I tend to think of them as Velveteen Rabbits — they might be old, slow, and lumpy with half their fur loved off, but they just grow more beautiful every day in the eyes of those who live with them and love them. Of course, old dogs have been "real" all along, but their slow march toward mortality lends them a more spiritual quality somehow. It seems as though they're closer to being at one with the Universe.
All three of my boys are seniors now. Charlie turned 14 on May 17. Badger's 9th birthday occurred on January 8. Famous Seamus celebrates his 9th birthday on November 2. It hardly seems possible that so much time has flown by. Only Dinah (who turns 6 this coming November) is still on the early side of her prime, and even then, The Princess isn't a baby any more. Maybe we have to start calling her The Queen instead.
It wasn't so long ago (or was it?) that I referred to Charlie as "the puppy." All through Duncan's and Doogie's long lives, he remained the baby of the family. When Doogie, the last of the "old guard," shuffled over the Rainbow Bridge at age almost-16, Charlie was still only 6 years old. He had established himself as Lord of the Realm many years before, and he ruled over all of the newcomers with a benevolent, but firm, paw. Little puppies gravitated to him, and he graciously instructed each one in the fine art of excavation. Many of my friends' yards sport (or sported) holes resulting from Charlie's famous tutorials on Dirt Appreciation.
The only thing Charlie likes better than dirt is water. At our old Beardie Bounces in NH, our hostess would make especially sure to have a kiddie pool filled with water for Charlie, no matter what the weather forecast.
These days, Charlie just grows more beautiful with time. His shaggy brown coat is thinner now, and he has lost a significant portion of the muscle mass that he had when he was younger. His hearing has taken on that selective quality that prevents him from hearing you calling him, but he can still pick up the sound of a sandwich being unwrapped from half a mile away. As old dogs do, he spends a lot of time seeking comfort, nudging for head rubs and samples of lunch. He does appear to spend some more time sleeping, but he still prefers to be outdoors, barking at the wild turkeys to get off his lawn and working on his latest tunnel.
Charlie's breeder still hears from some of his siblings' owners, but many of us have fallen out of touch with one another over the years. We do know that sister Bennet-J went off to the Bridge a couple of years ago, and that brother Tristan joined her in November. Brother Benny in California is still going strong, and so is sister Lucie in Nebraska. We don't know about the other three, but we hope that they're all still around and still running their respective households.
This week, Charlie suffered a bout of Old Dog Vestibular Disease (details on my Shaggy Dog Stories blog). He improves just a little every day; his nystagmus (twitching eyeballs) is essentially gone, his head tilt seems better, he can get up and down stairs, and he's getting stronger. He is starting to eat dog food again -- still mostly canned, but with some kibbles added in. Earlier in the week, the only thing he'd eat was canned Vienna sausages. He still sleeps a lot -- mostly in front of the bedroom box fan -- but he was a world class napper before the ODVD.
So many members of the Class of '97 (and earlier) have gone across the Bridge of late that it's about all I can do not to crush his creaky old bones to my chest and beg him never to go. I'm almost afraid that I'll leave someone off the list. Daisy went, and then Charlie's best brown buddy George, and Jubie, and Ghost... too many. Too sad.
|Charlie, George, and Duncan the Wonder Dog with me, all those years ago|