Saturday, September 8, 2007

My dog is getting old

My dog is getting old.

Actually, there's no "getting" about it. My sweet dog is old. Giacomino (pronounced, for the non-Italians in the group "jocko-MEEN-o") is thirteen and a half. I've been through this many times before, and though I'm better at knowing what to expect, it all still comes as a surprise.

Giacomino - Beans - started out as a for-profit-breeder's leftovers. We rescued him when he was a nine and a half week old starved puppy.

The photo was from a week after he came to us, and in that week he had gained three pounds. He was just the ugliest of ducklings. When he arrived, Bill scooped him up and carried him around, crying. Bill's soul is entirely too gentle to conjure up the cruelty involved in that tiny puppy's introduction to this world. And of course there is so much worse out there.

Giacomino was named for an immigrant who helped Bill's father in the olden days on the farm. A wizened little man, down on his luck, who cheerfully dug ditches and did odd jobs with a strength impossible from his wiry small frame. It fit the puppy perfectly.

He was supposed to stay ugly and sweet, but he missed that message. He stayed sweet, but he didn't stay ugly, and he became my most accomplished whippet, in terms of titles earned and show wins. He won Best In Field at the American Whippet Club National Specialty in San Diego, CA. (Actually the Field Trial was in Temecula.) He won a Hound Group even before he was a champion. (That means of the 3200 dogs entered in the show, he was one of the seven that made it all the way to the Best In Show competition.) He got obedience titled and was a registered Therapy Dog. And through it all he was my shadow.

I've stepped on that poor dog a thousand times, because he's always right behind me. He follows me into the bathroom, but discretely turns his head. He came to us with a forehead full of worry wrinkles, and they have appeared throughout his lifetime when I'm doing something stupid. Like going somewhere without him. When he became the oldest dog, he moved from his crate in our bedroom to our bed at night. The previous oldest dogs always jumped up onto the foot of our bed when it was time, and curled up in a little ball. Giacomino has, every night for the past two years, jumped onto my pillow, closed his eyes and feigned sleep immediately. And every night for the past two years, I've dragged his dead weight, passive-resistive self to the bottom of the bed. He sighs.

But right now, Giacomino is not in his bed a foot behind my computer chair. He is asleep downstairs in the kitchen. I snuck up to do a quick post and take my shower, and he's deaf enough that I was able to sneak. I put the baby gate across the bottom of the stairs, so that he wouldn't fall up them. I have to help him up and down, because he's got enough disc disease in his back that his legs don't always do what he tells them. Not a good thing for narrow, curving, steep steps. Or for old dogs.

Sometimes when he is up here, and I'm writing or sewing I get up to use the bathroom. When I come out, there is Giacomino peering down the steps, ears all a-kimbo, wrinkles galore, wondering where I disappeared to. Damn the deafness. I hate embarrassing him that way. He sees me come through the bathroom door, and he wags, drops his ears, and tries to be dignified in his blunder. In his world it's unthinkable to lose his Human.

He walks around the block each morning with his beloved twelve and a half year old Maria. They scan for squirrels and evil cats the enemy of all. They leap - sort of - and "woo" when the leashes come out, and wag rewards my way. They love their walk, no matter that it is one block instead of two miles. His back feet drag as we go along making a jazz riff scratch beat on the sidewalk. I sing to him, trying to keep up Bill's good work from more than twelve years ago.

My sweet dog is old. Every day is a gift.


  1. Why is it that every single night, even though they KNOW you are going to move them off your pillow, you come in to find them blissfully settled in your spot? I ask Nemo every evening "Didn't we just do this last night?" as I heave his dead weight off my pillow. :-)

  2. I never knew how Giacomino was named. Your descriptions make me think of my own sweet Jack. Hugs to Mr. Beaners.

  3. First things first, no dry eyes here. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Thank you for sharing your stories with the world. I can't wait to tell all of my friends. I can't believe you just whipped this up so fast! It looks fabulous!

  4. As if often the case, you made me tear up again!

  5. Patience,

    I enjoyed seeing Giac..? uhh,your old dogs pics. My old boy, 'Basher', is now 14 and I believe that you came to his B'day party.

    Basher's Dad

  6. I am really enjoying your blog. Glad you started this.
    Sharron Heacock

  7. You have done it again. So beautiful!

    Linda and the Daydream Crew

  8. I love you, Dad .. Luna

  9. I have only just read this blog but how it reminds me of Prince (of Graham, Tilly, and Prince). I was his "Grandma" Graham refers to and he used to stay with me often. He was always on my bed before I arrived and if I was too long in the bathroom he was squeaking for me with a sense of urgency. He was across my pillow when I finally arrived to join him and was always moved dead weight to allow me to get in! He would then move so that we were back to back and give the loudest sigh which spoke a thousand words. I loved him so dearly and never for a minute took him being there for granted - he was always "on loan to us". Now that he has gone we are broken hearted.

    It does me so much good to read of your experiences with your dogs especially the old one, and to know how much he is loved and valued. If that isn't true love what is?

    Incidentally my husband always had the 6" on one side of the bed sometimes giving up altogether and moving to a spare bed!

    I love your kind heart,


  10. Thank you, Lesley. I so appreciate your kind words.

  11. Agnes is getting older too - Holly was nearly all white, so we didn't notice so much. Agnes' split face is barely discernable anymore and, oddly, her legs are graying. Her body is still that wonderful dark brindle.

    She has cataracts and so now we leave the light on at the bottom of the stairs so she can see when she goes out to potty at night. If we forget, I'll hear that first step and then the tumble. I hate that sound. But she just picks herself up and goes down the second set of stairs to the basement and I hear the dog door flap and then she comes back and waits for me to move so she can come back to bed.

    We've been fighting a calcium problem since February, which we finally seem to have under control. And she has lumps everywhere under her skin, but they don't seem painful - just little blobs around the place.

    She's still a sweetie.

  12. joker is 9 and all of a sudden he seems old -he recently was diagnosed with arthritis in his hips and its meant he has to slow down a bit or suffer later on. he was used for poaching before we had him and he runs incredibly fast so i suppose he has just worn out the joints.

    but with age comes wisdom - supposedly!

  13. I'm so proud to be a little part of his life, Patience. I sent this to my sister, shamelessly bragging that I was one of the judges who gave him that awesomely fought for National Lure Coursing BOB with Cindy Conter, my fellow judge, in complete agreement. What a guy!!! I'll never forget him as he was then.

  14. omg Patience. I know this post is from years ago, but I just had to start my week off with it.


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