Old Sasha, our yellow lab, is lying on her big pillow on the kitchen floor. She snuffles and snores when she sleeps deeply. Now that she has gotten to the great old age of 12 (80 - or something like that - in dog years), her face sags a little and her eyes droop when she wakes up. We have all of this in common now. I never used to snore or have a baggy face when I woke up. How did that happen?
When she was a pup we didn’t bother to get her AKC official papers. We never saw the reason. We didn’t care. We fell in love with her spunky spirit and her goofiness, not her breed. We got her toward the end of July and she was eight weeks old. Since we never got her papers, we never found out her exact birthday. So I just gave her mine in the end of May. Close enough.
When I turned 49 she was 7 (49 - or something like - that in dog years). I was starting to feel my age. She didn’t seem to feel that old as far as I could tell. When we went on walks she was still pulling us like crazy. We still had to be careful about leaving stuff out that she could destroy. When she was bored and we weren’t around, we would come home and find her dog bed in shreds. Every once in a while she would pull something crazy like steal a loaf of bread. Just being a dog.
The other day Heidi ran into Travis, the guy we bought her from. She asked him about how long labs live. He said most live to be about 12 or 13. She has been slowing down. It used to be that we would walk our two-and-a-half mile circuit and she would still be yanking me on the leash. Her energy was endless. At times it was annoying.
Now when we walk we have to just take her a few tenths of a mile down to the dock where Heidi and I pause, take in the view of the lake, kiss and hug and head home. Then we put her in and take the rest of our walk. Even that little bit of a walk leaves her limping the next day. But she is always game to go out. There is nothing she likes better than taking us for a walk. ‘Walk’ is one of her human words and she perks up when she hears it said. She gets up and paces and whines and pants. If she hears the word and sees us put on a jacket, she is as happy as a creature can be.
I have a lot in common with Sasha.
- We have the same birthday. Well, approximately.
- Our faces are sagging a bit. I mentioned that earlier. She looks better with a sag than I do. Whatchagonnado?
- We are both a little sore after exercise. I used to limp, but I had arthroscopic surgery on both of my knees. That’s probably not in the cards for her.
- We love to see each other at the end of the day. No matter what happened in the human-to-human world, all of that is forgotten when we see each other after work. She’s there waiting anxiously for me.
- The same is true in the mornings. I am the first one up. She is right behind me. When I roll out of bed every morning, we spend about 5 minutes loving each other up before starting the day in earnest. It’s important to both of us.
- We both like the outdoors, although both of us droop in weather over about 98 degrees.
- Neither of us run or walk as fast as we used to.
- Both of us helped raise these two little boys; we have watched them become young men. We both watched Dev go to college. We’re both glad when he comes home.
- We are both fairly fastidious. She has never peed or pooped in the house. Never. Not even when she was a pup. When she was young I put small handles on the doors of our screened porch and taught her to open them so she can come and go as she pleases. A couple of weeks ago she pushed the door open to get in. Normally she would walk up to the glass door and paw it to let us know she wants in. But the screen door was swollen from the rain so when she pushed it open it got stuck. I watched her. She looked a little uncomfortable for a moment then turned around and pushed the door from the inside to close it. Satisfied, she let me know she wanted inside the house.
- We love the very same people. She can hear the family cars far before I can. She is up and in the doorway, tail wagging, big old dog smile on her face ready to greet the fam. I’m right behind her. Colin said the other day that he spends about half an hour a day petting her up. That is time well spent.
- Our eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. While I wear glasses full time, hers are becoming a little bleary.
- We both snore a little.
- Both of our muzzles are turning white. I guess it started happening at the same time too. I was about 48 or 49. She was about 7. The same age right?
I know it is probably goofy to write about your dog. But we realized the other day when Travis said that his labs only live to be about 12 or 13 that Sasha’s days are numbered. Of course they have always been numbered, but these days left, when she is relatively healthy, are precious.
I ran across this poem recently. It seems to fit. It was written in 1925. I guess the simple things in life really don’t change.
THE BEST PLACE TO BURY A DOG
There is one best place to bury a dog. If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when you call - come to you over the grim, dim frontier of death, and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again.
And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel, they shall not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he belongs there.
People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.
The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.
--- Ben Hur Lampman ---