Friday, January 06, 2012

Best dog in my world

I'm relaxing tonight, dogs all around.

Max and Amber, the 5-year-old standard poodle littermates, are on the bed with me. For some reason, they feel that they must lie on their sides with their legs stretched straight out, so that they occupy most of the available space. Every now and then, when they are dreaming of prey (poodles were originally hunting dogs in Germany -- no pink bows or painted toenails there), their legs twitch as if they are running, and they give a sotto voce "yip" every now and then.

But the queen sits on the floor next to the bed. Shadow, my first standard poodle, is now fifteen and a half, and no longer gets up on the bed, mainly because she can't jump anymore, but also because she can't see where the bed ends and empty space begins. So she sits patiently on the floor.

I'm a great fan of older dogs -- I could see adopting a few more. There's a wisdom in older animals, human and canine, that gradually replaces the exuberance of youth. I know the end is coming but I treasure every minute. Dogs, especially large dogs, never lived this long when I was a kid; I know Shadow is on borrowed time. She can still climb the stairs fairly well, but she won't go downstairs unless I walk backwards in front of her, holding her collar. She lost bowel and bladder control a few months ago. I have become an avid fan of Swiffer products, and have cornered the market on air freshener.

Knowing when to let go is the tricky bit. I see no sign that Shadow's in any pain. She still eats heartily. She still snarls at her younger furry companions, just as she always has. She has borne the indignities of old age better than I probably will. So the time is not yet, but it's coming. This is the part I don't cope with very well.

We brought Shadow home in the summer of 1996, when our younger child started coming home from grade school alone -- she felt better coming home to a house with a nice big dog there. And so Shadow has helped me raise my kids. Since that younger child is now nearly done dental school, you can see how long Shadow has been part of our lives. That's a venerable contribution to any family's life.

So parting won't be easy, even though I trust we'll be together again on the Other Side. In the meantime, Shadow is my treasure. And I'll trust that, when the parting comes, I'll be able to stand it somehow.

1 comment:

Step-parent's Cove said...

Thought provoking.