cloudy eyes + gray muzzles: a photographic celebration of senior dogs

“How old?” they ask, observing the gray on my dog’s muzzle.
“Thirteen,” I say.
“Ohhhh. He’s getting old. It’s getting about ‘that time.’”

I’m not sure what it is about seeing older pets that makes some of us so uncomfortable. Maybe it’s a reminder of our own pets, who’ve long ago crossed the rainbow bridge. Maybe it’s a reminder of our own mortality. Or maybe it’s a lack of empathy. Or ageism.

Whatever the source, such discomfort often influences how we treat our aged, four-legged friends. There’s a reason older dogs fill up our local animal shelters — a reason why they’re the last to be adopted. There’s a reason why it’s socially acceptable for pet owners to euthanize their dogs because of a bit of pee on the carpet, a stiff gait, a cloudy eye, or some other treatable condition. While there are many wonderful pet owners out there who face difficult decisions near the end of their companion’s life, it is still too often the case that when people say “it’s getting about that time” what they really mean is that their senior dog has become too time-consuming for them. And that’s a shame, because pets aren’t accessories — nor are their lives ever really ours to dispense of in the first place.

This photo essay pushes back against narrative that senior dogs are castaways. It encourages us to consider what we might be missing when we regard older dogs as mere inconveniences.