A charming, delightfully photographed tribute to the older dog, with essays and poetry.
Gandhi once said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated." How people regard older animals is especially revealing. Beautiful Old Dogs is a heartfelt, emotional, passionate tribute to old dogs. It will inspire many readers to get involved in senior dog rescue and adoption, as it honors our senior best friends and explores their current state of care and custody in an informative appendix. This book features the exquisite photography of the late Garry Gross, a noted fashion photographer during the 60s, 70s and 80s who, after becoming a highly successful dog trainer in New York City, turned his camera lens towards dogs. Gross, along with Victoria Stilwell from Animal Planet's It's Me or the Dog, founded Dog Trainers of New York in 2002, and became devoted to highlighting the plight and value of senior dogs. "The older the better," Gross said. "Dogs with soul in their eyes."David Tabatsky has collected Gross's photographs here, and carefully curated an accompanying selection of moving, insightful, funny, and uplifting essays and short pieces by a range of writers, with contributions from Anna Quindlen, Ally Sheedy, Christopher Durang, Doris Day, Dean Koontz, Marlo Thomas, and many more.
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About the Author
DAVID TABATSKY is a writer, editor, teacher and performing artist. He is the also the founder of Write for Life, dedicated to presenting writing and communication workshops in cancer centers around the country for patients, caregivers and medical staff. He teaches writing at The Cooper Union and circus arts and theatre in New York City public schools. He is the editor of the book Beautiful Old Dogs.
Read an Excerpt
Beautiful Old Dogs
A Loving Tribute To Our Senior Best Friends
By David Tabatsky, Garry Gross
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 David Tabatsky
All rights reserved.
This is the first photograph of a senior dog I ever did. As I looked through the lens of the camera, much to my surprise I was mesmerized. I saw wisdom. I saw his history. I saw the dog as a puppy running around. I saw some sadness. I saw so much beauty and that's what astounded me. Who ever thought about beautiful, older dogs? At that moment, my series of dog photos came to life.
Although for me, it goes beyond the project. I'm trying to make a statement here. It has something to do with the fact that this contradicts our natural understanding of what beauty should be. I think that we have to have a change of mind, a change of heart, a paradigm shift so that we can look at faces like these that are old and actually see the beauty of them; not just dogs but also humans.
These dogs are beautiful and they are also in need. These dogs have love and compassion and they are willing to give it to anybody who takes care of them. They're faithful and they're dedicated and it is my great hope that you will see the beauty in these senior dogs as deeply as I do.
The National Arts Club
October 21, 2010
The Greatest Gift of All
To those of us who feel that dogs are one of God's most perfect creatures, we cherish every single moment with them in the autumn of their years. Oh sure, it's wonderful when they're puppies, romping and playing, tearing up newspapers and chewing on furniture. Then they bond with you and you learn that they are one of the few creatures in this world capable of giving unconditional love. No matter what happens, they always are there for you, through joy and sorrow, sickness and health, loneliness and despair. They are there, never judging. They take a place in your heart that is immoveable.
And when the years have taken their toll and they can no longer romp and play, they continue to give you all the love in their hearts. When they can barely walk, they look at you adoringly, seeking your guidance and help. We feel helpless at times and our eyes fill with tears as we try to comfort these precious babies. They deserve every bit of love and care that we can give, for they have given their all to us, for nothing more than a kind word, a gentle pat, or a kiss on the cheek.
When you look into their eyes, you see the soul of our creator. And as hard as it may be, when life becomes too difficult and the pain and suffering unbearable, we can give them the greatest gift of all, the peaceful journey into God's loving arms.
by Trixie Koontz, Dog
Dad teaches me to type. Hold pencil in mouth and type. At first is fun. Then is not fun. He says to me, "Write, Trixie, write. Write essay for Web site." Being good dog, I write. Not fun, but I write. Expect treat for writing. Get no treat. Stop writing. Get treat. Carob biscuit. Good, good, good. Okay, so I write some more.
Dad promises Web site visitors my essay end of July. Must give up important ball chasing, important napping, important sniffing — all to write. Work hard. Writing hard. So many words. Stupid punctuation rules. Hate semicolons. Hate, hate, hate. Chew up many pencils in frustration.
Finish article. Give to Dad. Then I rip guts out of duck. Duck is not real. Is Booda duck, stuffed toy. I am gentle dog. Cannot hurt real duck or even cat. But am hell on stuffed toys. Work off tension. Rip, rip, rip. Feel pretty good. Cough up soggy wad of Booda-duck stuffing. Feel even better.
