As dogs enter their golden years, a special bond forms with their human companions. There is an understanding they need us more, and it is up to us to be there for them, as they have been our rock for so many years. Helping them go up and down the stairs, taking them out more frequently for bathroom breaks and slowing down our walks are just a few changes that may occur. Despite this sometimes trying time, the relationship continues to run deep.
In his book Old Faithful: Dogs of a Certain Age, photographer Pete Thorne captures this unique bond with stunning pictures and captivating tales and heartwarming stories people share about their old friend.
Thorne, a devoted dog lover, decided to document elder dogs after his grandmother celebrated her 100th birthday. He gathered all these portraits and crated a web series called “Old Faithful.” From there, the book sprouted and includes 67 stories and more than 100 portraits featuring distinguished dogs full of wisdom and life.
Norman; English Bulldog, 12
Unlike most rescue dogs, Norman was not abused or abandoned. He was owned by a loving family, and he was spoiled rotten. But he did not like the new baby in the house. That is how Norman came to live with me. In the almost eight years that I have had Norman, no one could have predicted how he would affect my life. He has more medical problems than most vets would have anticipated, as well as an uncanny need to swallow nonfood items. He has had six endoscopy procedures (the sixth one the specialist did for free—seriously), three foreign-body surgeries, and multiple induced-vomiting sessions. On top of his desire to eat things (mostly balls), he has horrible environment allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and in the last few months has been diagnosed with heart disease, a splenic mass, kidney stones, and Cushing’s disease. And being Norman, he can’t tolerate most of the medicines to treat these conditions. However, when you meet Norman, he shows no signs of sickness at all, and he has never once complained.
I wish I could say Norman is a loving and happy dog, but he really isn’t and never has been. It’s just not his way. At four years of age, he already seemed like an old dog. Most people would describe Norman as cranky, ornery, dominant, and, frankly, a jerk. He especially likes to pee on other dogs’ beds when we are visiting them. He has had no doggie friends most of his life. Most dogs dislike him because all he wants to do is hump them. Puppies tend to like Norman, though, as they don’t seem to notice his bad attitude. He has had a few cat friends over the years, but overall, I would call Norman a loner. He does his own thing, at his own speed (slow), on his own terms. He likes walks, but they aren’t his favorite. He loves the cottage, where he can spend hours wading in the water digging at rocks. He can’t swim and has almost drowned on a number of occasions chasing a ball into the water. He has a life jacket, but his head is so heavy, the life jacket doesn’t work. Norman and I are almost inseparable. He has flown across the country, gone on road trips, and takes it all in stride. Norman doesn’t have an anxious bone in his body. He has always gone to work with me, and loves being in the clinic. As an instructor for a vet assistant program, he helps me teach in the classroom. He has become such a presence at my workplace that he has even been given a staff ID badge.
— Cynthia Todd
Scout; Doberman Kelpie mix, 12
I remember Scout’s indifference when I approached her kennel at the Humane Society for the first time. It was as if I were one of many who had walked by her before, stopped to admire those ears and eyes, and then walked away after reading the handwritten note on her profile card that stated returned. It was as if Scout knew better than to get up her hopes. That was when I took her home.
The first time I brought her to the dog park, her recall was okay at best and I was reluctant to take her off her leash. What-if scenarios kept running through my head. The group of walkers around us were joking about how, the weekend before, a bunch of dogs went running after a poor rabbit. My heart lurched at the idea of Scout chasing a rabbit into the woods and then never returning to me when I called her.
During our walk, Scout’s extending leash kept tangling around one woman’s legs. Understandably she was getting annoyed, in spite of my apologies and explanations of “she’s new here, sorry, sorry!” If Scout and I were going to be allowed to continue to walk with these nice folks, I knew I had to take her off her leash. I bent down and whispered to Scout, “Please, please, please don’t run away,” and I clicked her off her leash.
I watched my girl run full tilt ahead of our pack and I held my breath. She ran to the ridge of the hill we were climbing . . . and then she stopped and turned around to look at me. Her ears pointing straight up, her tongue hanging out, and she was positively beaming. A man walking in our group sidled next to me and put his hand on my shoulder. “I wouldn’t worry, my dear. Do you see how she runs just far enough that you’re still in her sight line? She’s keeping you in her sights, perhaps more so than you are of her. After all, she doesn’t want to be abandoned ever again. She’s not going anywhere without you.”
And with these words, my heart sighed with relief and I let out my breath. It was true. Scout never let me out of her sights, never once that day. And never since.
— Sarah-Jane Marquez-Hicks
Zoe; Shitzu, 12 1/5
While Zoe is frequently mistaken for an Ewok, she is indeed a twelve-and-a-half-year-old purebred shih tzu. She might be little, but she makes up for that in personality.
Over the years, Zoe has been my shadow, following me all over the house, in the garden, and up and down the stairs, and accompanying me on short jaunts around the city and long trips across Canadian provinces. She loves life in the country, and when she was younger, she’d chase bunnies all summer long at our cottage. These days she’s slowed down due to heart problems and blindness in one eye. It seems I am now her shadow, as I keep an eye on things she can no longer see. Despite these conditions, Zoe still does a twirl for her breakfast and supper and runs around like a puppy when I come home at the end of the day.
I have been blessed to be her lifelong companion. She has taught me how to love life and be present in the moment. When she’s playing, that is all she’s consumed with. When she’s eating, she thinks of nothing else, except eating her own food and then the cats’. She loves prime rib bones, her stuffed bear, chasing paper balls, and running in open fields. After all these years, her puppy dreams bring a smile to my face every time.
My little cuddle bug has been with me through the good and difficult times, and I am grateful to be there for her in the very same way. Zoe’s had her difficulties lately, but she keeps getting back up and proving me wrong. She can be stubborn like that.
— Megret Yabsley
Here is a video of Thorne talking about the process of creating the book: