The Old Farm Dog Sleeps

By Terry Golson

I didn’t get Lily to be a farm dog, but that’s what she told me that she is. I thought that I’d do agility with her, but she let me know that her job was to stay home and be aware. Predators were kept off of the property, the Portuguese Water Dog that lives up the street was told, in no uncertain terms, not to swim in the koi pond, and hawks were chased out of the sky. Mice and snakes were hunted down. She let me know if anyone, from FedEx driver to the neighbor’s cat, was nearing the property. But in the last year, Lily’s thirteenth, she has gone partially deaf. The FedEx man comes and goes without her knowing it. When I arrive home she doesn’t hear the garage door open. Lily doesn’t like for me to appear out of nowhere, and so I make a point of very loudly announcing my presence so that she can come and greet me.

Her other self-designated job is to watch my every move. Lily has never been a cuddler, she wants to be at a distance so that she can observe me and my environment. I’ve provided her with homemade beds set in appropriate vantage points to make this more comfortable for her. I haven’t always been successful.

homemade dog beds


Lily shows signs of arthritis, and she also has a damaged cruciate ligament, so I thought that store-bought beds with orthopedic foam and bolsters to lean against would be appreciated by her.

As they say, the best laid plans….


bed dog


off bed


But who’s to say what’s comfortable? Lily can use the bed as it’s designed if she wants to. She even knows how to fluff the pillow.


It’s hard to watch an animal that you love age. But there’s also something very sweet that happens in a relationship with an old dog that you know so well.

It’s not just dogs.

I have a friend who’s old horse is no longer rideable. He has joint issues. Unlike an aging dog that one can coddle at home, horses are kept at stables. Few of us have the space or appropriate facilities to care for our own equines, not even when they are retired from riding. Although her horse is at a barn with good care, it’s very expensive, and it’s no longer appropriate for her old boy who needs 24/7 turnout, preferably on pasture.  She has been searching for a year for the right retirement home, and she thinks she’s finally found the place.

Horses can live into their thirties. Her horse is only 20 years old. She could have a decade of paying for board, vet, farrier, etc. for a horse that she can only visit a few times monthly (retirement farms are usually far out into the country.) There are plenty of terrible stories about old horses sent to auction or left to wither in a field. Let’s not tell them right now. Right now it would be good to hear about well-loved horses peacefully living out their retirement years in comfort. Share your stories here and I’ll share them with my friend.

18 thoughts on “The Old Farm Dog Sleeps

  • Durbin Goodwin

    I live in rural North Carolina and there are plenty of farms around but my favorite is this farm I pass by each day I go to work. It has a beautiful pasture and a lovely pond right in the middle. There are two horses (both white) they are inseparable. Each day I ride by I see them together grazing and what appears to be enjoying each others company. One day I noticed someone out in front of the house and pulled in to speak with them about the horses because I feel if they have become my friends. I say hello in the morning as I drive by and good evening as I go home to the horses. This man owned the farm and told me these two horses were no longer able to be ridden and that by chance he came upon them. He was told they had to go as a pair. Now these lovely horses are living out their days well cared for and I might add have a beautiful little barn all to themselves. All is right in their world.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      This is exactly the sort of story that I wanted to hear. Those two horses are very fortunate to have landed with your neighbor.

  • Durbin Goodwin

    By the way I have to add how wonderful to see pictures of Lily. She too is enjoying her retirement in perfect dog fashion.

  • Emily

    My 26 year old Arabian is retired from showing and competitive trail riding, but is still ridden 4-5 times a week. This is mostly for the benefit of arthritis in his stifle and neck. The rides are gentle, but I feel are essential for keeping his mind and body sound. I plan to continue until it is evident that it is causing more harm than good.
    Maintaining mobility with arthritis is costly as well: high quality joint supplements, low-dose bute, Adequan injections, rolled toes on front shoes, and paying someone to ride when I can’t get there.
    For me it is completely worth it when he nickers and come to the gate as soon as he sees me!

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Yes, my vet says that the best thing for arthritis is to keep going (I keep that in mind for myself!) The trick is to keep them fit, but not push until it hurts. We’re also doing Adequan, as that helps to prevent needing injections further along.

  • judy marvelli

    I hope your friend finds an affordable home for her horse, once again Terry you taught me something I didn’t know or rather never thought about because I have never owned a horse.

