Friday, March 8, 2013
On Aging Dogs
Turbo has been in our lives for the past 5 years and 3 months. On the first day that we brought him home to San Francisco, we took him to Fort Mason to run around and play. The spry little 1.5 year old took this as license to take off running and ignore any of our pleas to return. We had to run breathlessly to catch up with him in fear we'd lose him to the horizon. And that set the tone for our life with Turbo. These days, he's doing less running but just as much ignoring of anything we request as he ever did.
I've recently noticed that my active boy is cruising right through middle age and into senior territory. I can trace the graying hair around his eyes with my thumb. A long walk will wipe him out for the rest of the day and a trip to the beach puts him in a three-day coma. His arthritic joints are really suffering; he licks at his shoulders and elbow joints incessantly, no matter how much glucose and rest we force upon him. I've noticed that when it gets dark, he gets jumpy at the lights from passing cars, just one more thing to add to his list of fears and anxieties (joining the ranks of German Shepherds, Huskies, flies, bees, skateboards, floating fuzz balls, loud noises, vacuums and us leaving and never, ever returning again in the five minutes we left him alone).
My friend recently lost her sweet dog after a long and happy life. It has caused me to reflect on the longevity of my own furry friend. He is endlessly frustrating and has been a challenging dog, to put it nicely. But I love this guy to the ends of the earth. He has come so far since we found him. What was once an aggressive, fear-anxiety driven dog with separation anxiety issues has become...well, a lesser degree of all of that. The aggression is gone, replaced with heavy sighs while he lays his 70 lbs. across our laps. He has become a wiggly, giddy, food-obsessed dog that just wants to be a part of the family.
I had huge anxieties around the transition that would come with Keagan's birth, and with minor hiccups along the way, the two of them have become buddies. Turbo follows Keagan from room to room when it is playtime and I've even sneaked up on the two of them cuddling on the couch. This warms my heart to know that Turbo has found his place in the family and Keagan has the experience of a first dog with who he loves to share his toys. "Turbo, look! Buzz Lightyear!"
The idea of Turbo not being around has started to fill my mind, not because he is unhealthy or showing signs of demise. Its the little details, the aching joints, the graying eyelashes, that make me pause and absorb the fact that I need to enjoy every minute of this guy while he is here. It is a raw gut punch to think of the days where he will simply fill the pictures on our wall and not the empty space in my lap. For now, I choose to think about the fact that there is a doggy life vest at our in-laws pool just waiting to be worn this weekend and how I can't wait to see the slobbery grin that accompanies.