When you are old and grey and full of sleep, And nodding by the fire, take down this book And slowly read and dream of the soft look Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.
– W.B. Yeats (1893)
Shadow is ever so slowly diminishing. Now that he has passed the 13 year milestone, who can predict how much longer we’ll have him with us? He seems to feel fine; sometimes he’s even a little frisky… but mostly he sleeps all day now, and drinks an awful lot of water all the time. It could be the heat, but I’m wondering if his kidneys are beginning to fail him. Sometimes he seems confused; I know he can’t hear very well, and will startle awake if one of us happens upon him.
Can he see ok? I think he’s getting cataracts, and it makes me wonder if he’s unsure of getting around. I know he can’t see very well when he goes from a lighted room into a darkened one. When that happens, I usually help him out, like any good “seeing eye person” would.
Then one recent morning, he didn’t eat all of his breakfast. The next day, he ate less and then finally on the following day, he turned his nose up at it completely. This is totally unlike him… the dog who lives to eat! My solution was to pick his bowl up and let it sit awhile, then at lunch, drizzle some water from the tuna can over the leftovers (a favorite “treat”… tuna flavored water!). He’d usually finish it off after that.
But not today. He wouldn’t even eat one bite of the tuna enhanced concoction. This really concerned me, so while I was at the grocery store later, I took a look at the dog food options and purchased some different packets of moist food to try to entice him to eat.
At home, I opened one, put it in his bowl and stirred it up with a spoon. He was lying there regally, watching me the whole time. I brought his bowl to him, sat on the floor and then spoon fed him this new stuff. Praise be, he ate it! I was so relieved, I thought to myself, “If this is what it takes to get this precious dog to eat from now on, I’ll be glad to do it!”
Shadow is so wily and smart that I think he is probably working the system to his favor and will happily eat whatever I hand feed him. As you might predict, Bailey was apoplectic with envy, because of course, he doesn’t realize that Shadow didn’t eat any of his breakfast, and thought he was getting a special treat.
It’s hard to have multiple dogs and treat them equally; while some people may roll their eyes at such a concept, those who have more than one dog know what I’m talking about. When we had that little foundling puppy with us for a few days (see Puppy Love, June 12), it was REALLY hard. Three dogs, two hands. It doesn’t work very well.
Come to think of it, I now wonder if Shadow’s recent decision to refuse his usual food has to do with the fact that I fed that puppy a different brand that was more tempting to him? Perhaps a light bulb went off in his brilliant brain… “hey! There’s better grub out there than what I’m getting, so I think I’ll hold out for it!” I wouldn’t put it past him…
The next few years will be hard on us as Shadow gets progressively more needy of care. My goal is to keep him as comfortable as I can and love him through whatever may come. Hard decisions will eventually have to be made, I know, and I am dreading them.
But in the meantime, I shall shower him with all the love such a “perfect dog” deserves. If there ever were a more perfect dog than he (beautiful, affectionate, patient, calm, obedient, quiet, sweet, smart!!!, and capable of soothing both aggressive dogs and frightened children into becoming his friends), I’d like to know of him.
Shadow sets the bar pretty high! Bailey is a terrific dog, but has a totally different personality. Funny how that works within the same breed, but in this case, it’s true. As hard as the coming years will be for me, they will be equally hard for Bailey, who thinks Shadow hung the moon. I guess we’ll just travel this journey together and cross the bridges as we encounter them. In the meantime, I will spoil our elder dog in every way I can, to make sure he knows he is well loved.