June 20, 2016

I Have a Very Old Dog and I Don't Know How Long We Have Left.

I have a very old dog.  His paws are solid white now, along with his neck and jaw.  The rest of him remains black.

He's frail.  He has arthritis.  It's a slow walk now, not a fast run.

We play catch the ball in the yard now, not fetch.  Well, sometimes we do a little bit of fetch, so he will walk a bit.  But it's far from the young days, where he was speedy and quick.  I wonder if he remembers being that way, if he dreams about it still.

If you have an old dog, you'll understand.  This is such a bittersweet time.

Because I know what's coming.  I've been through this before.

It's my job now to be strong and sturdy and solid for him, because this keeps him feeling safe.  All day long, he wants to be near me.  On his bed at night, he will periodically look around, just to make sure I'm there.

For so many years, I know that he has thought of his job as being my protector.  And now, it's my turn to protect him and keep him feeling safe.

There's not room in his world for me to be sad or scared or fretful.  So I can't be any of those things.

I must be strong and confident.  I must be fun and happy.

We had a bad episode recently.  There were a series of thunderstorms that came through here.  Bad ones, lots of thunder and lightning.  When he was young, this didn't bother him.

About a year ago, he started to be scared of storms.  Terrified of the sound of thunder.

So, he was facing night after night of the terrors, and then the roof leaked and a strange man had to come by to fix it.  The back door became so swollen that it wouldn't shut fully and lock; another strange repairman had to come into his world.  Stranger Scents in the house, on the back porch, in his yard.

Two strange dogs got loose in all these storms and kept running up and down the alley, causing my old boy no end of distress.

And then I went off to the grocery store.  I wasn't gone that long, maybe an hour, but I could hear him howling as the garage door rose.  Now, my boy never makes a sound.  The only time I've heard him howl was the night after we had to put his baby sister to sleep last year.

So I knew he thought I was gone, like his sister.

And for the past two weeks, he's been recuperating from that stress.  At first, it was hard for him to get to his feet.  He barely ate that first night.  He slept a lot.

Today, things are better.  He's bounced back but not all the way.

And here's the thing I want to share with you, Dear. Reader.  Not the sadness or the grieving or the tears that I am fighting against.

It's the beauty of all this.  The lessons that he's teaching me in all this.

Things like:

This is how you live life to be happy.  You take the day.  You take the morning.  You take the afternoon.

And you look for the beauty in it.  The face of a smiling dog.  The sun on the leaves of a tree. The heat of the sun on your face, or the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

You must relish life.  A bite at a time.

I thank God for the blessing of being entrusted with the spirit that lives in this dog's body.  I am honored.

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