He is such an old dog. He will not get any older, either. There will be minor things, most of them unpleasant, but no big changes coming down the pike. He turned 14 last month and is living on borrowed time now, every day an anomaly.
It’s funny, even knowing how quickly it passed, that I have so few memories of him as a puppy. He nipped. He had accidents. I had to carry him, this little thing, down the stairs to the yard to do his business.
And that’s it. The rest has been his constant presence in this household, and only later have I seen the changes. I can’t tell you the last time he went on a barking jag as one of us prepared to leave the house; it’s been ages, though. Same thing for the last time he made it down the stairs on his own power, much less up. Didn’t we use to toss rubber toys for him to fetch? Of course we did, everybody does that. His toys are lost now, his ropes and his bones.
I was never a pet person, and I wasn’t enthused about this one, either. Too much responsibility for a family that already had problems with that, but that was then. As I said, a presence.
My daughter is starting a relationship with a kitten now, something I definitely wouldn’t have accepted. I have a healthy and uneasy respect for cats, but it does not involve renting them a room. I see evolution very clearly in them; in fact, most of the time I think of cats as wormhole tigers, having somehow transported here from the savannah or wherever, forced by the mechanics of molecular dissolution and reconstruction to appear small and safe, like holograms with benefits, but with their real nature intact. I like cats, I like when they purr and nuzzle me, crawl indifferently over my lap and look into my soul, but I see the truth in their eyes. I would absolutely eat you, they are telling me.
But dogs, oh. You know. For all of the different roles they play, they become living metaphors for everything we cherish, everything we seek. Friendship, affection, playfulness, loyalty, love.
And the temporary nature of all of that, the fleeting joy, the complacency and ultimately the regret of not being able to freeze time, take it back, fight off the ephemeral.
I used to calculate his final days, imagine myself in my early 50s, a fantasy back then in those chaotic days. I would be calm and mature. Funny. I am.
And I am the alpha for him, always have been. He follows me when he can, we all note it and laugh. He is waiting for his orders. You are retired, soldier, you earned it. Go sit.
Maybe this is why I’m the one who fusses over the details more, wonders how it will end. Worries about being home alone, with no car, with rain pouring down and an old dog in pain and in need. I try to get into his head, see through his old eyes, wonder why he does what he does and if he knows. I take my alpha seriously.
Mostly? I try to keep him comfortable. I note that he eats well, wanders around the yard OK, seems content and not lost. He was never a puppy, I think sometimes, just Strider, just always here. I carry him every day now. I don’t mind.
(The one puppy picture I could find)