Several years ago, I noticed that Loki (my dog) was wearing a path from the front porch to the back yard. We had just taken down the dog pen we had constructed for him so that he could have more space and had about twenty or so pavers in the former pen for sanitation purposes. So, what do I do when I have a dog wearing a path in the grass? Lay down the pavers to save on the wear and tear on the grass.
And every year, the path is re-worn and the pavers are obvious to everyone except the dog who carelessly continues to make his path to the back yard or along my neighbor’s driveway so he woof at the cats who know the boundaries of the Invisible Fence line that Loki will not breach because he doesn’t want to be shocked. Smart dog! Evil cats!! I have to admit, I have squirted my kids squirt guns once or twice at the cats…sort of intentionally. I didn’t hurt them. I just wanted them to stop tormenting my dog.
Last fall, my husband wanted to do some work on the porch including replace and widen the stairs. He ripped out one of my azalea bushes (I’m not about to write about this….it will only sound a bit bitter) and moved a 250 pound statue of Merlin/Gandalf that he had bought me for Christmas over ten years ago. The steps were widened (and replaced). The azalea bush died. The statue stood in its new wacky-corner of the yard where it didn’t belong.
And the pavers were slowly swallowed by the grass. Because my dog stopped running back and forth along the neighbor’s drive.
The cats are still there. Maybe they, like Loki, are getting old and the idea of tormenting the dog is no longer as interesting. Maybe the squirt guns that I used scared away the cats….which I seriously doubt.
What I can say (write) with certainty is that Loki is getting old. He is a mixed breed and both breeds have a life expectancy of 10-12 years. And he’s 10. And today, as I used my sod knife to break up the grass and then peel up the stones, I realized that all the denial I have been experiencing recently is starting to become more and more pointless and futile.
My dog is going to die. And it’s destroying me.
I don’t love my dog more than my children. But it’s reasonable, at this point, to expect my children to out-live me. I will out-live my dog. I am 43. He is 10. But he is a large breed dog and, from what I have read, they age faster than the traditional 7 years per one human year. Loki is coming closer and closer to the end of his life.
And it’s destroying me.
I’ve written about Loki before. I love my baby, and he is my baby because his cognitive-processing ability is maybe akin to a three year old. He has learned basic manners; he knows where is supposed to go when it’s time to evacuate.
The Boy and the Girl are growing up, which I celebrate. But it’s nice just to have something that is still a bit of a baby, something that loves to cuddle and be loved on the most basic level. Loki doesn’t come to me with conditions. He wants me to rub him along the eye ridges, behind his ears. He loves having his hips rubbed and massaged. Because he is obviously becoming more and more arthritic as each year elapses. He doesn’t have tree rings to commemorate the movement of each year. His bones deteriorate; his muscles weaken. He slows and spends more time sleeping or lying in the sunlight, as though he is absorbing and storing the heat of the day against when he will get cold later in the evening when the sun has set and the floors start to chill.
Last night, Loki played for a few minutes; he leapt from bed to bed and play-bowed in the hallway, his nub of a tail wobbling since he really can’t wag the tail that doesn’t really exist. Today, he walked around the yard holding his cloth, squeaky ball in his mouth. He loves to play fetch with tennis balls. The cloth ball is buried in my garden, likely in hope that it would yield more toys.
The Boy just invited Loki to get up on the couch with him (the Boy). And Loke stood up and stumbled his way onto the couch…another sign that he is getting old. He falls at least once every couple of days. His balance is starting to go out more and more.
And it’s destroying me.
At what point do I let go of my dog and allow him to die in peace? Because I have every intention of having him be put to sleep as opposed to selfishly protracting his life to hold back the inevitable heartbreak that will accompany Loki’s death (note….I am tearing up as I am writing this….my throat is closing up with tears that I can’t shed because the Boy is in the room with me and is noticing that I’m getting more and more upset). Years ago, Loki had a small tumor on his foot that was removed. The doctor said it might have been cancerous. I didn’t pay for the biopsy. I can’t afford doggy-chemo and I have learned that the cancer that is inherent in Loki’s breeds is generally not affected by chemo.
I’ve noticed that Loki is developing new little lumps and spots, growths. Right now, the Boy is checking to see if the dog has a tick on Loki’s ear but is uncertain if it is a tick. This is how I found the first lump on his foot. I thought it was a tick. It was a tumor or a cyst or a polyp or a black wart that kept on growing and growing.
Mortality is something I have accepted. I know that, inevitably, I will die. As will all of the people whom I love. My parents are close to 70 and will, likely, pre-decease me which is also very distressing. But I accept that this will happen because, to do so, will only cause much more pain and agony than pretending that they are invincible and immortal.
I accept that my dog will die…sooner than what I want. I want him around for another fifty years, not…fifty weeks? More? Less? I want more. But I’m also watching my beloved “baby” steadily disintegrate with gravity and age.
And it’s destroying me.