The Dog had lovely manners when we got him: Someone had taken the time to train him, and teach him some rules. No Begging At The Table was one of them, and that ended quickly enough at our house. I put a deliberate stop to No Dogs On The Furniture – what is the point of having furniture if you can’t snuggle on it with your friends? – and invited The Dog to join me on the sofa. He hesitated, clearly conflicted, but then I started catching him sleeping on the sofa when I came in the room, and sometimes on my bed, too.
Time passed, and he stopped, contenting himself with sleeping on the floor next to me in my office, during the day, and after The Departed left, on the floor in my bedroom at night. It was a good arrangement for both of us, until he started falling when he wanted to go downstairs. Eventually, he simply paced at the top of the stairs until I took the hint and carried him down.
Sometimes he’d forget, and go crashing down the stairs, or fight me as I tried to carry him, and I thought we’d both go down the stairs, and then I realized, that, too, would have to stop. I only had to block the stairs off for about a week, and he never came upstairs again – sleeping alone in the family room, during the day, and also at night. We visited when I came down in the morning, and usually had to clean up an accident and pat him on the head and say, it’s okay, Buddy, it’s not your fault.
We still took our walks together, when we could, but sometimes I was too busy, and sometimes it was just too hard for him. His hearing was almost gone, and I started to realize that his eyes were, too: He would try to climb the front porch several steps before we reached it. He knew it was there, that it was coming, or maybe could see it and just wasn’t sure how far away it was. I moved slowly and guided him gently and lavished him with praise he couldn’t hear, each time.
He never complained, and you’d have to have known him in the days when he excitedly wiggled at the sight of his leash to realize he was simply getting through the day, these days.
I start to walk him midday, when there’s more light, and it helps a little, until the day he doesn’t want to go at all. I manage to persuade him, but once outside, he’s not walking in a straight line. His head cocks slightly to the side and he either veers off slightly or leans against me. We walk slowly, and I let him lean as much as he wants. Back inside, I watch him circle and stumble and finally lies down, ears perked, head cocked to one side, trying to make sense of the world as it sways and spins around him.
He is having another stroke, and I am powerless to stop it, or to ease the suffering that he will not complain about.
Every story has the same ending. We are never ready for it, but still we have no choice but to say goodbye.