by Hannah Capon MA Vet MB MRCVS, Director, Canine Arthritis Management
WHEN Holly came into my life 15 years ago, I didn’t spend much time considering what life would be like with a senior dog. It never occurred to me that it would be different to having an adult dog. But how wrong was I. We used to walk, run, camp and paddle board together, and had a very active owner – dog bond.
When her mobility started to become a restrictive factor to consider our world closed in somewhat. We had to consider where was accessible, how long for and whether it was going to have negative implications for her a few days after. I think we have both struggled with this, as it is a nagging reminder that we are in the latter years together.
The Big Walk was originally a private adventure for Holly and I. Potentially the last ditched attempt to have that life we both loved. I didn’t know whether I was being selfish wanting to get back the freedom of long walks and tented adventures. But it has been a gamble that has paid off in many ways.
I would relive those 8 days in an instant. Having collected memories that I won’t forget. But more than that, I have learnt that life does not stop with an old dog, it simply changes. We conquered the 100 mile gruelling South Downs Way by simply being prepared, being considerate to how much she was allowed to do per walking session, protecting her over tough terrain, and looking after her on the down time. We not only conquered it, but we are looking to do more as it has given her a lease of life I could not have dreamed for. Since the walk people have commented on the amazing change in her energy levels and enthusiasm for life.
Highlights for me would be seeing Holly still having the energy to self play with a ball at the end of a tough day.
Watching onlookers faces as I pushed Holly in her trolley on to the viewing platform of Birling gap to get a good whiff of the brisk sea breeze. Hearing her snore in the night all cushioned and toasty, whilst I struggled with a hard roll mat and thin sleeping bag!
From what I learnt over those 8 days, I hope to help others with older companions by disseminating more free advice through Canine Arthritis Management and its social media platforms #camarthritis. I am more determined to inspire attention towards senior dog care and develop resources that people can obtain what they need to maintain that “bond”. I feel the pet industry leans heavily in favour of the young canine and seems to deplete in enthusiasm towards the older dog. Through collaborations I hope we can change that. Canine Arthritis Management is looking to continue to expand and support the public with more resources, equipment and tools, and is looking to make connections with like-minded in the industry. So please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for Holly and I, the trolley has merely been temporarily stored as we are already planning our next adventure. Watch this space!!
The Big Walk saw vet Hannah Capon and her loyal 15 year old Border Collie take on walking the South Downs way from the 9th to 16th September to raise awareness of the prevalence of arthritis in dogs and educate the public that through identifying it earlier, and acting on its diagnosis, that their dogs would inevitably live longer. Under the #yourdogmoreyears the two battled up and down the rugged terrain from Eastbourne to Winchester blogging, and talking to locals. They slept rough in a small tent or had the generosity of a car boot or pull out sofa bed. Hannah frequently overrode Holly’s desire to march on, by insisting she had a rest, instead pushing her in a specially adapted dog trolley.
A couple of times I thought there would be no way I could get her, plus the trolley to the top of one of the many beacons, but I think sheer determination to make canine Arthritis management succeed got me through!