Auguste is old. He has survived cancer (twice), two operations, being lost & found (twice), and getting a terrible infection that sent him into a coma and nearly sent him over the “rainbow bridge” just a few months ago. He’s getting increasingly senile; the other night he sat up suddenly and started barking at the chair. He couldn’t be comforted, so I put a big fuzzy scarf in his bed, and now he sleeps with that, curled up around it like it’s his teddy bear. Now he looks for the fuzzy scarf when he goes to bed, so I have to leave it there. He is also increasingly deaf, blind, and for some reason, has started to lick everything. He goes around all day licking the floor, walking from the kitchen to the living room to the hallway; lick, lick, lick. I wonder if it’s a sort of tic he’s developed to deal with some inner stress. Getting old is never easy. Getting old is scary. Getting old is winding down, the ticks getting further apart, slower and slower, while everything around you gets blurry and sound is muffled.
Of course, the alternative to getting old is even more tragic, so let’s raise a glass to getting old. It’s a privilege afforded to some, not all, and should be appreciated. Even as the bones ache and the joints creak the mind dances on, lithe and darting here and there, sometimes wandering in the past, sometimes wondering about the future. What will it be like without Auguste? That one is easy – the bowls will be empty, like his little bed. In the morning, there will be silence and the faraway sound of the train, but we won’t hear him walking about, his nails clicking on the floor, as he gets up, stretches, and comes to our door to whine for his breakfast. We won’t have him underfoot as we cook, tripping over him as I try to carry a tray from kitchen to dining room table. He won’t lick the floor. He won’t bark for a treat. There will be an empty space that will be filled, slowly, with memories. Because that is what happens. There is a loss, and the loss leaves a space according to its importance in your life, and that space is like a hole in your heart that heals bit by bit as it’s filled will memories.
It’s easy to talk about a dog’s demise – I’ve had many dogs and they have all gone over the “rainbow bridge” except one, Auguste, who is sleeping by my side, curled up in his bed, cuddled next to the fuzzy scarf and the radiator. It’s sunny today, so when he wakes up we’ll go for a short walk. Yesterday we walked in the rain and I was worried he’d be cold but it seemed to invigorate him – he trotted and skipped along, pulling on his leash like he used to as a puppy. He’s winding down, but he’s still ticking (and licking). I love him, even as he gets underfoot & exasperates me, he’s funny, he’s a good dog.
I suppose this isn’t the most cheerful post, but it’s the end of the year. Things are winding down, and I’m already looking forward to spring. I want to skip over winter with its endless gray skies and freezing rain, but at the same time, I want time to slow down, so Auguste can have some more of it. I’ll try to be more cheerful, because there is a lot to be happy about, so let’s end this post on a Pollyanna note! My new job is rewarding and interesting and the doctors I work for are both excellent. My family is doing well, and even if the Covid restrictions mean we can’s see each other thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I can ‘see’ them, chat with them, and keep in close touch. I’m looking forward to Christmas and the New Year; hopefully it will bring a vaccine, an end to the Covid restrictions, and a new way of looking at the economy and the healthcare system. Some things deserve to wind down, so let’s toast to the end of Trumpism and tax havens. In fact, let’s toast to taxing the filthy rich, finding a way to insure a world-wide basic income for everyone, doing away with pollution, improving the food chain, and working on making racism and religious intolerance a thing of the past. Vive winding down! Sometimes change can be a good thing.