Doogie's like an old car that's been driven hundreds of thousands of miles. Parts of him may fail along the way, but the old guy just keeps on going. His hearing has turned selective, and his night vision is no longer very good. He often needs help getting to his feet, and he doesn't always make it outside when he needs to go. All the same, he's still a happy, contented, sweet old dog who always wants to be in the middle of whatever's going on.
There have been times when I catch myself watching him intently to make sure he's still breathing, and I wonder how many ticks are left in that gallant, failing old heart of his. Does he ever miss the dog he used to be? Does he ever miss getting into trouble, overturning the trashcans and making Houdini-like escapes through the backyard fence? The Doogie of yesteryear never would have missed an opportunity to put the cat through her paces. These days, she steps over him if he's lying in the path between her bed and the litterbox.
During the 3 AM lift-him-up-and-let-him-out shift, I sometimes wonder what he thinks of his quality of life. I worry that he senses that I can't bear to part with him, and so he sticks around and fights his way through another day, another week, because I want him to. I am sure that he doesn't want to leave yet, though -- I can see it in his sweet old gray face. His brother Duncan knew when it was time, and I hope Doogie will tell me honestly when the day comes (too soon) when he feels it's his turn.
When that day comes, he'll pad over the Rainbow Bridge to join Duncan and Cadence and Merlin and all the others who have gone before him. I hope that as a last act of pure Doogie defiance, that he'll knock over a couple of trashcans along the way.