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2 Lessons Animals Taught Me About Growing Older Gracefully & Fearlessly

What can animals teach us about grower older gracefully, and fearlessly?

My answer: They can show us a lot! I’d like to share two important lessons I learned.

A Park Encounter

Last winter, my canine companion Bastie and I met a delightful dog at the park whose joie de vivre and vitality were palpable. She had an exuberant, one-of-a-kind bark –  almost a jubilant baying – that filled the air, and my heart. She was a gray curly-coated beauty with sparkling brown eyes, and she reminded me of my beloved Silver. 

One day I told the dog’s person how much I enjoyed seeing her pooch and how her presence and enthusiasm always brightened my day.

The response wasn’t quite what I expected. I thought I’d receive a cheerful, positive agreement. Instead, the person appeared totally focused on what was “wrong” (at least that’s how I heard it): The dog was old, with plenty of skin lumps and bumps (the ones that are often found on senior animals), and I sensed the human was a bit embarrassed by of the dog’s unique barking. I felt that the human didn’t see, at least in that moment, all the wonderful attributes of her furry family member. 

Granted, the person could’ve been having an off day (we all do!), or they could’ve been focused on the major “dread” that having a senior animal can mean: They’re closer to death and the family will be faced with the pain and heartache of saying goodbye sooner rather than later. Or it could’ve been a low mood day where the mind often gravitates to negative thinking. But it also pointed out that we humans may be too focused on aging and the ultimate outcome – death.

As this enchanting dog clearly showed me, being present and completely engaged in life regardless of circumstances was the only way to live well and fully through the last breath. I doubt that she was worried about what tomorrow would bring – she was living and enjoying her life NOW. I prefer to live like that happy pup!!!

Nothing is more precious than being in the present moment. Fully alive, fully aware. –Thich Nhat Hanh

Silver’s Example

Silver enjoying an outing in her “hospice chariot,” a wagon fit for a queen! (Photo by Blanca Walker)

My dog Silver taught me a very valuable lesson about getting older a few months before she died at age 14 ½.  

Through July Berin of The Temple Cat (, BrightHaven’s trusted animal communicator and medical intuitive, Silver told me, “I know I am old. I am not fighting my age. I am not afraid to live!”

Silver went on to share that she embraced her age and any complications that came with it. She wanted me to see that age isn’t something to be “fixed.” Silver assured me that change is all right, and that the gradual processes all beings go through are a normal part of life, a normal part of death. She also advised me to choose happiness because, as she pointed out, it was indeed my choice.

You can read more about Silver’s journey (including more life lessons) from terminal diagnosis through hospice and a peaceful, gentle natural death, and how BrightHaven’s animal hospice principles greatly help us find our way in my book titled Walking With My Dog Through (End of) Life, available on Amazon.  

Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious for you shall only live it once. Be comfortable with growing older. – Louise Hay

BrightHaven Caregiver Resources to Help Your Animal Live Well Each and Every Day!

Gail & Joey
(Photo by in joy photography)

LATEST ONLINE COURSE! BrightHaven Holistic Animal Hospice: Navigating a Terminal Diagnosis – in this self-paced module, we help you to determine the best path for you and your animal.

Carol Howe Hulse – Education Program Specialist
Carol & Silver
(Photo by Beth Shields)
  • Walking with My Dog Through (End of) Lifean intimate look at a profound life passage, from terminal diagnosis through hospice care and a peaceful, gentle natural death. (Author: Carol Howe Hulse, BrightHaven Education Program Manager)
For more resources and information to help you help your furry family member, please visit BrightHaven’s Caregiver Resources & Education and Animal Caregiver FAQ.

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