Friday, August 07, 2009
It was about a year and a half ago that I came downstairs one cold winter morning and found Ben in the kitchen. I called to him to take him up and down the street for a little walk and then I watched as he struggled to get to his feet. It took him a long time. An eternity.
Something was not right. And the next couple of days saw more of the same.
After the first time I headed for the basement, leaned against the washing machine and began to sob, stopping only when I realized that the kids had come down and were standing, puzzled and a little concerned, watching me break down.
His annual was the following week as luck would have it and they checked him out and while he was a little heavier there was nothing much wrong with him except that he was getting older. The usual prescription for what ails - moderate food and some more exercise.
The big guy has never been a big eater and as for exercise, well, I do what I can but the truth is that as each baby has been born the old guy has slid down the clan totem pole. So he gets out but its usually down the street and back up again.
Ben is going to be twelve in a week and its become quite clear to me that this will be his last birthday. He has had a good life. He is loved dearly and like all dogs he gives more back than he receives. The kids adore him and that is the saddest thing of all, that they did not know him when he was full of piss and vinegar and could run for hours and hours on end. They know him as the big old slow dog who gives them kisses but it would have been fine for them to have a good dog to run with in the park. Now we take him to the park or sit out in the backyard and we throw a ball and he looks at us, sighs with disgust and lays down.
We take him to a ravine near our house and we follow him as he wanders about sniffing. I'm sure he doesn't recall that this was where he first bagged himself a raccoon, thus able to scratch another item off of his bucket list. The kids dawdle, looking at the snails that infest the lush plantlife by the stream, the acorns underfoot, the flowers along the trail and he wanders ahead, stopping and turning impatiently, as if he had places to go and we were making him late.
His hips are bad and now when we walk he gives a little stagger at times and when he takes a shit he doesn't go into the classic position but instead whines softly as he tried to bend himself. His eyes are getting cloudy with cataracts and last night I lay on the floor with him in the kitchen, spooning him gently and scratching his belly, after he came to find me looking for a scratch.
Last winter my wife had hit the wall with the baby after a few months of nightly feedings. I had retreated to the couch from the beginning (I've never been able to sleep with a baby in the bed) and on this one Saturday night I brought the baby down to be with me. I had her in the carseat, where she might sleep for an hour or three, and had a bottle all ready. I fell asleep.
It was a little later that I woke up and as I tried to get comfortable (an impossible task), I peered over the edge of the couch to where my youngest was sleeping, peacefully, the dog curled around the carseat as best as he could manage, doing what he must, for he is a dog.
He has an appointment next week and of course there is not much that they can tell me. Its age that's catching up with my old friend and there's not much I can do but make the best of what time he has left.
So that's what we will do.
Posted by Black Dog at 1:00 PM