They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But I’m learning that an old dog can teach an old man new tricks.

My 14-year-old goldendoodle Boomer has deployed three strategies simultaneously to retrain me — senile barking, separation anxiety, and what can only be described as, um, sleepytime fecal incontinence (SFI).

Once he started pooping while asleep, I announced to him that he was thenceforth an Outdoor Dog.

I didn’t realize I myself would become an Outdoor Man.

Because Boomer is banished to the backyard and because he has only one eye, and that eye is blind, and because he is also deaf, and because he gets scared or disoriented if he wakes up from a nap and I’m not within 10 feet of him, and because his disorientation manifests as loud, nonstop barking … well, you get the idea.

In military terms, I believe he has deployed against me a pincer movement — attacking from multiple sides.

After 14 years he has me where he wants me — next to him, 24/7, outdoors.

Mind you, I would not put up with this behavior from my wife or kids. I would let them bark all night long.

But Boomer has the imminent-death argument on his side. Look I won’t even be alive much longer. Is it such a big deal to camp outside for a few weeks?

There is always the chance that he is pulling a Royal Tenenbaum, faking his terminal condition to win love and attention.

I could examine the Ring footage to see whether he is noticeably more spry and able during the few moments each day when I slip into the house.

Unfortunately I don’t think that’s the case. He’s not long for this world. To quote Warren Zevon, the wheels keep turning, but they’re running out of steam. Until then, I’m operating a one-dog hospice.

My sister suggested doggie diapers to combat the SFI. But clean-up would still be a hot mess. And diapers would be demeaning for a dog of his size and majesty. I’d rather just hose down the area and then give him his customary sponge bath. It’s one of the services we provide, here at hospice.

Yes, there is some intense co-dependence between Boomer and me, no question. For instance, a friend invited me to her family home in Corsica this summer. That seems like the kind of activity one might possibly enjoy, if one weren’t in the hospice field.

And at the end of August both my kids will depart for college. Conceivably they might want me to accompany them on the cross-country trip.

Sorry, guys. The hospice center doesn’t run itself.

How is my wife putting up with all this?

Surprisingly well.

She doesn’t seem to be beating the drum super loudly for my return to the marital bed.

But that could be related to my habit, even before canine hospice, of working barefoot in the garden all day and then sneaking into bed without a shower or even a cursory scrubbing of feet.

Or maybe it’s the snoring she doesn’t miss.

Unlike my dog, my wife is not deaf, at least not yet.

She loves Boomer as much as I do, and serves as assistant hospice manager when called upon.

Before you say ‘take him to the vet,’ or give him such-and-such medication, let me just say that Boomer has a long list of ailments and conditions. These limitations, when combined with his size, make a vet visit not only stressful for all parties, but also somewhat pointless. He’s in Make Him Comfortable stage of medical care.

There are really only two phone calls left to be made, as far as outside help — the woman who administers euthanasia drugs, and the gardener who digs a hole big enough for us to plant Boomer right here on the property. The city probably doesn’t allow it, but fuck it. It’ll be a nighttime operation.

Will Boomer die before the kids leave for college?

We’ll find out!

Gives me something to look forward to anyway — the finding out.

It’s sort of like waiting to see whether your favorite sports team makes the playoffs.

My own view is that 18-year-old kids can take themselves to college. That’s how I did it 35 years ago. But my wife sees it differently. She arrived at college with two parents and two cars packed full of boxes, clothes, and furniture. I know this because that was the day I first met her. I hauled a lot of those boxes up four flights of stairs.

I have told my wife, Maybe that’s how our kids will meet their future spouses — operating solo on college move-in day!

She doesn’t buy it.

The truth is, the only one in this household who has always been on my team — who has always understood me to my core — is the smelly-ass, 100-pound goldendoodle I now spend my nights outdoors with.

