Older dogs, sore joints and running

My dog Ace

How I’m coping with my senior dog’s retirement

I haven’t written a post specifically about Ace lately, so this is mostly about him.

My dog is 8.5 years old and in very good shape. He turns a little more “white” every day but overall seems very healthy.

His main issue these days is a sore shoulder, and sadly, my dog is officially retiring from running.

We haven’t gone running together in at least six months, actually, so this isn’t really a big deal.

It’s more about me admitting our running is over.

The significance of this, for me, is because this is a dog that went on multiple marathon training runs back in ’08, covering distances of 10, 12, 15 and even 20 miles. He was a member of a marathon training group that met at 6 a.m. Saturday mornings at what was then the Dick Beardsley Running Co. in Fargo, N.D. (In January, by the way.)

Ace and I would also run together for an hour each morning before I went to work at The Forum newspaper. He led me to eventually quit this job and start a business running dogs. One of the best and most important decisions of my life.

Our running has led me to a lot of things. New friends. Running with rescue dogs. Fostering. Writing a book. Finally completing that first marathon, years later.

Still, Ace doesn’t mind that he’s retiring. He won’t even notice, actually, because we still have our walks.

However, Ace also needs to retire from fetch.


I know.

My dog is the most ball-crazed, Lab-type there is, but he starts and stops so hard on his right shoulder that it’s causing a re-occurring issue. A very painful one.


For years, my dog has needed to take a day of rest after a hard fetch session. (Hard, meaning stopping and starting even three or four times on that shoulder.) But lately, that recovery time keeps getting longer and longer. It’s not a day anymore, it’s weeks.

This doesn’t mean my dog can’t play with a ball at all. He’ll still carry his ball around the house if he wants. He can carry it at the park and on walks. I’m sure we’ll even continue playing fetch in the water, because we are so lucky to live just 1 mile from the dog beach.

While “taking away fetch” may sound like a big deal to the humans, my dog will not notice this either. Even just rolling his ball to me while he lies on his bed and I lie on the couch is “oh so much fun!” according to Ace. So we do this often, while watching TV.

unnamed (3)And we have our walks.

I am so grateful for every single walk I get to take with this dog.

We walk to the beach. We walk to the park down the street. We walk to coffee shops, breweries and cafes.

We are embracing the lazy-beach-town atmosphere we live in.

“Can I pet this old guy?” a man recently asked, while my husband and I sat at a pub.

And then it was like we weren’t even there.

This grown man was on his knees hugging, kissing and playing with my dog. And Ace was whipping that tail, flinging drool and preparing to follow the man home. He would have followed him home. He just loves everybody, so, so much.

Life is good, if you are Ace.

You live in the moment,

appreciating it all.

Ace on his bed

Have any of you had to change your routine a bit for your senior dogs?

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*Top image of me, my dad and Ace taken by my mom Nancy. I realize this post my tempt some dog lovers to give advice about joint issues. My dog has a good vet and is in good hands.

20 Readers Commented

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  1. Jane Y. on August 5, 2014

    oh my gosh, ace. you are one handsome fella. 🙂 we changed our routine a bit when piri started to age more. we still go on our walks three times a day which doesn’t seem to be a problem, but we don’t take him to as many places as we used to because it’s hard for him to walk for a long time. but when we do take him we always make sure that we don’t over do it. also a long time ago we purchased a bed that was low so that piri wouldn’t have trouble jumping on it. we recently upgraded our sofa and had the same mindset – something low that wouldn’t be hard for piri to jump up and down from. also i hate carpet but we recently purchased a home with carpet and decided not to get wooden floors just yet. we had wooden floors a few years back in one of our rentals and he had a hard time jumping off. he slid and fell. i don’t mind adjusting things here and there for piri. he lives with us so things have to be comfortable for him too! 🙂

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on August 5, 2014

      I love reading about Piri and seeing your photos of him. He seems like such a sweet guy, and very loved.

  2. Nancy on August 5, 2014

    We’ve had our sweet Petey just shy of 2 yrs now…vet figures he’s 11 probably going on 12 yrs. old. The last year he’s slowed down quite a bit. Can’t do the stairs, we lift him up/down. Can’t get in/out of the car on his own, but still loves car rides and going with us wherever we go. Some days, he doesn’t even walk more than 1/2 block-1 block. He is still the sweetest dog I have ever met. Love him crazy and will do my best to make him as comfortable as possible so I get as many years with him that I can. Love my Petey!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on August 5, 2014

      Petey is so adorable! I would love to adopt a senior dog sometime like you did.

