Working on My Dog’s Bucket List

May 7, 2012

On Friday’s eleventh birthday, we gave her a cake and talked about how she would probably live forever.

Friday had a lot of things going for her: she’s a mixed breed, and everyone knows mutts are healthier than purebreds. She’s fairly small and doesn’t have the health issues that plague full-size German shepherds. And she’s been on a “real food” diet for most of her life, untainted by the nefarious Big Pet Food.

Plus, she was in perfect shape. She was the healthiest senior dog I’d ever met. She could easily live to be 14, 15. No problem.

Of course, the gods point and laugh when mortals throw around phrases like “forever” and “no problem.”

Life is Short and Other Clichés

That was in February. Shortly thereafter, Friday’s health began to decline. Weight loss, lethargy, pain, the works. My gut instinct said cancer. So I can’t say I was surprised when the vet came back with the x-rays, his head bowed in sympathy, and delivered the bad news.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the time frame. Because even though the dog sitting at my feet was clearly in bad shape, I figured we had some time. Because there’s always more time, right? “Life is short,” we say, and then carry on with our lives as if we had all the time in the world. So I was thinking six, maybe ten months. I could work with that. But apparently, the prognosis for metastatic cancer in an eleven year old dog is not nearly that optimistic.

Psht. Go figure.

Window of Opportunity

We started Friday on a treatment plan of pain killers and prednisone, which has improved her quality of life dramatically. She’s back to her usual active, happy self. She’s resumed her habit of cheerfully yelling at me whenever she wants something (what can I say. I’ve always been a sucker when it comes to doing her bidding).

A recent recheck at the vet indicates that the drugs are doing a good job beating back the cancer, which is probably lymphoma. This was to be expected, but it isn’t expected to last long. The crappy part? Friday has maybe two months of good days left.

The good part? Friday has maybe two months of good days which we will fill with as much awesome as she can handle.

Friday’s List of Awesome

Once I got over the shock of “holy crap, my dog is dying” and moped around for a bit, I set to work on Friday’s List of Awesome. I can only guess at what my dog would like to spend her last days doing. But having known her since she was eight weeks old, it’s a pretty good guess. Friday isn’t one for playing with toys, and I’m pretty sure that cuddling and excessive displays of affection make her want to puke.

She has only three great loves:

1. Food

2. Grand adventures in the Great Outdoors

3. Food

With that it mind, here is the bucket list I came up with for Friday.


Friday is ridiculously food-obsessed, even for a dog. Lucky for her, item number one on her list is is also her doctor’s orders. Skinny as the poor dog is, she could stand to gain some weight.

2. Specifically, MOAR RAW MEAT

Friday loves nothing more than chomping on a raw chicken carcass. She was on the BARF diet back when it was all the rage. But with the more recent research that says maybe raw diets aren’t all that great, I kinda chickened out (hehe puns) and cut way back on the raw meat.

Time to live dangerously. I just bought a pile of chicken leg quarters, organ meat and marrow bones. And speaking of bones…

3. The Big Bone from the pet store

You know the section of the pet store with all the bins of rawhide and various dried animal bits? And you know the bin with the big honkin’ bones that are like whole cow femurs? My dogs always eye those with a look that says, “OH MY GOD. Can I get one? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!” And I always reply with a “yeah sure, someday.”

Someday has pretty much arrived.

4. Ice cream cones from the Mcdonald’s drive thru

Both of Friday’s brothers have experienced the joys of the drive thru. It just occurred to me that Friday herself has not. Time to fix this.

5. Smell ALL the things!

Being a human, I like to walk like a human: traveling from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. Being a dog, Friday prefers to travel as inefficiently as possible, so she can closely examine every bush and blade of grass along the way. This has led to a bit of conflict in the past. Now when I walk her, I let her take as long as she wants. If that means taking half an hour to get to the end of the block, so be it.

6. Swimming in local rivers/lakes/ponds

I took this picture a few days ago. We took the short hike from the car to the river and she walked in and lied down, just watching the waterfowl. It was very zen.

7. “Hiking”

Friday loves hiking, but she’s a bit too weak to do any real hiking any more. I’m gonna see what I can do. I have a little red wagon that is exactly Friday sized. I’ll have to train her to let me pull her around in it, if she doesn’t find that too humiliating.

8. Car rides

Friday likes car rides anyway, but they might end up taking the place of a lot of walking as she gets weaker.

Things on Friday’s Bucket List that, Alas, We Will NOT be Doing

9. Eat a cat

My little huntress would LOVE to catch one of the neighborhood cats that mock her from just out of reach on our walks.

10. Eat my parakeets

In addition to my three rescued dogs, I somehow ended up with a couple of rescued budgies with the improbable names of Neon Green Bird and Charles. Friday thinks they would make an excellent afternoon snack.

It’s Your Turn

The thing that sucks about life with dogs (besides the fact that they pee on the carpet and like to eat your valuables) is that their lives are so much shorter than ours. I mean, Friday is at the end of what for a dog is a long life, but didn’t I JUST bring that puppy home from the humane society? Crazy.

You don’t have to wait until your dog is old and sick before you start their bucket list. And it doesn’t have to be anything fancy – no dog will ever dream of skydiving or meeting a celebrity or starting a business.

What’s on your dog’s List of Awesome? What simple things can you do to make your dog’s life more fun?

Do you know what your dog is saying?

Understanding the subtle ways dogs communicate is a critical skill for dog owners. It can help with choosing the right dog, solving training problems, and building a strong bond.

This free video course from our online academy will give you a basic, yet detailed, introduction to the wonderful world of canine body language and communication.

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