On a lovely evening sitting around the firepit with dear friends we found ourselves confronting some sobering truths about the future.
We met when we were one-child families and have stayed friends as each of our families have grown to include a second child and, inevitably, a dog. In my friends’ cases, make that two dogs.
Although I opted to adopt a 2 ½ year old rescue and not an adorable, rambunctious puppy like they did, our four-footed companions are roughly the same age. (The thought of a puppy raised the specter of nights of interrupted sleep from when our kids were babies. I most emphatically do not function well on limited sleep.)
Our dogs are now elder-statesman, and as we watched our host’s dog move creakily between our chairs in search of pats, we fell into comparing stories and tips about ailments. The creaky joints, the limp, the tightness after sitting or lying down for a while, navigating steps and what to do when that’s no longer possible, the myriad trips to the vet. We were confronting mortality through the filter of our dogs’ shorter lifespans.
In truth, the fundamental questions and issues seem the same whether canine or human, How to balance treatment and quality of life. How to manage the tears and the worries.
One friend shared that her neighbor’s dog had recently died. A sobering thought and one we tried to wrap our minds around.
Pettigrew is still able to negotiate the steps; although the whole family holds its breathe when he trundles back downstairs, listening for a slip or a thud, ready to spring into action if there’s a tumble.
Pettigrew, my guide for living in the moment, seems oblivious to our concerns. In fact, he’s taken to coming upstairs more frequently, pushing open our bedroom door (in this old house the latches don’t catch), and settling on the plush towel we keep on top of the carpet for his comfort.
He lures me to his side and we pass a mutually rewarding three-quarters of an hour on the floor, he pushing his body against my leg while I stroke his head and side. A willing receptacle for my love. No matter how deeply asleep, if I pause, his ears prick and his eyes roll towards me with a question, Why are you stopping?
And so, we resume, savoring those moments and storing memories of our loving companionship.
This is what you’ll remember of me when I’m gone, I hear him telling me.