Dad gives editorial suggestions. Stupid suggestions.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! He is not editor, is writer. Like me, Trixie Koontz, who is dog. I pretend to listen.
Am actually thinking abut bacon. Bacon is good. Bacon is very good. I am good, too. People call me "good dog, good, very good." Bacon is very good. I am very good. But I am not bacon. Why not? Mysterious.
Then I think about cats. What is wrong with them? Who do they think they are? What do they want? Who invented them, anyway? Not God, surely. Maybe Satan? So nervous writing about cats, I use too many italics. Then I hit hateful semicolon key; don't know why; but I do it again; and whimper.
Dogs are not born to write essays. Maybe fiction. Maybe poetry. Not essays. Maybe advertising copy.
Here is my advertising copy: BACON IS VERY GOOD. BUY BACON. BUY LOTS OF BACON. GIVE TO ME. THANK YOU.
Dad gives me editorial notes for study. Eight pages. I pee on them. He gets message.
Dad says will give my essay to webmaster as is. Webmaster is nice person, nice. She will know good writing when she sees it.
Days pass. Weeks. Chase ball. Chase rabbits. Chase butterfly. Chase Frisbee. Begin to notice sameness in leisure-time activities. Pull tug-toy snake. Pull, pull, pull. Pull tug-toy bone. Pull, pull, pull tug-toy rope. Lick forepaw. Lick other forepaw. Lick a more private place. Still do not taste like bacon. Get belly rub from Mom. Get belly rub from Dad. Mom. Dad. Mom. Dad. Get belly rub from Linda. Get belly rub from Elaine. From housekeeper Elisa. Belly rub, belly rub. Read Bleak House by Mr. Charles Dickens, study brilliant characterizations, ponder tragedy of human condition. New tennis ball. Chase, chase, chase! Suddenly is September.
Webmaster asks where is Trixie essay? Where? Dad lost. Dad got busy working on new book, got busy, forgot fabulous Trixie essay, and lost it. My human ate my homework. Sort of.
All my hard work, my struggle, so many hateful semicolons. All for what? All for nothing. Essay lost. All for nothing. Feel like a character in Bleak House.
Think about getting an attorney. Get literary agent instead. Writing fiction. Novel. Maybe knock Dad off bestseller list. Teach him lesson. Writing novel called "My Bacon" by Trixie Koontz, Dog. Already have invitation from Larry King, David Letterman, be on shows, do publicity, sell book, get belly rub from Dave. Maybe get limo for media tour. Ride around in limo, chasing cats. Life is good when you're a dog.
The Virtues of Older Dogs
At Cocker Spaniel Adoption Center, we are frequently called to rescue older dogs, and we often find ourselves with a large number of "senior citizens," some more senior than others. Many people tell us they are not interested in adopting senior dogs precisely because they are older.
We find these attitudes senseless and unacceptable. There are so many virtues in older dogs. They are typically gentle and easy going, and most of the time they cause no trouble in their homes. This makes their frequent abandonment all the more painful.
Most rescuers I know prefer to have older dogs in their foster homes. I cannot tell you how often I have heard: "They are my favorites." I share this viewpoint entirely. Older dogs are so special and dear. To know them is to fall completely in love. If only more people would give them a chance.
Most people want puppies. This is not always a good thing for the puppies. In many cases, people don't realize what they are getting into when they get a puppy, and when they find out how much work a puppy takes, many wish they had adopted an older dog that is comparatively easy to care for.
If you adopt an older dog, you would be giving him a precious chance to have the life he truly deserves. It is certainly not their fault that they have aged. It happens to everyone. It's true that some older dogs will need special care as they enter their golden years. So will we all — one day. Some of us are there already.
Think about how you would want — and need — to be treated when your step slows, your vision isn't as clear, your hearing not as keen, your memory not as sharp. If you fall sick, wouldn't you want loving hands to hold and hearts to care? No one knows how many breaths are left in any of our bodies, so we need to live for today, and let our animal companions do the same. Give an old dog a chance.
Valerie Macys, Ph.D.
Cocker Spaniel Adoption Center, Inc.
A Special Touch
My big brother Garry had a way with animals. Lost dogs followed him home like nobody else. Garry's fascination with animals and wild life brought a wide variety of temporary boarders into our midst, including tropical fish, turtles, frogs, salamanders, chameleons, mice, gerbils, white rats, a rabbit, parakeets, a parrot, numerous cats and dogs, a ring-tailed monkey, and homing pigeons.
