When you have furry members of your family who are ill or aging, you experience a pattern of variability. You have memories and you have the moment. You have good days and bad days. You have love and dread. Uncertainty becomes a fact; mindfulness on steroids.
As a psychologist, I have written frequently about the importance of having companion animals for mental health, companionship, and even physical well being, supported by a growing body of neuroscience research. My offices are dog friendly. My own (now senior) companions, Sage (Doberman) and Asia (English Lab) have frequently been my gentle co-therapists for folks who are hurting.
As a mental health, mindfulness, and well-being clinician and researcher, I am exploring an audacious idea: Dogs are in many ways our mirror species. Unlike most animal-based models used to study aging, dogs are not in a lab, they share the same environment we do. That includes emotions: ours and theirs, physical health/exercise, how we sleep, routines and schedules, nutrition, attachment and love, social skills, dealing with new situations, separation and loss, education, medical care, stimulation and learning.
How to live in the moment. Dogs do this at warp speed. They have a lot to teach us.