“I’m not dead yet!” is one of my favorite Monty Python scenes in their movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s set during the Black Plague in England. It’s the kind of grim humor I love to snicker at. Although it’s definitely NOT a lesson in compassionate human behavior.

Hey, human! "I'm not dead yet!"

But “I’m not dead yet!” is a great phrase to remember when our animals get older. I hear some version of this sentiment when I have sessions with many animals who are getting older.  Almost always, they address the sadness their human has about their loss of abilities.

Joe’s “not dead yet!”

Joe - not dead yet

When I first worked with Sara’s horse, Ned, her horse Joe also connected with me. Some animals, like people, like to be part of any conversation!

A few months ago, Sara booked a 15-minute quick check-in. She wanted to see how Joe was feeling because his energy was pretty low. Of course, Sara was concerned.

Sara recently emailed this “report”:

“After our talk with my 30-year-old horse, Joe in February he certainly did perk up! Our agreements (discussions) worked – he shares more [supportive] energy as long as I bring happier energy.

“As it has warmed up, we have been playing more often. 

“Joe even started jumping while we are playing on the ground! Imagine that! A half blind horse with some mobility limitations enjoying jumping!

“After he showed me that he likes bareback, we’ve been doing bareback rides once or twice a week for the last 2 weeks. He even cantered last Saturday! 

“Today we were riding in the pasture and found a bunch of groundhog holes and had to move spaces where the boys (horses) were living. Joe helped me move everyone in and work the gate just like the old days! 

“Thank you for helping us to make sure we are both getting what we need and assure me that Joe is still just as fun and spunky as ever.”

My dog, Stella’s “not dead yet!” either

Stella I'm not dead yetIn the last year or so, Stella’s hearing and eyesight has diminished significantly. It’s a bummer. At some point, we thought Stella had lost her spark.

The veterinarian checked her out and reported nothing has worsened, which is good news.

So we adjusted her CBD oil for joint pain.  And our holistic veterinarian, Dr. Kocen of the Veterinary Holistic Center prescribed herbal medicines to help her “sparkiness” return (yes, I just invented a word and I’m proud of it).

We must believe and act differently

But we, her human companions, had to readjust our attitude to help reignite Stella’s “sparkiness.” We want to exude the “Stella’s not dead yet” attitude.

With our change in attitude, we adjusted our behaviors. Including how we talked to her.

  • I noticed Stella would walk much faster off leash. But then she got lost. So, I found some narrow, safe, paths at two local parks where she could trot behind Tibor and me. Her open grin while walking off leash makes my day. I still have to check on her, but we’ve figured out how to make it fun for all of us!
  • Stella used to love snuggling on the bed with us just before the lights when out. But she couldn’t jump up and wouldn’t use the ramp or stairs. She stopped trying to come up. To remedy this, I called excitedly, “Stella, do you want to come up on the bed??” If she wanted to come up, she’d put her front paws on the bed, clearly saying, “Yes, I would! Lift me up, please!” She now spends time on the bed again!
  • My husband and I reach out to touch her and talk to her more often. We invite her to join us wherever we’re hanging out.
  • I work to find my patient person when I take her out on a walk. This way, I don’t exude impatience and irritation at her slowness. Honestly, I’m still working on this one.
  • Tibor and I take “sneaky walks” without Stella so he and I can still get in a brisk walk.
  • Finally, we tell Stella about how happy and blessed we are to have her in our life. We share with her what joy her personality brings to the family.

I don’t know how long Stella will be with us (not my specialty). But I feel good about how we’re working through this time of her life.

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How have you adjusted your attitude and behaviors as your animal ages? I’d love to hear from you!