You’re twelve and a half. In dog year’s, you’re ancient. Plus, you’re a mastiff…which means you’re really ancient.
I call you “Old Man” because I remind myself not to try and get you to chase me around the house anymore. Remember how we used to play tag and hide-and-seek? I found that hiding in the utility room was the best place to hide. Either that or the kids’ bathroom at the top of the stairs. The only problem was that giggling led you right to me. I used to peep out through the crack between the door and the wall; you were so adorable with how you stood in the center of the kitchen, your head kipped to the side as you stared at the door and listened to me gasping and giggling at the same time. You could hear me. You could smell me. But all you saw was the door.
I miss taking you to Curran Mountain. You would be let off your leash and you traipsed up and down the mountain, following heavenly scents that, thankfully, did not lead you to skunks or poop piles. The kids and I learned that you loved cherry Pop-tarts because they made you hyper and you would sprint from the Girl’s Castle Rock to the Boy’s Castle Rock and then tear around in mad circles until you finally flopped down in front of the fire or, better yet, on my sleeping bag and slept.
Nowadays, you like to walk about a quarter mile. Our long, six-mile walks are done. The last time I took you on a long hike, you shoved yourself off the path and into the long grass where you collapsed and I was worried I was going to have to carry you, a 75 pound dog, another mile and a half to the car. I would have done it, too.
You love sunlight. You love lying on the sun-warmed front porch, under my porch swing, and sleeping. Every now and then, you still like to bolt outside to chase the cat away from her food. Sometimes, you like to bark when the neighborhood kids are playing. Most times, though, you are drunk from sun rays and warm afternoons.
I miss you trying to sleep on the bed next to me. I miss your big presence when my husband is away on camping trips. You would take up the entire foot of the bed and I would sleep across the head, curled up in a nest of pillows.
I miss you trying to bolt through the Invisible Line so you can sneak into my car’s back seat and we could run away on an adventure.
Yesterday, the vet and I had a long talk while you dozed on the floor, content with freeze-dried chicken snacks and long ear rubs. I have been waiting for this talk, this moment when a professional finally sits me down and explains that you’re old.
I know you’re old. I’ve known you’re old.
But hearing the vet talk about how old you are, how he hasn’t seen many twelve and a half year-old mastiffs who are still alive and healthy and spry….well….it made me pause.
We’re coming to the end, baby. You are still my baby. In spite of the fact that we have a newish dog who is much younger than you. In spite of the fact that my daughter is technically my baby….you are my baby. My old man. My dog.
Loki, I promise to you that I will do everything in my power to give you the quality of life you deserve. I will make sure you have full food and water bowls. I’ll curl up next to you as often as I can and rub you behind the ears. I’ll rub your hips and the base of your spine on the cold nights when everything is just a little achy.
The vet told me to take lots of pictures. His last words of advice were to take lots of pictures. I have been. And I will take and develop more because you are so much a part of my life.
When the day arrives when you no longer bounce on the first step so you can greet me and wash my face, I’ll take you on one more drive, one more long adventure. I will give you your dignity, let you find your way into death with a quiet peace. I’ll sit next to you and just hold you. And then, I’ll take your ashes to Curran Mountain. I’ll take you on one more long hike. Give you to the Earth. Leave you a Pop-tart and encapsulate you in my dreams.
I love you, buddy.