Scrolling through my drafts, I found this piece from over a year ago that never got published. I’m not sure why. But for some reason reading it today gave me great comfort. My now dearly departed Zoey lived six months past the writing of this, surprising us all with determination to live on and love well past her expiration date.
The New Year is always a time of taking stock, regrouping, making plans. This year is more poignant than most. We have numerous life transitions going on, but the most important may be that our 16 year old dog is phasing out. She came to us as a 13 yr old whom we thought we’d have a couple of months, at best. Almost three years later, she is our shadow, our hipbone, our much loved and constant companion. And now she is dying.
We first realized how her ailments were outpacing her in early November. We didn’t expect to have her for Thanksgiving. Her appetite waned (usually the kiss of death for a lab!). She slept longer and deeper. We were preparing ourselves.
I thought we’d be burying Zoey at Christmas, then again after she got to see her favorite people, then New Year’s. She eats sporadically. I’d do anything to help her, but she confuses me. She is skinny as sin, refuses to take any of her medications, but she is the first dog to meet me at the door with wagging tail, loves to go for her walk (aka put-put), can’t wait for a car ride, dozes peacefully touching one of us—tucked on top of my foot, curled into the the crux of Dave’s arm. We swaddle her in love and sweaters. Gauging her happiness and comfort is a minute by minute task. We wish she could talk to us.
Our life is moving in big, bold new directions. It saddens us that Zoey won’t be on that journey with us. But what she has brought to our lives, and (we hope) we have brought to hers, is an immeasurable gift. In the meantime, we are gathering the strength to help Zoey with the best path for her final days, stunned with the knowledge that her only goal seems to be to let us know how much she loves us.
It’s a bitter day out there. The wind is whipping. The sun is even intermittently hiding. My dogs steadfastly refuse to go outside and are equally unanimous in that the beautiful color coordinated tartan fleece jackets I got them make them all look like dorks. Stogie seems to lose his ability to move in his and starts to moan. Shmoo hides and hangs her head in shame. The girls are blind, so don’t experience quite the same level of mortification, but the point is made. I’m supposed to be hooking and writing out a new knitting pattern, but I’d rather be baking, and I really want to see high tide. I forced us all out of our comfort zones — they into their plaid, me into my oompa-loompa coat that I can’t move my arms in, and marched us into the cold.