I’ve been waiting and preparing myself for what I know is coming with The Dog. He recovered more than I expected from his stroke last year, but he’s still very slow. I miss our long morning walks, I miss his excited wiggling when I walk in the door. I miss my happy boy.
He struggles up the stairs, more and more. He wants to be with me, so he won’t just stay downstairs, but often he only makes it about halfway up, and then I hear him, sliding back down. When I hear it in time, I rush out and help him with a little extra support from behind – just enough to make it to the top. Other times I just carry him up. He’s grateful either way.
Grateful isn’t quite the same as happy, though.
He starts having accidents in the house. The Child and I try to be more attentive about letting him out more often, but sometimes even that doesn’t help.
I can see it bothers him. He knows what he’s supposed to do, and seems a bit confused when it happens.
I mention this idly to the Vet when I take one of the cats in for a checkup.
We haven’t seen him since just after his stroke, she says. Maybe you should bring him in?
I think his heart is going; he has a funny cough that only happens when he’s lying down, and according to the internet, it’s a sign of congestive heart failure.
No, I say. There’s not really much to be done. Old age comes to us all.
That’s true, she says. But maybe we can make it a little easier for him?
I bring him in a few days later. It is as I feared: they want to run all sorts of tests, hundreds of dollars I don’t have. They want to check his blood and do an x-ray to check his heart. I panic a bit, and hesitate.
The Vet sees my worry. Maybe, she says, we can do it this way. Let’s do the blood work on him and see if anything pops up. She’s worried about his heart – the internet is correct about this thing, at least – but rather than do those tests, she says, I should just wait until he falls asleep and then time his breathing.
That night, I have lineage society ladies over for a meeting. The Dog walks into the middle of the room and pees on the carpet as they watch.
The Vet calls the next day. His blood tests are fine – absolutely nothing strange on them. I tell her about the timed breathing test and she says, Well, that’s really excellent. That’s … well, that’s just really, really good.
He is still peeing on the carpet, I say.
She tells me it probably hurts too much for him to move, so he doesn’t get up when he should and then it’s too late. Since we know he can tolerate it, she wants to get him on some medication. This will help a lot with the arthritis, she says.
They’re big horse pills, but The Dog eats them happily enough when I put them on a cracker with peanut butter.
I don’t give it a lot of thought. I guess it can’t hurt him, I think.
The next evening, I go to the butcher to buy a leg of lamb for a pre-Easter dinner, and I pick up a meaty bone for The Dog, who is very pleased to get it. He spends the evening lying next to the fireplace, gnawing contentedly.
The evening after that, The Child and I come home a bit late, loaded up with groceries. We hear The Dog barking as the garage door opens.
When we get into the house, he is bouncing around. He cannot contain his excitement. He races around the kitchen island, back and forth across the living room, then rushes up and looks at me gleefully.
He doesn’t have a tail, so he has nothing to wag; my dog wiggles where other dogs wag.
He wiggles, and he doesn’t stop. He waits eagerly for me to take him for a walk, and so great is his excitement that I forget about the possibility that frozen peas will melt in the grocery bag and ruin the crackers they are surely packed next to. He wants to walk, he wants to romp, and I want to take him.
His pace is brisk for a few minutes, and then he slows down, but his enthusiasm is undimmed.
Things are never what I think they are, and though this usually causes me no end of difficulties, this time, I am pleased.