  3. Emma on August 5, 2014

    Mom understands the sadness of retiring a running dog. Katie is the second dog she has had to retire. Running with dogs is Mom’s favorite thing to do, she just loves it. Katie did marathon training too, up to about 15 miles and helped Mom run a 3:37 her first marathon. I run sometimes, but being short, I can’t run the distances. I still run now and then at almost 8 yrs old, but most days, I prefer to wait for Mom to return and take us for a walk. Bailie started running in May and that makes Mom so happy. They both love running and she is a great running dog. Lab cousin Lena also runs with Mom when she visits. This summer Mom ran with Lena and Bailie and had a blast. Katie still walks, but her walks are shorter and fairly slow, but she is still walking. Life changes, and we all have to adapt.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on August 5, 2014

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Emma. It makes me happy to know your mom loves running with her dogs so much as well. I didn’t know Katie had been such an important running partner. I’m glad she still tags along on walks, even if the rest of you have to slow down for her.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on August 5, 2014

      Also, Emma, I am impressed by your mom’s marathon time!

  4. Dawn on August 5, 2014

    I’m so happy to see how considerate you are of Ace’s age. I, too, am noticing that my Maya is slowing down a bit. She will be 7 at the end of the month. And even though she can be very puppy-like at times, I have noticed a difference in how much she can take. Since I walk my dogs separately (due to training on distinctly different leash reactive issues), Maya actually gets less walk time than Pierson now. She’s all gung-ho at the beginning of a walk but is noticeably tired after just a few blocks. Maya doesn’t have the running experience that Ace does (amazing, by the way), so what used to be a 10 block walk has gone down to six. Fetch is still fun, but she’s never been into it as much as Ace. 2-3 throws is all she’ll do now.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on August 5, 2014

      I didn’t realize Maya would be 7 already! I thought she was younger than that. Time flies! It’s hard to see them slow down, but I’m glad Ace and Maya both still love to be out doing things.

  5. Julia at Home on 129 Acres on August 5, 2014

    Ace obviously has a very full life. You have a great perspective on everything as well, even though I’m sure it is a bit hard for you. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Rebekah on August 5, 2014

    I love how much you love Ace, and how respectful you are of the limitations that age has placed on him. Bless you both.

  7. nancyspoint on August 5, 2014

    That Ace is such a good boy. There is still so much he can do. And no matter what, his very favorite thing of all, is just being with you. There is something very special about sharing your life with an older dog. Give Ace a pat on the head from me. Nice post. Love the photo too!

  8. alison on August 6, 2014

    My sweet mastiff Bella turned 9 in June. I also adopted an older mastiff lady named Izzy last year (she is 7). I got a ramp so that they can get into (and out of) my car without jumping and we do not do any long strenuous walks anymore. Just leisure walks to smell the smells and get pets from strangers. Life is still good, just a bit slower.

    Excellent article. Love the sweet pics.

  9. Linda on August 6, 2014

    Fuzzy is more than slowing down. It’s so sad, but we still do things together…I make sure. He seems delighted to do.


  10. Adrian on August 6, 2014

    Oh Yeah Lindsay…their lives are much shorter than ours and as an advocate for dogs I have seen many incredible canines grow old and have to change a routine….my husband even built a ramp for his ‘best ever’ dog so he could easily get up on the bed at night! Been wondering how you are doing after your big move to San Diego. I go now to a mountain town and will endeavor to start another pet sitting, canine expedition business. Wonderful is what dogs are…simply wonderful.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on August 6, 2014

      I am doing well, thank you for asking. Best of luck to you with your new business. I’m sure you will do really well.

  11. Rachel @ My Two Pitties on August 16, 2014

    Oh, I fear the day that Kaya will have to retire from fetch. But you are right, she won’t know the difference. Only I will. We never thought Zoey would get old and yet here she is at age 11. Luckily she still has her puppy moments and flips out over water, even though she just want to stand in it:)

  12. Kathleen on August 18, 2014

    June Bug, my Basset Hound mix is 10 or 11 now and gets sore in the rear legs. She was never a runner, but we used to go to the dog park, where she’d have a blast playing chase and be chased with the smaller dogs. Now I’m afraid to bring her there ’cause if she runs around much she will be limping for a day afterward. Kind of a bummer, it was so much fun for her to play with other dogs (and for us to watch). If anyone has any suggestions on how to let her play off leash without letting her overdo it, I would greatly appreciate the input!
    Thanks for the great articles!