Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Living with a Very Old Dog

When you first came into my life you were soft and small and sweet, and you looked at me with those eyes, and I thought that I loved you already but that wasn't even possible, was it? I wondered if I could live with you and if we would bond all the way, the way we should.

You were a perfect puppy, no doubt about it. You were so bright; seemed you came already knowing all the rules. Sometimes there was an accident in the house, but not if I paid attention. You would wake me up three times at night to go out and pee. I couldn't blame you for getting distracted by a blowing leaf, or moon shadows, could I? You loved life! Of course there were those shoes, but that was my fault for putting them right there in the closet on the floor where they were entirely too tempting. I left the birthday cake where you could reach it on the kitchen table and you couldn't help throwing up that colorful icing on the oriental carpet. Your favorite part of the game 'fetch' was watching me throw a ball/stick/toy, sitting stock still while it landed, and then running with me to get whatever I had thrown. You must have known that I needed the exercise. Such a good puppy.

That contented sigh as you noodled your nose into the crook of my neck when we were on the couch? I wondered how I ever lived without you, now that we had bonded all the way, the way we should. You were my shadow.

Now your eyes are a bit cloudy and your ears look like satellite dishes, but someone has played a cruel trick and turned the volume way down. Unless it's the cookie jar; you can still hear that from upstairs. Those darn stairs. You are quite certain that you can do those stairs. You've been doing them for fourteen years, after all. I want to help you, and you are considerate, so most of the time you wait for me. But, I am slow and don't pay enough attention. When you tumble down the last three or four, I have a heart attack. You struggle back on your feet and wag at me so I don't feel bad. You limp and wag and look embarrassed for me.

You are a perfect old dog. You wake me up three times each night to go out to pee. There aren't that many accidents in the house; who cares? You look at me with those eyes, the eyes which have welcomed me home every time, which have said, "It's okay, just throw the stick and we can chase it together, and whatever is making you sad will get left far behind." You are so soft and sweet; your breathing is louder and you don't bark anymore. That happened gradually. I didn't notice until you stopped barking, ever.

As I type this you plunk down from the couch and shake, legs going wonky, come and give me an old dog breath wag. Your breath makes that raspy old dog noise and I smile at you. I love the smell of your corn chips feet.

We've bonded all the way, my sweet old dog. You know me better than I do. You know secrets. You know joy. You know when I wake up from a nightmare and you noodle that nose into the crook of my neck. You know me. And now I wonder, every once in a while, how will I ever live without you?

Sweet Old Dog.