We have been together for almost 16 years.
That’s a very long time for a dog, and me.
We bonded almost immediately from the moment she came into my home at 8 weeks of age.
There’s a bond that grows between an animal and its human.
Neither ever owns the other.
We are together because we want to be.
I keep thinking of the movie “ET” as I watch her slow down from a long life.
Elliot and ET were connected.
They mirrored each other and so do we in so many ways.
My wife used to say if my dog was a woman I’d marry her.
I suppose that’s true, if I wanted a wife that bites and poops on the rug.
She’s my constant companion – never leaving my side until I go to work the next day and waiting by the door for my return.
Every day for 16 years.
That’s a very long time when I think of it.
Many marriages don’t last that long.
Day after day she is about the only one excited to see me.
No one in my life at this time showers as much love and devotion as this small ball of fur.
She’s gotten crankier with age, and that’s okay because I have too.
She had pancreatic cancer last year but the surgeon thinks he got it all.
Something that is a million-to-one outcome when everything you read says the prognosis is never better than grave.
While the immediate danger seems to have faded, the infirmities of old age continue to grow on her small body.
Sometimes it’s hard to get up.
Sometimes she limps as she follows me down the hall.
Running is no longer possible but she can still can move fairly fast if the doorbell rings.
Like me, her hearing is not so good for most things but she still can hear a dog food can open from another room.
She doesn’t see as well as before.
Tossing an occasional small piece of steak on the floor in front of her usually begins a frantic search because it’s hard to see it.
Her medicines make her hungry and thirsty all the time but give her a good quality of life, although the vet cautions they may also shorten it.
Like a small child scared of the dark she insists on sleeping with me curled up next to my side, always touching.
Feeling her warmth is comforting because I know she is still here and I sleep better for it.
Knowing what is coming fills me with dread and I try to push from my mind.
Her dying is going to come no matter what I think or do.
But it’s always there, sneaking its way in when things are quiet and we are alone with her in my lap.
My wife worries that when the dog passes it will so affect me that I might follow soon after.
I’ve heard of that happening, mostly husbands and wives, not dog and human.
But who knows.
And what happens when she’s so old and so tired that the loving thing to do is put her to sleep?
How will I ever find that courage to hold her in my arms while someone kills her, for that’s exactly what will happen.
I don’t know if I can – yet the cruelest thing would not to be the one to provide her comfort in those last minutes.
We started together and we should end together.
Whatever happens, it’s coming and I can’t stop it.