Actually Dad doesn’t mind the big fellow. We has a couple of dogs growing up and he wasn’t much of a fan, mostly because of the barking really. Although he actually mourned the first one, who passed at the age of twelve, he barely tolerated the second, quite likely because this one probably freaked him out a little. Probably I'm projecting, I don't think anything freaks out my old man. This dog though - he freaked me out. He did not age gracefully. His mouth became a foul hole as he aged so before he entered the room you could smell his approach. He was hit by a car and as a result ended up blind in one eye. (I used to bring my hand around to the front of his face around the blind side; it always made him jump.) He had a skin condition and his hearing failed (I’d clap my hands right beside his head and he would cock his noggin just a little at the faint echo) and by the end he was a shambling wreck but he wasn’t in any pain (so it seemed) and my mom delighted in him and so he lived to be fifteen, despite looking like something that had dug itself out of the Pet Semetary.
As for the big fellow, well my wife has never been a fan and when I first mused about buying a puppy almost twelve years ago she opined that she did not think it was a good idea. Considering that we had been going out for around two months at the time and also the fact that I am who I am, I ignored her. I still remember the look on her face when she came over to my apartment and found me sitting on the step watching the little guy wrestle a dandelion.
She did not mind him too much in our younger days and for the most part she tolerates him these days except for one major problem – the fur. Everytime a black tumbleweed carries the boy off into another room she rages about how she can’t take it anymore. My reply, these days at least, is that he’ll be dead soon enough. She retorts that I have been saying this for two years now.
He is going to be twelve in August and he is slowing down. Last winter I came downstairs and he rose up to greet me and could not get any purchase for what seemed like hours until he finally found his footing. I went into the basement, leaned against the beer fridge and cried my eyes out.
That was fifteen months ago now and while he has slowed down somewhat since that January morning there have been no other episodes like that. He has lived to see another baby born and this one may love him most of all. This morning she knew he was lurking and tossed a good part of her breakfast his way and when he ambles over to the exersaucer to give her a kiss she opens her mouth wide.
Its quite disgusting really. We had company the other day and as our dog made out with our baby my wife went bananas.
He just had his mouth on his ass and now he is licking our baby’s mouth!
One concession I have had to make to his age (and my own) is his rare bath time. When we lived in Florida it was a run down to Tampa Bay and since we moved back to the good country the summers have meant random lakes to clean the stink off of him. It’s the rest of the year that brings problems. We used to have a fair size laundry tub that I would heave him into but that exercise was leading me to a wrenched back for sure, lifting an unwilling seventy five pound mutt up four feet and wrestling him into soapy water. And when the tub was replaced by one just a little smaller the decision was made for me.
I officially became someone who has too much money for their own damn good as I began to bring him to ‘Wash your own’ facilities, with ramps for him to walk up into a tub, shampoo, towels, blowdryer and apron, all for the 20 bucks.
Its worth it, believe you me.
Now when my wife was out east recently it soon became apparent that the time was nigh. Walking into the house meant hitting a wall of stink as six to seven months of not being washed plus multiple rolls each day in the spring dirt of our backyard was adding up to a vortex of death. Throw in the fact that I was indiscriminately feeding him pasta and casseroles and we’re talking one seriously ripe canine.
So my folks are helping out with the kids when my wife is away and I mention that I’m going to get the dog washed the next night.
Mom: Oh Patrick, you’re not going to try and lift him into that tub are you? You’ll hurt your back.
Me: No, I’ll just bring him to that shop up on the Danforth. They have a tub there. Twenty bucks and he’s cleaned, dried and they take care of the mess.
Dad: Twenty bucks. (Dad was born in 1932)
Dad: Do you drop him off? (Dad grew up during the great Depression and World War Two.)
Me: No, I wash him.
Dad: You pay them twenty bucks to wash him yourself. (Dad throws nickels around like manhole covers.)
Me: Um, yeah.
Dad (pause as he thinks): You know son, twenty bucks would buy an awful lot of bullets. (Looks at dog meaningfully)