For the Love of an Animal
I failed to send out a blog post last week, because my heart was worn out. My dog has been ill. She is old – a big dog, she is now 14½ – and she is sprouting growths in places that impede her ability to walk, to chew, to rest comfortably. Her black body is a shadow of its former, muscular, speedy self, her sleep elusive and uncomfortable, her need to void constant.
Here is the softer side of this: we have had her for 13 good years. We have been charmed by her. We have laughed, we have played, we have hiked, run, chased. We have become those people we long made fun of, the ones who dote on their dogs as if no other dog could compare.
Of course we have. She has been a wonderful companion, a good dog, a sweet dog, a gentle dog.
And I want to keep her.
But nobody, not me, not my loved ones, and as my dog struggles through her final days, not my dog, lives forever. That doesn’t allay my sadness. She comes to me before the sun rises, licks my waking face, and presses her battered body against the side of the bed as she waits. It is our signal: I stroke her back until she moves, allowing me to slide from the bed into slippers and a bathrobe, to make breakfast. Food remains an inspiration for her, and not just in her bowl. If we fail to be vigilant, she steals from the trash, she steals from the counter, she steals from our plates. She is a thief, and as we complain loudly about the steak she just nabbed from the table, we wax poetically, admiringly, about her nerve.
On our last visit to the vet a few days ago, the doctor told us to keep her comfortable. That’s always an omen for the end. She told us, too, to walk her in new places, to keep her as sharp as possible, and to bring delight to her days.
Sunday, heeding the vet’s advice, we drove to a beach on the Connecticut shoreline, helped her from the car, and led her to the water. Her back legs wobbled so much I feared they would collapse. But she picked her way through the shells and stones that littered the sand, sniffed at driftwood and dunes, and every so often broke into a jog that left us joyous and teary-eyed. She lived her day to its utmost, because that was the day given to her. And what a lesson that was.
She has so much left to teach me. Which is one of the reasons I want to hold on to her for as long as she can hang on. Perhaps a little while longer.
For a writing prompt, think of an experience you’ve had with an animal, positive or negative (I know some of you out there are not dog lovers!) Remember it, write about it. Share it for certain, and send it to me if you’d like.