-old shibas I've seen, I've been telling myself she might well live longer than that.

But then, as we were walking this morning, a terrible thought occurred to me. I remembered reading an article many years ago about a study they did on rats, where they found that all other things being equal, mellow rats who did nothing all day long lived much longer than active rats who were always busy. The article then pondered the fact that in cultures where people take long siestas and sit around quietly in the evenings, as long as their diet is healthy, they live for a hundred years; whereas people who exercise and are always busy, even though they also seem healthy, die much younger. And it's also true in aquarium fishes that if you keep the water warmer, they're more active, but die younger, whereas in colder water they move less and live longer. So the moral is, apparently creatures only have a certain amount of activity in them, and they can spend it faster or slower, but when they run out of it, they die, whether they're young or old.

That's horrible!!!!!!

I've always prided myself on the fact that Tinky-Winky gets more exercise than any other pet dog I know. We walk three times a day, twice 45 minutes at a slow pace because she drags her feet on the leash, and once 45 minutes at a mad gallop when she's off the leash. Then sometimes we take extra-long walks. In the summer, we usually go for a three-hour walk at least every other weekend.

What if all this activity is making her die faster? Granted she's the healthiest dog alive as far as I can tell, never has a health complaint, not even a cough or an upset stomach. She can still run for hours. She can still run 40 km/h. But what if she's going to have a healthy but short life? Would it be better to walk her less so she can live longer? Her walks are all she lives for. What's the point of making her live longer with less happiness? That's absurd.

Suddenly I'm worried that I don't have four years left with her after all.


Julie M. said...

Shassi lived to be 16 years and 4 months after a regimen of daily walks and regular interaction. All of our dogs lived to be well into their teens and I believe frequent regular exercise to be a big part of that. It's not the walking itself, but the interaction between you and your dog that keeps their mind and body working.

If you don't use it, you lose it - I would keep exercising her at the rate she's comfortable with. If there's no sign of discomfort during walks and playtime, keep going! If there is, I would consult with the vet to see what you can do for Tinky-Winky to keep her as active as possible without exacerbating any problem conditions.

After watching Shassi decline in the last few months, I'd rather have a dog who enjoys every minute of their short(er) life than one who lives a long time, but with impairments that curtail their joy in life.

Mongoose said...

I totally agree. I wouldn't want her to finish her life as an invalid.