Watching a dog age gives us a sped-up version of watching people age – although dogs seem to accomplish it with far more grace.
My Pyr is now 11 years old. Her arthritis slows her down, she seems to have less sense of where her back feet are, her hair is thinning even as we carom toward winter. I have, at times, worried about her hearing and vision, yet she can spot a sparrow at 300 yards and hear a bus a half-mile away. I should probably take it personally when she ignores me, but I won’t.
She has been with me ten and a half of her 11 years. Found as a stray in a neighboring town, transferred when that town ran out of space. The local shelter know I was looking for another big dog and called me. I shouldn’t even have been home, but I was. The other families interested in her should have jumped at the opportunity, but they didn’t.
So she joined me and Sophia and watched over us both, disciplining new dogs as they arrived, teaching the fosters to be strong, the home dogs to be patient and true. She has long kept my property safe from all manner of trucks, busses, birds and planes. She warns away coyotes in the middle of the night, but she also knows that she is off duty the moment she enters her crate. She can relax and let someone else worry about keeping us all safe.
I hope she will be with me years more, but I don’t know whether that’s realistic. At very least, I want her to enjoy at least one more snow, bouncing like a puppy in the magical froth on the land. Snowfall has always filled her with joy and wonder. The other dogs may play in the snow, she becomes one with the snow. Almost literally. There have been times I have discovered a half-inch of ice and sleet buried in her undercoat, beneath the guard hair. She thought it was great until it started melting.
Whatever time I have left with her is a gift. I cherish our time together, worrying that she has come to need me more this past year after a decade of being fiercely independent, but grateful that she is with me each day. I know I can’t keep her forever, so I will make the most of the time that we have.
And I refuse to grieve too soon. There will be plenty of time for that later.
Today there are trucks that she must tell to keep moving on by, nothing for them here, just move along.
Each day is a treasure. My dogs know that, they have done a pretty good job of teaching me, too.