Monday, December 15, 2008
My Dog is an Awesome Dog
These are Jake's final days. OK, it's possible I'm being a bit dramatic, maybe I should say these are Jake's final weeks. He could stick around for a few more months, even. If he remains in his body for another year I will be very surprised.
As he has for thirteen years, Jake is teaching me great life lessons. I'm seeing that when a creature gets really old, it's actually OK for them to die. I didn't know that since every animal I've ever had has died before its time. My parents died young, my sister died young. I don't have a lot of experience feeling love for really old beings.
Jake is ancient. In dog years he's more than 100 and he's showing it. Bumpy, saggy, scrawny, he spends almost all of his days sleeping. We no longer take our big walks all over Capitol Hill. After a few blocks, he's ready to turn around and go back to his chair (where he sleeps). Some days he has such bad tremors in his leg that he can't quite lift it when he pees. Other days he's confused; I take him out, but five minutes later he thinks he needs to go out again. His hackles come up, then flatten within two seconds. His digestion isn't that great, he has arthritis in his shoulder and hips, his breath is so bad I can hardly believe it.
Truth is, Jake and I are not as close as we once were. Both of us, in our own ways, are preparing for the end of his long life. We love each other, but it's different than it was when he was fierce and going full blast. He doesn't have a lot of energy to focus on me anymore. He loves me, but ... he's starting to check out. It's as it should be. What a great thing to learn!
Some days I think about how I'm going to buy a nice quilt after he's gone, something that won't be torn up when he jumps up there, or how I'll be able to travel without worrying about his care. Other days I am so sad I can barely keep back my tears. It's a trying time, but this last little bit of his life is rich with learning and feeling.
My roommate says it perfectly: what could be better for a rescue dog than to die of old age? Well said, isn't it? Every day until that day I am giving my ancient dog Jake serious love, giving serious thanks to him for all he has taught me. What else can I do? Nothing lives forever, not even my awesome dog. It's OK, it's really OK. Oh yeah.