Taking care of a senior FurChild in his sunset years

Alex and Rafa

Written by Cora Llamas

Content strategist, project manager, and reluctant cat whisperer. 🙂 Going back to my love of and care for pets. Used to have a lot of dogs years ago until life and work happened. Now I still got an azkal-jack-russell terrier and a cat who keeps on insinuating herself in my life. My 5-year-old grandnephew loves pets so who knows? our menagerie just might grow.

10/04/2021

October’s Next Top Pawdel of the Month Rafa has been with Alexandra “Alex” Barrera’s family for the past 12 years, making him a senior citizen according to a dog’s lifetime. Gauging that he still has five more years ahead of him, his PawMom intends to make every second in that period count. Aside from the regular quarterly trips to the veterinarian and cooking the elderly Shi Tzu his favorite, nutritious meals, the Barreras have decided not to adopt another dog to focus all their attention on him.

“It is specialized care,” acknowledges Alex. “Because of his age, he is blind in both eyes. He also has kidney disease and incontinence, which means that he has difficulty in keeping his pee.”

 

His medical conditions however have not removed from Rafa the warmth, friendliness, and precociousness that the family has experienced and expected from him the past decade. That includes making tender apologies if he does slip up.

 

Rafa's hair already turned white and grey because of his advanced age.
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Rafa’s hair already turned white and grey because of his advanced age.

 

His medical conditions however have not removed from Rafa the warmth, friendliness, and precociousness that the family has experienced and expected from him the past decade. That includes making tender apologies if he does slip up.

“Rafa knows I have his back,” Alex shares. “Every time he pees on the living room, he’d knock on my bedroom and go to me. Because inevitably my yaya would find out that he has peed and scold him. Once I start holding him, though, he’d bark at the yaya.”

Rafa’s visual impairment also has not stopped him from becoming “an escape artist,” says Alex. “Because of the hot weather, our door is always open. We found out that despite his blindness, he can leave the house and go out into the neighborhood. That’s why since, then we have been very careful about the doors.”

That carefulness is justified. During his younger days, Rafa had an adventurous spirit that made him explore other spaces aside from the immediate four corners of the Barrera family home. There was one instance when he literally left the family building when its door was left open—and just kept on running until he reached the bustling, ever-busy road that is EDSA.

Alex remembers that in that little jaunt, Rafa kept glancing back, as if egging his family to run after him. She says, “You can totally see him looking back once in a while and grinning while my sister was chasing him through two to three streets!  I gave up running after him because I wasn’t in shape, and I trusted my sister to catch him!”

Aside from his playfulness, though, Rafa has a protective streak that makes him caring and compassionate towards his former pet siblings when they were still alive. The Barrera family had kept two other pet dogs with Rafa, until they also passed away. “He was generous towards them,” says Alex. “He’d let them bully him and he’d be the last one to eat so they can have their share. He’d also go to them and caress them.”

 

During the occasions that his PawParents would not oblige, Rafa made it known that his feelings were hurt, sulking throughout the day.

 

That affectionate nature would also extend to Rafa’s human family. As a young dog, he’d scratch the arms and legs of Alex and her siblings every time he wanted to be taken for a walk. He also made it known that he’d like to tag along and ride in the car every time Alex and her sister would be fetched and brought home. During the occasions that his PawParents would not oblige, Rafa made it known that his feelings were hurt, sulking throughout the day.

 

 

Up to now, despite his age and medical conditions, Rafa still “can’t go a day without asking for a walk. Now he is asking for a car ride—he has to come with me when I go to the onsite work.,” says Alex. “He needs to have the front seat.”

Rafa has always been a pillar of strength for Alex and her family, comforting them through the years during bouts of “failures, family issues, and disappointments.”  His warm, cuddly presence cushioned the blows brought by the pandemic especially when Alex was battling job and employment challenges.

Now that the economy is slowly reopening, Alex is looking forward to the day when she can take her senior citizen dog out on trips again:  “Go ride into McDonald’s and let him peek out the window to receive an order that is JUST FOR HIM. We’ll go into a nice breezy park and hand-feed him his burger and fries. We will have a chill day, full of pampering like cuddles, brushes, and a lot of playful fighting.”

 

Alex’s ultimate dream for Rafa, though, is to bring her “metropolitan dog” to Capri, Italy where he can “appreciate the ancient streets with me, enjoying the sights, and for him the walks and smells.

 

Alex’s ultimate dream for Rafa, though, is to bring her “metropolitan dog” to Capri, Italy where he can “appreciate the ancient streets with me, enjoying the sights, and for him the walks and smells. We will share our food since he loves human food so much. We will also take that opportunity to go on a yacht and enjoy the fresh sea breeze.”

Until then, Alex will continue feeding Rafa his healthy diet of  “overhauled snacks which are now mostly fruits. He likes veggies, ampalaya, and carrots, but not bananas.”  She also makes sure that he gets his regular intake of maintenance medicines, probiotics, and kidney supplements.

Alex, though, vows that “once the pandemic ends, we will have more adventures. It matters to me that he experiences more in his twilight years, in the time that we now have.”

 

 

Gallery by The Pet Visuals: Rafa

 


 

Philippines’ Next Top Pawdel

If you think you also have a heartwarming story that can be told through the lens of the camera – a story of unspoken love by your dog or cat — please join the Philippines’ Next Top Pawdel. Our pictures will not just bring out the beauty of your pet, or reveal what’s inside their unspeaking heart. It will also talk about your connection with them, your relationship, your love affair.
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