How to Survive Big Challenges After 50

There will always be unexpected challenges that pop up; sometimes pleasantly surprising and other times testing us. During the month of January my delicious dog, Orchid, and I faced some of these challenges. However, with love, devotion, and adaptability we met them head-on as Orchid learned to talk to me and I learned her doggy language. Let’s talk about how to survive big challenges after 50…and how Orchid and I are surviving, even thriving!


Our delicious dog, Orchid, has been challenged for exactly nine months to the day.

Last May she was diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This disease starts in the back of a dog’s legs, numbing them and eventually traveling throughout the entire body. Both of Orchid’s hind legs are now completely numb, therefore she can no longer walk without our assistance. But with help, Orchid is fighting back against her illness. And despite her challenges, she still looks beautiful; she eats her kibble and chicken like a little trooper, drinks lots of water, wags her waggy tail, and kisses us.

When the illness began she was able to move on her own, despite her right leg already losing feeling. Her left leg was fine. Over time, walking became harder and harder so we bought her a little red wagon to pull her around, as well as a special strap to support her hind legs. She is now almost completely immobile, only able to pull herself to the left or right or forward to make herself more comfortable.

As of today, Orchid and I have crossed the language barrier.

Challenges are not for sissies, and Orchid is no sissy, darlings. Wheaton Terriers love to socialize, so I have gotten into the habit of taking Orchid from room to room with me so she has constant companionship. And while she senses this is a challenge for me because she weighs 41 pounds, I know she also senses my deep love and concern. This has created an even stronger bond between us.

Orchid knew she had to figure out a way to communicate with me because of her inability to move, so she learned to talk, and I learned a new language. Yes, Orchid Good talks to me. And yes, I understand.

My Orchid has two ways of talking, including a variety of barking sounds and different types of cries. At times she barks softly or loudly. Other times, she cries deeply or wines. And through it all, I understand her. Do not ask me how. I just do.

A few nights ago, in the middle of the night, Orchid began to bark. Her barking woke us up. My husband was alarmed, thinking perhaps there was a prowler outdoors, but I told him not to worry saying, “Orchid is asking me for water.”

“What did you say?” Shelly questioned me.

“I said Orchid is thirsty and asking me for water,” I replied.

“How do you know that?”asked Shelly incredulously.

“ I just know,” I insisted.

I got up, filled her bowl with water, and helped her up to drink. Orchid drank and drank and drank until almost the entire bowl of water was gone before falling back to sleep.

My husband was shocked. “How did you know that she needed water?” he asked.

“It’s called love,” I answered.

Orchid signals me with barks or cries for her every need. If she wants to be moved, she barks. If she wants to go outside and lounge in the sun or wants a treat, she whines. If she has to go potty, her whine has more gusto. If she wants a little table food, she barks strongly as she looks up at me or my husband whom I call my ultimate concierge.

Our lives go on. Each day we meet our challenges with purpose. Each day I am grateful to have Orchid by my side. There have been many instances since she became ill when I thought to myself, ‘I should have named her Wise.’ But then again, she has always been my darling beautiful flower, my Orchid.

This is National Heart Month, darlings. Take care of your heart. And give your heart to those around you, especially to those you love. Because giving and receiving love is the very best way to meet all of the challenges we face at every age.

Honey Good signature

  1. Oh my heavens Honey, My beloved Lucky Dog and I were so connected and he taked to me as well!!! Our doggies are so in tune to their famiies. My two year old recue Petey and I are now learning our own language day by day.

  2. Dogs fully understand their family’s native language. Whether they obey is another issue. I used to pet sit for a smart Labradoodle. During my first visit,. I told him he could NOT go out in the yard without a leash (despite that his pet parent said it was OK), and I explained why to him. For the next two weeks that I stayed in his home, he forgot only one time with his little bark at the back door.. And he remembered my rule when I stayed there other times too.

    When I was in chemo, the Mom brought that dog to visit me, at my request. He checked out everything in my home, then lay down in my entry way for 2 hours. I’ll never forget that precious visit. He was in chemo himself at the time.

  3. What a warm and lovely way to communicate with Orchid. As our English Setter Gus aged he lost his hearing but I used hand signals. We got our love to one another. It’s a sweet memory.

    1. Glad my story brought back sweet memories. I am amazed that your Gus understood sign language. I will remember this. Warmly, Honey

  4. Thank you for these thoughts! Life can bring blinding happenings at any age, although as we age they become more significant I think. May we put kindness and compassion first as we age.

