Sunday, September 8, 2013

On Living with a Senior Dog

Mr. Big is now 13 and 3/4 years old. Yes, we count in quarters, now, because every day is special and every day means our time together is even shorter than it was yesterday. The cataract in his left eye is more cloudy, his hearing a little less acute, his walk--when he can get up--even stiffer. But he has not given up. Yesterday, as the other two wrestled and romped and ran and leapt, he very determinedly made his slow way over to them to sniff and watch and, I'm pretty sure, try to figure out of there was a way he could play, too. He ripped his ACL trying to defend his property from a marauding, eager puppy who was walking off leash down the alley in July. I found him behind the bushes again yesterday morning, sitting and barking loudly and insistently after some long-gone dog. He eats slower, but he had four teeth removed from one side of his mouth last year, and as he used to eat too fast, I'm glad he's savoring his meals these days.

Scientists tell us that dogs live in the now; that they don't have the same emotions we do. Any dog lover will tell you, however, that their dog can be happy, funny, sad. Scientists agree they are attuned to our emotions, so if they can recognize sadness or anger in a human, might they not experience it themselves? If they can be happy, surely they have to be able to experience the entithesis of happy--sad.

I'm pretty sure Mr. Big is not in pain. He gets a small dose of Rimadyl every day, and Tramadol when he needs it. He's stiff, but stoic as Samoyeds are, I think I'd notice signs he was in pain, for example, a refusal to move. He's stiff and slow, and with his gimpy back legs, he has to get up slowly and very carefully, but he does. And he's been getting up on his own, without my help, more frequently these past few weeks. He's not incontinent, although the effort to get up sometimes results in his defecating on the floor. Sometimes he just needs to go and simply can't rise and walk fast enough to go outside. I don't mind.

Blogger's sideways photo gremlin strikes again

Walks right now are just going out in the front yard, sniffing, and marking less familiar bushes. I think he wants to walk farther, but he just can't, and wisely will, after standing and smelling and taking it all in, turn and amble inside. He sleeps a lot, and unfortunately started pacing at night in June. I just started him on a neutraceutical I hope will alleviate that. He struggles to get up and follow me or the dogs around the house because I don't think he likes to be alone. But he stilldreams when he sleeps, and in is dreams, his legs flail and I hope he's dreaming about pulling a sled across a snowy expanse with his Pupgirl by his side.

Watching him age and accommodate his limitations makes me wonder if he remembers the way things were. I remember for us both.

Pico Iyer has a wonderful essay on suffering in today's New York Times. I was thinking about this post last night, before I read about Issa'a haiku on dew in the essay. But I remember for us both, and yet...

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