Our family dog, a black lab mixed with some retriever blood, is my age in dog years. Elegantly put, we are both middle-aged females.
Unlike me, my dog has grown grey and even white hair on several spots of her fur over the last two years.
Unlike her, I don’t jump above the deck railing as I used to do, only two years ago.
Like me, my dog enjoys more quiet time lying in the sun than she did when we met her, eight years ago.
Like her, I suffered an injury that kept me away from my regular physical activities for months.
Unlike me, my dog didn’t complain, didn’t grow impatient and didn’t vent her frustration to the rest of the family.
Unlike me, my dog is still observing the hawks hovering above our terrace as she has done it every day since she entered our lives, in the hope to catch one.
Unlike me, my dog knows all of my neighbors, every UPS and utility company driver that she greets with the exact same enthusiasm and excitement each time she sees them. My dog has not grown blasé.
Unlike me, my dog smells her food every morning and night as if to pretend it hasn’t been Beneful kibbles, day after day, for eight years. She acts like a gourmet until she gulps it in seconds as if it was the most irresistible food on earth.
Unlike me my dog doesn’t like neither needs fresh sheets. Au contraire, she favors the smelly towels that cover the floor of her doghouse to any clean bed.
When I think of what happened to my dog through the last eight years, I realize that she has gone though more traumatic experiences that I have.
She got bitten by a rattlesnake and made it. She lived through a car accident, although she lost her tail. She took a long walk one night and only returned a week later. She developed a mass on her side that has been removed a few days ago. Yet, after each anesthesia, my dog bounced back to life, not munching on saltines but taking her medicine with diligence. My dog is a survivor.
My dog exemplifies a lot of things I’m not good at: patience, resilience, gratitude, appreciation of the routine, eagerness for the moment and forgiveness.
I doubt she thinks of me possessing qualities she wished she could have.
And there is definitely a quality I know for sure I won’t ever possess is the ability to face death with the oblivion my dog is capable of.
On Friday, her vet called to inform me that the mass he removed earlier that week is a bad tumor. My dog is diagnosed with stage III cancer.
She greeted us with the same anticipation after the news. Although she cannot wiggle her tail anymore, she is coded to do so to welcome humans, and she has learned to move her body a certain way to compensate.
Her days are counted, but since her appreciation of time is not freaking scary like it is for us, my dog still waits for her food, for her walks and our attention as if they were new and terribly exciting.
She has already slowed down her fast pace when we take her on one of her daily walks but instead of complaining about it, is adjusting, something I’ve never been able to do.
She is panting as she climbs our steep driveway and we know her lungs can be already suffering; yet she pulls on the leash as if to tell us not to worry.
I grew up in the country and we had cats, bunnies, a goat and even an ewe and her lambs. But I was afraid of dogs and besides; my mom found them too much work.
But what do you do when you find a black lab/retriever puppy at your door on a late rainy spring afternoon and your kids beg for you to keep her?
You adopt the dog without realizing, until the dog’s life is ending, that she has in fact adopted you.