    1. I agree with 99.9% of cases. Sometimes it is best to walk away which is giving kindness to ourselves. Warmly, Honey

  5. Our sweet dog communicates with me this way too. He can just stare right at me and the words come to my head. We just learned our 14 yr old dog has congestive heart failure so with medication we are on borrowed time with him. He’s getting lots of love and attention these final months. At his age, even with medication, dogs aren’t expected to live beyond 9-18 months. It’s truly heartbreaking, but the years of joy, laughter, and smiles they bring us are a great blessing we never forget.

    1. I believe our pooches live longer when they ‘feel’ our love. So don’t think negative. Think positive. Warmly, Honey

  6. Honey,
    I love reading your posts with your love, devotion and challenges of taking care of Orchid. I too have walked that path. Our beloved Cocker Spaniel, Maggie lived to be just shy of 17. During her lifetime she survived being hit by a car on Christmas Eve right outside our house. (An elderly uncle left the door open while loading his car with gifts……and she was a car chaser!) With it being Christmas eve we were not entirely sure that the Emergency Clinic would be open. With her head wrapped in a towel, profusely bleeding from an ear that was almost torn off, we headed that way. I was determined that she would get treatment even if it had to be in the ER of a local hospital. My husband still teases that he could see the morning headlines of me threatening bodily harm if they did not take her! She survived with me living in my pj’s caring for a little gal that now resembled Frankenstein with a reattached ear and tubes coming out of her forehead for drainage.
    She went on to have the ACL’s replaced in her both of her back legs……..each time we disassembled our high bed and put the mattress on the floor so that she could continue to sleep in her normal spot on our bed, as well as many other adjustments that had to made during her recovery.
    In her last few years of life, I cooked endless amounts of chicken and looked and found endless ways of hiding and administering medications. Her little repaired back legs weakened to the point that she struggled in many areas……..turning from her water bowl and falling backward, I would find her sitting in the bowl looking at me for help. Her intestinal system turned on her and she had frequent diarrhea. Again, her little legs would give out and she would end up sitting in it on our almost white carpet. I would scoop her up and take her to the shower to clean her up and my dear husband would grab the carpet shampooer and clean up the mess. That he would do that without complaining spoke volumes to me.
    It was a period of years that were costly in time and money, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
    Near the end, I had to take her to the Emergency Clinic where I was told the next morning that it was time to let her go. She would not eat or drink and had dwindled down to bones. I took her on to our vet just to have that second opinion to make that horrible decision. They agreed and I asked to take her home for a few hours just to sit with her one more time.
    We brought her home and we laid her in the bedroom floor and I went in to make a pot of coffee. With my back to the room, I hear that familiar click click on the hardwood floor and find her making her way in to find me. I offered her water and food and she took both. She continued walking all around that house like normal. I called my vet back and said “We won’t be back today……..she is not giving up!”
    My girl gave me two weeks to prepare myself to let her go. She began pacing, eating less and getting up and down (with my assistance) as she became very uncomfortable. That final night, I spent following her throughout the house assisting her efforts. I had put a roast in the crock pot that night before bed to encourage her to eat. With morning and the smell permeating throughout the house, all my girl could do is lay in the floor in her favorite spot. No beef for her. She was worn out and I knew it was time.
    My husband tells others that if he for some reason should be reincarnated, he hopes that he will come back as one of my dogs…………loved unconditionally and cared for without limits. After all, isn’t that just reciprocating what they give us every day?
    Thinking of you as you travel this path.

    1. What a story of love and devotion. Thank you for sharing. It is healthy to write down your thoughts. I hope writing to me helped you. I want to give back because Orchid has given me her devotion for over 11 years. I am so happy when I know she knows how much I care. Thank you for writing to me. Orchid sends licks. Warmly, HOney

  7. I was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) 15 months ago. At that time riluzole was prescribed. I found I could not tolerate it. did very little to help me. The medical team did even less. My decline was rapid and devastating. The psychological support from the medical centre was non-existent and if it were not for the sensitive care and attention of my primary physician, I would have died. There has been little if any progress in finding a cure or reliable treatment. My ALS got significantly worse and unbearable because of my difficulty catching breath. Last year, i started on a natural ALS Herbal therapy from Green House Herbal Clinic, i read a lot of positive reviews from patients who used the treatment and i immediately started on it. I had great relief with this herbal treatment. I am doing very much better now, no case of shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing,, my ALS condition is totally reversed. Visit Green House Herbal Clinic website ww w.greenhouseherbalclinic .com. This treatment is a miracle!!

    1. I am glad you are feeling better and have found relief. Thank you for sharing. I will go to the site today. Stay in touch. God bless. Warmly, Honey

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