The other day on a walk a man commented on my old dogs. I realized that it was the first time that someone who doesn't know their age had identified them as old. He guessed that Bella was about 9, so she's still ahead of the game. It was Bella's pooping that clued the man in to her age. She's started doing that awkward old dog squat, the pacing and circling and shuffling of a dog who can stand and who can sit, but who has trouble with the in-between.
By old, I don't mean decrepit. My dogs are still healthier and more active than most people expect a 12 year old dog to be. But they are old. Their legs don't always work the way their brains want them to. They slip when they try to corner too fast on hardwood or tiled floors. They nap a lot. Sometimes when I invite them to go outside they say "no thank you."
Yet, they are in better shape than they were a few years ago. They spent some of their middle years being weekend warriors, snoozing at home or at my office most of the time, then playing wild games of fetch on lunch breaks and weekends. Then, their overall activity level was lower than it is now, and Bella needed pain killers to help manage her arthritis. Now, they require walks and playtime every day, and are moving more freely with no pain killers.
I attribute their good health and mobility to three things: high quality food, regular moderate exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. No doubt the expensive supplements I feed them also play a role (they'd better!), and of course luck is part of the mix.
They haven't been completely untouched by age. Last fall Bella had surgery to remove parathyroid adenoma and a bladder mass. She's completely recovered now, with no after effects.
Sunny's also had surgeries to remove a couple of eyelid growths, and then to remove one again when they didn't get clean margins the first time. (Yes, that's the same collar, they share.)
Hopefully there won't be any more surgeries soon. For now, they continue to be healthy, and they enjoy their long walks with short breaks to play fetch on soft grass.