My shelter dog is getting older. She turned 9 this summer and has slowed down considerably. She still falls asleep with her ball in her mouth and wants to play 24/7 but between throws she takes breaks.
She finds the cool shade under the maple tree and watches for her squirrel friend to shake its tail and chatter at her. When it does, the ball is forgotten. Sometimes for hours.
They’ve been friends for years, she and her squirrel. Either it’s the same one or generations of them are teaching their young about the friend at the house on the end of the block. The big red furry friend who will watch and play and chase but never harm.
She’s a gentle soul, my sweet girl. She knew I had cancer before I did. She’d stretch out next to me and gently place her head on my stomach or side for months before the pain began. It was constant enough that I begin to notice the pattern that hadn’t existed before. Her eyes looking up at me as if to say “can’t you see what I’m trying to tell you?”
When I came home from the hospital, she was still there beside me but on the floor by the couch with her head on the cushion. She was extra gentle with me because she knew that I’d finally listened to her but still wasn’t well. She knew that now I needed comfort instead of warnings. She didn’t jump on me when I came home but instead, pressed gently against my leg as if to say welcome home.
We were friends from the second I saw her at the shelter. From the moment she stood up by the fence and placed her paw on my arm and her head in my hands. Her eyes asked me to come in and play, then asked to go home.
Though she loves the rest of the family, she’s mine. SG calls her a “momma’s baby” and it’s true.
When the toaster cord falls after I unplug it and it scares her, she runs to me for reassurance.
When SG gets up in the morning, she takes his place next to me. Curled up against me for warmth and comfort. And memory foam. She’s fooling no one, memory foam may be the one thing she loves more than she loves me.
On the mornings after she’s played too hard, SG will lift her in next to me because that’s where she belongs.
I look in those big beautiful brown eyes and I wonder how much time we have left together. When a fatty cyst developed on her side last fall, I put my hand over it and cried because I didn’t yet know what it was. I still watch it for growth and will make sure she’s ok because that’s what she did for me.
She’s picked up a few bad puppy habits the last year like poking me in the leg with her nose when she wants something. She doesn’t quite know how strong she is. I’ve felt bad for her when she see the little one on our laps and wants to be a lap dog too. She and I don’t quite fit in the recliner the way her tiny sister and I do but she’s tried. And I let her.
No matter how cute the little one is, and how much I love her, it’s my big girl that’s somehow connected even stronger to me.
As I type, her big soft head is on my leg and I pray that we both stick around for a very long time.