He and his friends built a pigeon coop in a small vacant lot adjacent to the driveway at the back of our house. Starting off with two or three pairs, they mated the birds and helped raise their young until they had a medium-sized flock. The birds were all patiently trained to return home, first from short and then increasingly longer distances. Everyone marveled when a bird with a "secret" message wired to its leg would be thrown up into the air, circle to get its bearings, and then zoom off across the sky. A confirmation phone call occasioned each successful delivery. The bird returned to Garry's coop several hours later, or perhaps the next day, with a "secret" response we all eagerly awaited.
But Garry had a special thing for dogs. When we lived in Mount Vernon, New York, our neighbor's German Shepherd accompanied him daily to the school bus stop, waited for the bus to arrive, watched until the vehicle was out of sight, and then trotted home. Come three p.m., he was back at the designated spot, patiently awaiting Garry's return. Garry knew nothing about training dogs back then; he was only eight or nine years old, but he already displayed a special connection with animals.
Many years later, when Garry came to the end of a successful career as an advertising photographer, his life-long love of dogs ignited a new endeavor — Dog Trainers of New York, which flourished in short order. Beyond his acquired professional qualifications, it was Garry's natural affinity for dogs that inspired his success. It was as if he were a boy again — charming, sensitive, and genuine, always ready with a funny story, making friends easily and inspiring confidence. These days, when I consider the course of his too-short life, I can only marvel at the person he became, not by chance but by choice.
Be Gentle: I Know My Dog Is Old
A Call for Improving Etiquette with Older Dogs
Like everyone else in society, loudly lamenting a decline in civility, I recognize there are new breaches of etiquette every minute. Like cell phones. But there is one type of impolite behavior among adult humans that goes pretty much unchecked. I've been guilty of it myself.
I am referring to the blunt, utterly uncensored and often just plain mean things people say to us about our dogs (by "us" I mean dog people). My close friend Pam has a twelve-year-old German Shepherd who is visibly aging. So are the rest of us, human and canine, but to what person would you ever be so crude as to say, "Is that your mother? Wow, she looks awful. She can hardly move!" Yet this is the unsolicited blubbering my friend endures from strangers, all day long, about her old dog. I empathize because I've been through this three times, beginning with our family Beagle, Sam, who lived to be nearly seventeen, mostly out of spite.
"How old is he?" People would ask this unrelentingly about my now-departed Irish setter, Amos. I didn't mind telling them that he was twelve or thirteen. "Wow. They don't live much longer than that, do they?" How tacky is this?
But it gets worse.
When my big, hairy mutt, Louie (we called him our "Bavarian crotch smeller"), was old and frail, someone once asked me, "Have you thought about putting him down?" First of all, that's kind of like asking a woman in her forties (this also happened to me), "Have you ever thought about having children?" "Gee, there's an idea! Why didn't I think of that?" When your dog is old and sick, the end is pretty much all you can think about. Your heart is breaking and you're preparing yourself to come to that decision in a way that spares your dog unnecessary suffering while giving yourself time to feel as peaceful as possible about letting him go.
People assume they can say anything they like about a stranger's dog.
Pam is at the point where she dreads walking her dog in public because she knows passersby will make insensitive comments she can't bear to hear. Out in the world she is thoughtful and tender enough not to remind everyone she encounters that they are mortal. Like the rest of us, she can tell when a person's on his or her last legs, but she keeps herself from saying, "Gee, you sure are slowing down" or asking the person's daughter, "So how long do people in your family tend to live?"
When approaching people like my friend, it helps to remind oneself that she knows her dog is old. She knows it every waking second of every day.
The last years and months we share with our geriatric dogs are among the most bittersweet times in a dog lover's life. We know, from the moment we choose these guys as puppies or meet their limpid stares at the animal shelter, that our hearts will be torn apart some day. What makes it so much worse is that the older they get, the sweeter they get, and when they reach absolute critical sweetness — when you simply cannot love them any more than you already do — they grow completely exhausted and die.
So when you see a person patiently coaxing an old dog on his increasingly shrinking route you are witnessing someone who could benefit from a little compassionate restraint. Consider a simple hello for the owner or a tender pat on the head for the doggie emeritus. Like most of our mothers told us at some point: if you don't have something nice to say ...
My Fountain of Youth
This may sound strange, but it's true: Old dogs taught me how to stay young in body, mind, and — most important — spirit.
What's the definition of "old" anyway? Veterinary medical research has confirmed many times over what dog lovers already knew, that dogs age faster than we humans do. We used to calculate a dog's age in human years with the times-seven formula. But recent studies reveal that the first year of a dog's life is equal to about fifteen human years, not seven. So beautiful old dogs are even more superannuated than previously suspected! Which means there's even more to appreciate and look forward to.
