It’s a day for dog blogs.
I’ve never had a dog age out on me. My childhood dog went from fit senior to sick and dead in a matter of about three days. My first dog as an adult went from fit to dead in a matter of hours at the tender age of nine which was a heart breaking mystery. My next dog ended up with a serious illness that we could not fix no matter what the vets tried and I had to euthanize her at the age of 2.5.
Now I have the 4-year-old Dane and 2-year-old husky and … the 10-year-old retriever/basset hound cross Charlie.
I’m scared that Charlie will be the dog I have to learn the lessons of aging out from and I am not looking forward to it. I find myself wishing he’d go out in a blaze of glory like Scout did. She had the most awesome summer and her last day was a hoot and then POOF! gone in a matter of hours. I have this sinking feeling that Charlie is going to be that dog who just gets slower and slower and blind and deaf but will still want to go on walks and try to keep up and
oh gosh. I’m going to make myself cry just writing about it.
He has heart. He’s loving and loyal in the way that only those magnificent retrievers seem capable of. I think it’s the cheeks. I think they just have a look that suckers us in and captivates our hearts.
When I adopted Charlie he was 6 years old and though loved, his previous family did not have time for him. He was depressed and overweight and bored. I brought him home to Piper who was then still a youngster and to my boy cats who instantly recognized a new friend in him and we went camping in the Alberta Rockies with my parents who spoiled him rotten and then to a friend’s farm in Manitoba where he ran wild and swam in a creek all with Piper leading the way.
I changed his food and medicated his allergies and after three years of figuring it out and increasing his activity he went from nearly 90 lbs and unable to jump into the car with those short little legs and pot belly to the healthy 68 lb boy he is today, fetching sticks from the lake and wrestling with True and chasing Piper.
But he’s 10 and I’ve noticed more and more white on his face and muzzle. He’s slower to get up and move along after supper time. He has begun to ask to sleep on my bed rather than on the dog beds that I think might be a bit hard for him now. He can’t quite keep up when I power walk all three dogs at once.
And I can feel my heart breaking with each new sign of his age.
The first lesson I’m learning is this.
Dogs live for the moment. They don’t dream about tomorrow or pine for yesterday. I took on three dogs and so it’s up to me to make sure that all three of their needs are met and as Charlie requires a new routine I will find a way to continue to make his daily life awesome.
I’ve taken to walking him alone on the days that I run with the girls and on the days that I walk all three together we just go a bit shorter and then I make sure they have more time to chase and wrestle in the yard depending on their energy levels.
And he lives for the lake so on hot sunny days like today after the girls have had their fun and run and played in the yard, I packed up my boy and drove with all the windows down to a different little lake that has a long, arcing beach. I put him on the long line and simply followed his lead, letting him wade in and lie down in the water and fetch some sticks and attempt to swim out for a loon and I waded in with him and he circled me a few times happily cool and doing what retrievers were predestined to do.
And if he asks tonight, because he doesn’t ask often, I’ll let him sleep at the foot of my bed.