Friday, July 13, 2018

This Dog is Getting Old

My dog is getting old.

I'm pretty sure he was just a puppy yesterday, but today I noticed the abundance of white hairs around his dark muzzle. He needed help jumping up on the couch, an act he isn't technically allowed to do, but knows he can get away with when my husband is at work. He walks around stiff-legged in the mornings, following on my heels as I brew the coffee, feed the cats, fill his water dish. By late morning he's able to work the stiffness free, but he moans in his sleep, resting under my feet as I type away at the computer.

Sometimes he yips in his dreams, feet twitching, and I think he imagines he is still just a puppy, too.

I know there are things in the world I should be concerned about. We are in the middle of FBI agent Peter Strzok's hearing before a joint session of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees. This is happening even as we speak (or I type, since we aren't actually in the same room. I like to imagine you and I are having a conversation, however. I do so enjoy our chats.)

And there is apparently some crisis at the border, although there are no DHS stats to prove it. (And all of my liberal friends will shout about me saying so. I might even be called ugly names.)

There's a huge anti-Trump gathering in the UK, complete with a giant inflatable Baby Trump blimp.

And hundreds of people are sick after an outbreak of the cyclospora parasite apparently linked to McDonald's. This could be the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.

I think Justin Bieber  also just gave some chick a $500,000 engagement ring.

There are plenty of super important things that should concern me.

But none of this matters.

Because my dog is getting old.

I decided years ago that I wouldn't fight old age. I wouldn't be one of those people that dyes her hair and lies about her age. I wouldn't invest hundreds of dollars in anti-wrinkle creams or plastic surgery. I was going to embrace my aging, bask in the grace of growing older, appreciate the wisdom earned through years of experience and questionable decisions.

I've mostly succeeded. I will tell you my age if you ask. I don't dye my hair. I wash my face with plain ol' soap and water (much to my teenage daughter's horror).

And though my knees often ache first thing in the morning and right before it rains, I don't care much that my body is getting older.

But what is really, REALLY hard about aging, is that everyone else is aging, too. And while I have no problem with my own gray hairs and wrinkles, it breaks my heart to see the white hairs growing around my puppy's nose. Because the hardest part about time passing is losing people you love.

It sucks that dogs have such short lives. When my last dog died, I was a young mother with small children. Buck had been my baby before my own, genetic human babies were born. His puppy picture still sits on the piano, right beside my daughter's graduation picture and the portrait of my son in his Army uniform. He has a place of honor surrounded by dozens of pictures of my human family.

Buck was an old dog, too. He was fourteen when he got sick. I spent 5 whole days camped beside him on the floor, because he would cry when I left him. I made a pallet of blankets in the spare room, crying when he did, praying he would get better. The children were forced to fend for themselves, scavenging peanut butter on toast for sustenance. They would try to share their sandwiches with the dog, confused and sad that he wouldn't lift his head to lick his favorite sticky treat from their fingertips.

I called my dad in tears, "We just had to put Buck down. I don't want to bury him here. I want to bury him at Grandma's, but I have no way to get there and I can't stand the thought of putting him in the freezer until I can." We were a one-vehicle family at the time. It was a Tuesday. My husband needed the car to get to work. Saturday was a long time to hold on to a dead dog in a cardboard box. The only solution seemed to be to slide it into the big storage freezer, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

And Daddy came (with my mom, of course). He drove three hours to pick me and the children up, so I could bury my dog at my Grandmother's house, the place he was born and loved more than any other. He would go nuts if you asked him, "Wanna go to Grandma's?" Spinning circles, wagging his shaggy tail, barking with excitement and anticipation. When we arrived, he would run through the green grass across the yard to the back door. Once inside he would leap up onto her lap to give her kisses and get a good belly rub.

Daddy dug the hole for my dog's grave, right beside the holes he had dug for Buck's mama and daddy. A family cemetery of sorts. I was a mess of excess snot and tears and searing emotional pain.

"Kids, hold your Mama," Daddy told my children as he threw the first bits of dirt on top of the box with my dog's body inside.

When my childhood dog, Sugar died. Daddy dug that hole, too. He hugged me hard and helped me make a wooden cross out of two pieces of scrap trim he'd pulled off a job site. I wrote her name in big block letters with a fat green crayon and placed a handful of dandelions at its base.

And now, this dog is getting old.

But I don't have a Daddy to help me through this time.

And maybe that is really why this is tearing me up this morning. Is it really the dog that is getting old, or is it all of us. Will losing this dog be the thing that sends me over the edge?

There are things I should be doing. Important things. Things I should be fretting about. Big things.

But societies crumble and governments have always been corrupt.

But this dog, this one right here, he is getting old.

So y'all carry on with hand-wringing and general worry. Keep calling each other names if you have to. I think today, I'm just going to sit with the dog.

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