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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Living with the elderly dog

This is my latest post for "Life with Dogs"...

I often hear people say how rewarding it is to live with an old dog, but none seem to share specific examples as to why they find it rewarding. As The Old One Eyed Pug nears fourteen, I’ve been pondering how I can share in words why I find the reward outweighs the constant care taking.

His birth name was Billy Baker, named after my kindergarten friend who had a buzz cut that reminded me of Billy’s soft, round head. But fate gave Billy Baker, the pug not the boy, a name change after one eyeball became wounded and had to be removed. It happened after a complete misunderstanding with a then very young chocolate lab, but the incident did not alter their loving relationship. To this day, Huck licks the little pug’s smooshed in face like a lollypop.

I like to think of his lost eyeball as the full moon watching over my little fellow and shining a light his way to keep him from running into walls. If I’m sitting on the porch with pug in lap, gazing on a full moon, I give him a squeeze and say, “There’s your eyeball, watching over us.”

We thought we were going to lose him a year ago when he appeared to have a mini stroke and lost coordination for a few days. He was off food, tail down, humped back, and we rushed him into the vet. Ex-rays showed deteriorating spinal disks and together with his bad heart, we figured our days together were closing in on us. But he rebounded.

Most of his teeth have been pulled but he still manages to eat like a running back, making one thing the same as in his youth- gas. Ah yes, the gas he doeth pass. Over the year, he sleeps more, and he is so deaf that he doesn’t know if someone is in the room. He goes into deep sleeps and if I try to gently shake him awake, he still lays snoring for minutes until he comes to life. His one remaining eyeball is nearly all fogged up in blindness making stairs or new territories a challenge.

He needs constant guidance now to get around the house. If we are in the kitchen, and I leave for the downstairs studio, I tap him and he knows to follow, but then he needs assistance on the stairs. If I can get him to settle on his fire side bed, he will sleep for most of the day. But it takes him longer to settle, and he often wanders around looking for me, or something that feels right. he often seems a bit delirious, like an old man wandering, looking for the reason why he got up in the first place.

His one sure way to let me know he needs me, or needs something, is to whimper. He whimpers if he needs to go up the stairs, or down. He whimpers if he wants to get off the chair, or if he needs to step the 3 inches over the porch thresh way to come in. He whimpers if I am five feet away but he’s unsure where I am.

Out in the garden, the old pug can still sniff around a few minutes before he starts to cry a bit- “Where are you?” he’s asking. “Do you know where I am? Because I’m not so sure where I am, come find me.”

He used to love spending hours in the garden. But now he’d rather be in my lap, my hand on his worn down spine, his little pug nose snoring in and out with an occasional twitch from his singular eyeball.

And there in lies the answer.

I still provide a shore for him, a respite in his delusion brought on by age. He gives me one more purpose in my day – to give him a safe place to be all that he can be even in his elderly limitations.

We fit together like salt and pepper. I have a nice warm lap that has been reformed over the years to fit his little curled up fawn body just perfectly.


What Remains Now said...

So beautifully written. At 50, I am new to dog love and my pack is still young, but I know I will be there for them as they grow old. I will love them to the end because we are tied together by choice and circumstance. Billy's little paws are precious.

Deb said...

I can feel the love for your dog in your words. It is hard to see them get on in years. I am going through the same thing with my Kane. The love just grows stronger. Hugs, Deb

Jan said...

I call my home the geriatric home for old dogs. I have a 12 year old, a 14 year old and a 16 year old, all different, medium large breeds. The 14 year old is on his last legs, liable to pass on at any time but he keeps surprising me like today after dinner he picked up his stuffed animal and gave it a little shake; his signal for time for a walk. His spirit is stronger than his body, our walks consist of stepping out into the driveway and standing around, peeing on tires and the mailbox. Well, I don't pee on the tires or the mailbox, I usually get an armload of firewood and then we come back inside the fenced yard. Time for a little treat after the "walk". They are all the most gentle and peaceful souls. They all troop around, following me everywhere I go, from the kitchen to the living room to the studio. They have pretty much used up their mischief and cause no harm other than being too much underfoot in the kitchen when I'm trying to cook. The 12 year old and the 16 year old are both rescues within the past couple of years and I am grateful that they rescued me. The 14 year old was born here and he will be the hardest to lose but we have a lot of memories together. Maybe even time for one or two new memories before he's gone.

Jody said...

you see, you are and remain my heroine. You provide so much comfort for your elderly companions. Your dear pug is very lucky to have you as his shepherd. We lost our jack russell last summer, but not before being able to spend some of that quality time that you speak of. Bless you and your beasties!

Debra said...

I loved your story.

My old girl has some health problems too~but we still do our three mile walks in the mornings, and she still follows me around the house-she's learning to wash the dishes and cook, my husband says...

Our Juicy Life said...

We had a pug....Augie, he was 16 when we had to put him down, not because he was ill, but because his quality of life wasn't what it used to be. He was blind and deaf and soon started getting stuck in corners (for hours). But this pug was the love of my life and even though it's been 3 years since he passed I think about him all the time. You're lucky to have you boy still around.

Patty said...

You write;
"I still provide a shore for him, a respite in his delusion brought on by age. He gives me one more purpose in my day – to give him a safe place to be all that he can be even in his elderly limitations."

This is the most beautiful description of our relationship with an older animal I've ever heard. This is describing the poetry of love beyond pity, very pure, very rare.

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Thank you for reading every one- and for taking time to share your own old dog love. And Patty- wow, that's really special. Thank you.

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~