  • Laura Allemand

    Unfortunately the thought of having a retired horse is always in the back of my mind, as a horse owner, and lover. I’ve owned horses for almost 25 years now, and been lucky enough during most of that time to have them at home with me. I’ve also lost two horses during that time, but both were rapid declines in their mid 20s, so I’ve never had a truly retired horse. But that day is approaching. My daughter’s soul mate is her 18 year old POA, Ricky. He is still running Gymkhana (and super fast, I might add!), and in great shape, but I know that he will be with us for the rest of his life. Hopefully Ricky will grow old gracefully. Since ponies live to ripe old ages, who knows…he could be with us for another 20 years!

  • Jonathan

    If you haven’t, research the benefits of Tumeric and Raw Virgini coconut oil for Lily we gave it to out nearly 18 year old Maltese for the last 3 years of his life and his arthritis greatly improved. Well the inflamation improved. And with that his mobility was better and he was all around happier. Of course we got vets approval from first

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Those little dogs have longer lifespans. I know horse people who use the coconut oil. Lily is extremely sensitive to most everything (remnants of a tick ailment before I got her) but she does very well on the sea jerky for her joints.

  • Jan

    The horses Jess looks after are all quite old but they are family members and will be looked after always. Until recently we have always had a Labrador, the first two were brought from family who had let their dog have a set of pups. Both of these dogs lived a very healthy life and lived till they were 17 and 18 with hardly any problems. Our third dog came from a breeder of pedigree Labradors, parentage of some having won Crufts, worst mistake we have ever made, (I think they must be interbreed to much) This poor dog was riddled with arthritis, had hip problems and other ailments, we had to make the painful decision to have him put to sleep when he was only 10 as he was starting to struggle and get unhappy. We now have a Cat who is great company as I can no longer do the long walks for a dog. Lovely to see pic’s of Lily and also Scooter keeping her company…:)

    • Terry Golson Post author

      I’ve heard exactly these same issues about show Labradors and Goldens from other folks and from veterinarians. High rate of cancer and hip issues.

  • Chicken Carol

    That is so cute. I just love the way our animals never use what we lovingly provide for them in quite the way we expect them too. She looks so happy and I just love the photo before the last one. She knows how to work that bed!

  • Tracy

    You have read about our wonderful Ben, the ex-NYC Carriage horse I bought right out of his harness on a New York City street and sold to a young girl two houses down for a dollar shortly after. Ben was unrideable and undrivable relatively young, but lived to a ripe old age. He was blessed with an absolutely charming personality and very dignified and dependable manners, however, and his doting owner found a million and one ways to entertain them– together. He was groomed endlessly and loved it. He was taken on many, many long walks on a lead, and loved it. He had his own pile of builder’s sand to roll in, and loved it. He was kept warm with piles of wooly blankets and double pairs of hot pink leg warmers every winter. On snowy days, he walked miles in his large pasture searching for carefully scattered flakes of hay with carrots and apples tucked inside by his clever owner to keep him moving his legs in low temperatures. Every Sunday night he was fed a warm bran mash, and loved it. Every year on his birthday, he sported a dime store glittery tiara, and we loved it. He dozed in the sun, rolled in the sand, and inhaled deep breaths of spring breezes and thought deep horse thoughts. He stood still for hours while little girls learned to braid manes and bang tails, and they loved it. Every time he had his teeth floated, it tickled some odd nerve in his sinuses and he’d sneeze all over the vet, and we loved it. The gigantic Maine Coon barn cat wouldn’t let anyone touch him, but he slept most nights centered perfectly on Ben’s huge apple butt, and loved it. Like old dogs, old horses are the very, very best reflection of what type of caretakers we’ve been and we owe them the very best care we can manage. Good for your friend. I wish her a horse crazy 14 year old girl.

    I have a framed picture of old Ben– his open face, Roman nose and kind eye front and center– on my desk even now. And I love it.

  • Michelle

    I was blessed to find the perfect retirement home for the horse I had before my current mount (he’s the one in my blog header). He was no longer sound enough for dressage schooling and competition, and I wanted to do more than occasional light trail riding. One day an acquaintance and I were chatting about horses, and she bemoaned how hard it is to find a well-broke, well-trained horse. She wanted something safe for her kids to ride in their arena once in awhile, and for the occasional guest to join them on a trail ride. Since she is a client of my husband’s, I knew she kept her old horses until they died, had plenty of pasture, and didn’t ride much (she and her husband are both physicians). I offered to give her my horse on the (written) condition that she keep him for the rest of his life. He is fat and happy, and when I run into her she always tells me how perfect he is. Win-win-win!

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