Dogs may age faster than humans, but they do so with infinitely more grace. When people age gracefully, they're acting like dogs in the best possible way. Dogs age well because they don't think about life; they're too busy enjoying it. What's more, they don't label themselves "old."
That said, cruel people know how to make a young dog old before his time. Abused dogs age faster than properly pampered ones. But love is such powerful medicine that even small doses work wonders on prematurely aged dogs. And in heaping helpings, the antioxidant love works at the cellular level to energize the entire physical body via the soul. Loved dogs, liked loved persons, display a puppy's eager resilience even if they've gone gray about the muzzle.
I ought to know: After several protracted separations from my husband of seventeen years, and many doomed attempts at reconciliation, our divorce was finalized, and I reentered the dating scene at age forty-four. People in my neighborhood who'd seen me carry the invisible weight of that unhappy marriage suddenly saw a happier, younger woman, and told me as much.
At forty-six, I gave online dating a try; at forty-seven, I fell in love. I never looked better in my life, not even in my twenties.
Of course, the other key to reversing the clock is daily exercise. For dog lovers, this one's a no-brainer — with a dog, you walk, and that's the heart-healthiest exercise there is, for both of you.
At age thirteen, my Border Collie Sheba shrugged off severe arthritis and seduced a much younger male dog named Piggy, who remained my furry girlfriend's devoted, saucer-eyed suitor for the rest of her life. That same year, Tiki, my thirteen-year-old Chow-Rottweiler cross, bravely fought oral cancer, and won! Dogs can battle cancer with astonishing results because they don't accept the dreaded disease as "a death sentence" the way many people sadly do.
I've rescued many dogs over the years. Several were already up there in age when they arrived, like sweet Sasha, the thirteen-year-old Maltese. To make this dog more "adoptable" — because, sadly, many adopters are ageist, rendering beautiful old dogs in shelters the last to be adopted and first to be killed for cage space — I got to work polishing her inner puppy.
To help ease my dogs' aging pains, I give them wholesome food in strict portions and supplement their diet with Omega-3 oil for joint health, plus virgin coconut oil for brain health, milk thistle to reverse ocular cloudiness, hawthorn to strengthen the heart, anti-inflammatory cinnamon and turmeric, and probiotics for immune support. I bathe them in chemical-free shampoo made with organic Neem oil, a super-emollient biopesticide.
After just a few week of this therapy, Sasha's inner pup came out to play. This little-old-lady dog looked so youthful, no one could believe she wasn't a youngster!
Excerpted from Beautiful Old Dogs by David Tabatsky, Garry Gross. Copyright © 2013 David Tabatsky. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Victoria Stilwell,
Introduction David Tabatsky,
Beauty Garry Gross,
The Greatest Gift of All Doris Day,
My Summer (by Trixie Koontz, Dog) Dean Koontz,
The Virtues of Older Dogs Valerie Macys, Ph.D.,
A Special Touch Linda Gross,
Be Gentle: I Know My Dog Is Old Susan Seligson,
My Fountain of Youth Julia Szabo,
The Big Blue Elephant John O'Hurley,
Garry's Passion Leslie Jean-Bart,
Old Dog's Dream Richard Storm,
My Mentor Jessica Jacobson,
Chasing Waves Carolyn Mason,
A Man and His Dog Anonymous,
Nala: R.I.P., 1999–2012 Barbara Napoli,
The Elder Steve Duno,
Tiloc Elaine Hendrix,
Binkie's Gift Anonymous,
Gar & Mar Mara Kurtz,
Sky Ally Sheedy,
Lucky Tanya and Toby Tobias,
The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog Eugene O'Neill,
Wisdom David Frei,
A Certain Genius Beverly Gross,
Dog of a Lifetime Ellisa Levant Beaver,
A Cycle of Love Suzanne Clothier,
Chasing Fire Engines Jill Freedman,
Dancing with My Four-Legged Partner Laurie Rubin,
Best First Boyfriend Anne Prival,
Ready for Love Again Marlo Thomas,
Why Me? Anonymous,
A Reason to Live Bill Berloni,
Chief Christopher Durang,
Still My Pup Lise Zumwalt,
I Found Dogs at Forty-six Wendy Liebman,
Another Sort of Love Story Loudon Wainwright,
In Praise of Senior Dogs Tom Cushing,
A Senior Dog? My Little Puppy? You Must Be Kidding! David Tabatsky,
An Old Dog's Lament Anonymous,
Larger than Life Branka Ruzak,
Beau Anna Quindlen,
Resources for Care and Custody,