He’s high maintenance, but I will miss him.

the good old days, when we were allowed indoors
where we sleep now

About Kit Troyer

Kit Troyer lives in Los Angeles. He worked previously as a newspaper reporter and a criminal defense attorney. For the last 15 years, he has been a stay-at-home dad. But that gig is running out. Kids will soon be moving out and moving on.
This entry was posted in CHILD REARING, DOGS, DUMB SHIT I'VE DONE, SPIRIT. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Ethan Herschenfeld says:

    boomer is the best. bis 120!

  2. Aristos Marinos says:

    Loved your positive outlook on such a difficult situation. As a dog lover myself I have been there, the diapers( on the dog) , IVs everyday, feeding them by hand just to have another day with them and as a way of saying thank you for understanding me. Having met Boomer, I understand your situation and it would be the easiest for him to pass when it’s time on his own and without the intervention of a vet. I have known you a long time and am well aware of what Boomer means to you and your family. Keep up the great work and run wild like Bear G.

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Sonia Keshishian says:

    Awwwwwwww. What can I say about your beautiful soul in the face of what s happening to Boomer. Having to say goodbye to so many of my own pets I truly understand how this amazing pet of yours became a permanent part of your human experience. Yes it’s true the long walks will not continue, but the day will come when Boomer will reveal itself both seen and unseen in your memories . Tears are rolling down my eyes when I visualize your and Aleens unconditional love at this time and the many roads you are all taking as a family to give this beautiful creature the greatest comfort is the beauty that resonates in each and every soul who is reading this blog now . I love you all endlessly sending you my deepest love .

  4. msjadeli says:

    Boomer is blessed to have you and your wife. You’re giving him the best end possible, lying next to his humans.

  5. Priscilla Sands says:

    This is truly a laugh and cry tale.

  6. rothpoetry says:

    Wow! You are really in a dilemma. It is hard to lose a dearly loved pet, but eventually there comes a time to make that choice. Hope you can find a satisfactory way to make that happen. A very sad day indeed!

  7. Carrie says:

    This is a heartbreaker Kit. Boomer is truly an exceptional dog and I’m so sorry his health has required an extended camping trip. But these aren’t just trite words – to show you I mean it I will take your place in Corsica this summer. But seriously, if this were Ruby I’d be right there in the backyard too – you are the best, Boomer is lucky to have you all and I hope the timing of it all works out for you.

  8. Jane Davis says:

    Conducted two stealth midnight burials for my Jack Russells in the potager. It’s the way to go.

  9. Reblogged this on Time Traveler on the road of Life and commented:
    You are a wonderful parent to your kids and your dog. I had a dog that made the world a better place, and when he died, rather when the vet gave him the shot, a little place in me died too. I wish you both well, and he is a lucky dog.

  10. Maya Forbes says:

    This made me laugh and broke my heart. I especially love that, despite his decline, you still respect Boomer’s majesty. Beautiful.

  11. Enjoyed that read. Brought many smiles to my face!
    He’s a big dog! Looks like a cross between an Irish wolfhound and a poodle.

  12. usfman says:

    I guess you could twist the old adage around here and say “a man is dog’s best friend.” There’s no shame in being humane.

  13. Wow! Loved your humour in a sad situation. Loved your writing.

  14. When my cat was dying of liver cancer, I just couldn’t put him down. We were too bonded, and I felt like I needed to be there with him. So, I put him on hospice for his last month, spent time with him, made sure he got all the love and care he needed, and was just there with him. I cried my eyes out everyday. At the very end, we finally took him to the vet and had him put down, even though he was going to die at any moment anyways, because he was having moments where he was falling into unconsciousness. I often question whether I was being too selfish in not putting him down sooner, but my heart always rebels and says NO! I was there for him when he needed me most, and I’m sure he understood. I don’t think he was ready to leave me anymore than I was ready to let him go. But the whole experience tore my heart out.

    • Kit Troyer says:

      I’m sorry for your loss. And i really appreciate you putting all this down and sharing it. You definitely needed and loved each other and wanted every last moment together.
      For my part, mostly now when I think about Boomer, I just feel grateful for having lived with him and for how long I got with him.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s