Friday, May 20, 2011

Dog Years....

Being the owner of an older dog, a dog that was older when I got him, I think I'm much more aware of time slipping by.  More so than friends, family, even parents, though now that I'm farther away I feel even that more acutely.  But for a pet, it's not a gradual change over years, decades.  Sometimes it's months.   I look at Otis and I see, what seems suddenly, salt and pepper coloring trickling into the jet black of his coat and realize that in the best of times I might have 4-5 years left with him.  If I'm lucky.  Talking to his vet today I asked him his opinion of Otis' age and he seemed skeptical about the 9-year-old guestimate.  When I got Otis I was told he was probably between 6 and 8, so three and a half years later I know he's probably between 9 and 11...and while I like to err on the 9 I'm aware that day by day he's getting older.  I hear that ticking clock more loudly and heart-wrenchingly than any proverbial biological one.

Like a parent with a newborn child, if he's not snoring loudly enough underneath the desk I look to make sure he's still breathing.  Unlike a newborn, fragile, optimistic child, this is an elderly animal, well loved, well cherished and, while healthy and nowhere near his last legs, I'm aware that he's gotten to the age where he can just slip away.  My first, and only, family dog, Captain, a beloved Springer Spaniel, passed away in his sleep when he was only nine.  I, however, was only four and a half and only generally realized the implications of what was happening, outside of the immediate sorrow of my parents.  Now, as an adult who's already had to put to sleep two cherished pets, I love the ease of that, the way that Captain slipped away and we mourned him but didn't have to make an anguished decision.  I look at my little Schmo and recognize that when that time comes this would  probably be the hardest decision I would ever make as this little dude has been my constant companion, my friend, my worry when he was ill, my heartache when he was lost.  He's been my partner in crime, the boyfriend when I was in between, and when there was a man, the girlfriend to talk to in the dark of night.

Vets are a funny thing.  I think I'm less picky about human doctors and car salesmen than I am vets.  Because a vet has to understand animal behavior as well as the science.  I've been lucky to find some really good vets along the way, in Seattle, in New York, in Los Angeles and finally now in England.  But it's someone you just instinctively trust to protect your furry pal.  Our new vet, part energetic idealist, part mad scientist, is my new hero as he still believes in fairy tales...well, of the veterinary medicine sort....specifically that we can cure Otis' ear infection.  The ear infection Otis has had for all the time I've had him, despite years of antibiotic therapy.  This vet thinks we can cure it...and that's quite nice after having basically given up.  

I still have days where I look at Otis and I wonder where he came from.  Where was he before me?  Did have have any babies with some foxy Spaniel?  How did he get lost?  How long really was he a stray?  And, most importantly, why did they not come looking for him?  Maybe they did and gave up before he actually came to the shelter.  Who knows.  I'm only grateful that, in the end, they either gave up or didn't care so that I could find him.  And he could find me.   

So I sit here tonight, about to go to bed and expect I'll have a little furry body sleeping with me.  And while I know he likes being near me I'm also honest enough to admit that I know he also just really likes the heat of the electric blanket.   But aware that each moment is precious....I'll take what I can get. 


  1. What you have said resonates with me. Mac has aged considerably in the last year. Even though he only licks me after a workout to tast the salty sweat, like you, I will take what I can get.

  2. You make me tear up, Bingham! I do the same thing with Minou-checking to make sure he's breathing if he's been napping extra long or doesn't come to greet me when I get home. Watching him sometimes wobble on his feet or as he slooooowly sits down. Ariel, on the other hand and while she's the same age, doesn't seem to age a bit! Regardless, I cherish each moment with them-16 years and counting!

  3. I know you wrote this ages ago....but I've been a leeetle busy. :)
    So, I totally teared up too! Even though Jake is younger, just the IDEA of loosing him makes me so sad and miserable. Which is probably why I'm such a softy and let him get away with so much.