Monday, September 13, 2010

In the twilight

I'm scared.

Yup, there, I said it.

I'm scared there is going to be a day soon when I come home and a big ole ball of white fluff doesn't come bounding up the stairs to see me.

I'm scared there is going to be a day soon when I have to make a decision I don't want to have to make.

I'm scared there is going to be a day soon when I have to say goodbye to the one creature who has been my very best friend every damn day for the last six years and change.

He has endured dances in the kitchen, long days at the ballpark, long days left at home, happy hugs and countless tears shed into his shaggy coat.

He's getting old. He already has health problems. They aren't life limiting health problems. They are quality of life problems.

He has a hyper thyroid and so he is on medication for the rest of his life. I have to push these tiny little Thyro Tabs into his treats - the same kind of treat every day for the last four years.

And with that medication can come complications. Like he may be developing allergies to a certain kind of food or treat. I don't know what kind of food or treat that is. I suspect it's the Think! Dog turkey jerky we bought but I can't be sure.

I just know that two Fridays ago, I came home from work. I reached to put his collar on - he doesn't have to wear his 'shirt' when he's at home - so he could jump in the truck with me while we renewed his prescription. He shied away from me and whimpered, so I grabbed a hole of him and checked his ear.

Sure enough, he has an infection. It had been a while since we went through one of those. But the questions arose ... is it because we reduced his meds in February, after he tested high? It was a good thing that he would require less medication, of course. And so my heart sunk when I thought his thyroid levels were dropping again and he would need more medication, not less.

So into the truck he goes and we have to stick around for an hour longer than planned, waiting for Dr. Bill to see us. Dr. Bill, for your information, is fantastic. Shep adores him and he adores Shep. He's super with the animals and just as gentle in delivering any news to the moms and dads.

We scheduled a second visit the next weekend to test his thyroid. I went in with a shade of trepidation. No one likes to hear her child needs help, no one likes to hear her child is nearing the end of days.

And yes, Shep is as close to a child as I will ever have ... or need.

His thyroid tested fine ... happy news. But my friend Dana, who also works at the vet, reminded me gently that Shep is, after all, a senior citizen.

By a chart, she measured his human age -- he'll be nine in January -- against his weight class -- 100 pounds -- and told me he is 71 in dog years.

That means, she said, we may not be able to go busting through the mountains every day of a weekend.

That means, she said, we have to put him on a diet for senior dogs.

That means, she said, he may have to start taking glucosamine for his joints.

That means, she said, I may notice him start to slow down.

Sometimes, I see it already. We went for a bit of a walk in Elbow Falls last weekend. I had to go out for a bit that evening and when I came home, I wasn't met with the scramble up the stairs.

Instead, he just kind of poked his nose around the corner as if to say 'hey, what's up?'

Shep's breed -- Maremma sheepdog -- has a life expectancy of 11 to 13 years ... human years, that is.

I remember once reading about one in the Italian Alps that lived to 22 years.

I can't imagine I'll be that fortunate.

And I know it can happen any day now. Anything could happen ... his stomach could turn, his body could stop working as well as it does, he could develop cancer ...

Lord Jesus, it's unfair to give dogs cancer, especially when all they give us is love.

So because we never know how long someone or somedog is in our lives, I pledge to make every day of Shep's life worth living.

Whether it's a trip to the mountains, a simple walk around the block or even just a cuddle on the couch.

But no more turkey jerky!

OK, maybe if it's Longview Turkey Jerky. He sure does like it.


  1. My girl dog has bad back legs. I've told the kids we have to love her like crazy because we can't ever let her suffer. She's in pain and her legs are weak but so long as she comes to greet us at the door, sticks her butt in the air for a scratch and her stump of a tail wiggles we have her in our lives.

    Having had dogs since as far back into the past as I can remember, I know how difficult it is to say goodbye to our best buddies, our four-legged babies. I've had to do it many times.

    We know from the day we get them we know the day will come. It's never easy.

  2. You know your Sept. 8 post about I Wish You Enough?

    Shep has been enough in every way I could have asked.

  3. As someone wise once said 'to love dogs is to know death'. I too think it's grossly unfair that dogs (and cats) are granted such a short life with us. So we too try and cram as much love and fun as we can into our days. I tell myself we'll see each other again on the other side. Whether it's true or not, it makes me feel better.