Thursday, November 21, 2013

Adventures with an Elderly Dog: Part 3

This is Simon, in a photo that was taken on his "Sweet 16".  That's right, he's 16 years old, which is a medical fucking marvel for the canine species.  Simon has been in my life for the past 15 years, in some capacity, and in Jason's since the day they adopted him when he was around a year old.  He hasn't always lived with us, but since we moved into our house 4 years ago, we've been in charge of his care and keeping.  That hasn't always been easy.  Heck, it wasn't easy when he was a younger dog.  He had a habit of taking off any time he got outside without a leash or a fence to restrain him.  He would just go wander the neighborhood, and if you tried to catch him he thought you were playing an awesome game and would stay just enough out of your reach to prevent you from getting a hold of him, but close enough to give you hope.  And if you stopped chasing, he'd run back toward you like "Oh, come on, we're not done yet".  If you went back home and waited about twenty minutes or so, he'd come back and wait on the porch, suddenly bored with his exploration.  When it came to taking him for a walk, he would get so excited he'd pull the leash and knock you straight over.  If you were strong enough to restrain him, he walked practically on his hind legs only, upright like a person, in his attempt to pull away and take off for an unrestrained run.  Baths were a wrestling match, which he nearly always won.  The Fourth of July was a nightmare, because he would bark at every bang and pop that went off in the neighborhood, attempting to jump out the window to kill the bad noises.  Jumping out the window wasn't unheard of either.  Jason lived in a split level house, and the downstairs bedroom was partially below ground.  Simon liked to hop from the desk chair to the desk, then straight out the window at ground level when he didn't feel like making the trek upstairs to go outside.

All in all, he's been a great dog.  He loved to play fetch in his younger days.  He also used to find his own wrapped Christmas gifts under the tree and unwrap them, but only when given permission to do so, and he never touched any other gift under the tree but his own.  He learned to open the treat bucket and help himself when the occasion suited him.  He never had any accidents in the house prior to becoming a decrepit old man, and he loves the humans in his life.  Particularly Jason.

Now he's old.  Not like, a little old, but fucking old.  His hearing went a few years ago, and from there things have been a bit down hill.  He started losing bladder control, necessitating the use of doggie diapers.  He began to poop in the house, mostly because he couldn't get up to let us know he needed outside.  And sometimes it was in his sleep so....I'm not even sure he knew it was going on.  We invested in a personal rug shampooer specifically to handle Simon messes.  He's been battling arthritis since before we bought the house, and it seems to be getting worse as time goes.  Some days his back legs don't seem to want to work at all.  He's pretty smelly most of the time, partially due to the diapers, but partially due to the fact that baths are pretty traumatic for him these days.  He can't stand in the tub, and he cries the whole time we have him in there as if he doesn't realize why we're putting him through this kind of torture.  And then there are the times when he just barks.  Like a metronome.  For no reason.  Just sitting, and barking.  It's maddening.  All in all, taking care of him has become more and more challenging with each passing week, but then there are days when he's able to wander up to one of us for affection, or the nights when Jason scratches his ears before bed and he looks like nothing in this world will ever make him happier than having Jason pet him, and I think "Yeah.  Ok.  I'm in for as long as you are, pal".

The reason I'm bringing this up is because today I was scrolling Twitter and saw this:
I thought to myself "Yes, that's sort of what it's about, isn't it?".  Simon, for the majority of his life, has given us everything he had.  He's loved us fiercely.  He's been excited to see us come home.  He's been there for a hug when we're upset, or for some entertainment when we're in need of a laugh.  He's protected us, and in our absence he has guarded our home.  He has been around for the major life changes.  Getting married.  Buying a house.  And now, he's a very old man.  He's not going to be around forever.  His frame gets thinner with each passing day, and his legs get stiffer.  He hears nothing.  He barks like crazy and it makes us insane.  But in 16 years, what has he ever asked of us?  He's wanted food, and affection.  That's it.  He's given so much more to us than we have had to give to him, and maybe he was just paying it forward.  Maybe now it's our turn to give back.  Maybe love is about taking a dog for a walk in a wheelchair because his legs don't work anymore, simply because that is what love is.  It's enduring, and unconditional, and if it were us in that position, Simon would give us everything he could.

Does that mean I don't have days when I think "I wish I had the courage to put you down", or that I don't want to look at him and pull an Austin Powers "WHY WON'T YOU DIE?!" when he's barked all day, pooped on the carpet a few times, and leaked out of his diaper?  No.  Not at all.  I have those days, more frequently than I'd like to admit, but then I watch the doggie smile appear as Jason scratches his ears and I think it again.  "Yeah.  Ok.  I'm in for as long as you are, pal".

Others might not understand it.  I've heard more than a my share of criticisms about how we need to just kill him.  One person outright said they dream of kicking him down the stairs when they're at home alone with him.  People who don't have to take care of him bitch about how we should just get rid of him.  These are people who don't see.  They don't know.  They haven't been there the whole time.  They never saw how much love he gave back when he could.  We owe him.  We pay it back.  Even on the days when we wish we didn't have to.  That's what love is.  It endures.  It is unconditional.

Yeah.  Ok.  I'm in for as long as you are, pal.

No comments: