What Our Dogs Teach Us About Aging

The author’s dog, Foghat, at age 18.
Photo by David Dudley

My friend Dave Dudley, who’s married to a graduate-school classmate of mine, has written a really wonderful piece in AARP The Magazine on the aging process—both canine and human—and what we might learn from watching our beloved pets mature. For instance, even in adulthood, dogs have the ability to retain puppylike characteristics:

Emotionally, a domestic dog exists in a kind of perpetual adolescence, a long summer twilight of play and napping and happy routine in the company of parents who never get old, and never let you grow up.

The scientific term for this Peter Pan state is “neoteny” — when adults retain juvenile traits — and it’s one of many characteristics of older canines to invite inquiry from longevity researchers.

Dudley goes on to explore the aging process through the example of his dog, Foghat. According to Dudley, getting a dog was “a statement of incipient maturity, right on the heels of the first decent apartment and a few years before marriage,” and Foghat’s role went from being an ur-baby, to a symbol of stability, to a harbinger of our own mortality. Dudley’s long article intersperses scientific research, touching anecdotes, and real emotion, as he walks us through the various stages of his life with Foghat.

As Dave’s wife, Sondara wrote, this article is about “our dog, our life, your life”—and I highly recommend that you take the time to read it.

Click here for the full story.

6 thoughts on “What Our Dogs Teach Us About Aging”

  1. I read David’s article about Foghat in AARP’s December issue. I have lost four dogs in my lifetime. I am sure I will bury at least two more, as I can’t see myself not having a dog in my life. Insomuch as I have grieved my loses, this article touched me in ways I hadn’t experienced before. After reading David’s words and descriptions of his time with Foghat, I realized just how much these dogs have been my friends and not just my pets. I have to confessed the article brought tears to my eyes. David’s recount of Foghat’s drive to the vet brought back some painful memories, and his description of standing around the metal table made me hurt for him and for my past loses – what a beautiful story – thanks for sharing! And yes, walks in the rain have become part of our rituals

  2. Thanks to Dave for his heartfelt story about his cherished companion “Foghat”. So sorry for him & his family.
    Love the name, listened to the music.
    We lost our dear pet “Deja Vu” a few weeks ago, she was 15 yrs. old. Needless to say, our house is not a home right now. So many things he said brought tears of joy and sadness, but it was a needed release for me still. Only a loving dog owner can know what it’s all about. Our hearts are broken right now, but the joy and friendship she gave us can’t be replaced.
    “Foghat” and “Deja Vu” are wagging their tails!
    All good dogs go to heaven…
    Thanks again Dave for sharing. It meant a lot.

  3. The article in AARP was right on the money. I don’t look at my k9 family members as property anymore than I would my own children. They ask for so little in their brief time in our world. Just saw a stray on fb that was up for adoption that could’ve been Foghats’ twin. (well, almost.) same sweet face…. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for the article. Sure

  4. I wanted to tell you what a flawless piece of writing the “What Our Dogs Teach Us About Aging” is. I’m 60 and have had dogs off and on thru my life. Your story broke me down into tears and there was
    so much educational info in there as well. Thank you for doing such a masterful job on this subject. I have a 9 yr. old Fox Terrier and a 3-4 yr. old Sheltie and I love them just a little bit more for having read your article. Wish I could have met FogHat.
    I wanted you to know how much the article hit home inside. I usually don’t cry at anything but after reading what you wrote, I broke down like a baby. Thank you.
    Have a Wonderful Life, Kenneth B. Young

  5. What a beautiful story written in December 2014 I will never get rid of this magazine I read it periodically always reminds me of life and how God’s creatures teach us life’s lessons. A treasure for sure.

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