Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Tap on the Shoulder

A gentle nudge.

A little wake up call.

It was an eye opener. This might sound ludicrous to you, dear readers, but I was unprepared for the Very Old Dog's Very Bad Day. "Oh baloney," as opposed to bologna, you say. I've written how many pieces on this blog (you can check them out here) about Giacomino's and Maria's advancing ages, always recognizing that every day is a gift. Hug your hounds, I say.

But, the Very Old Dogs and I have fallen into a comfortable, predictable routine. (I didn't even think to include Maria in the VOD category, and her thirteenth birthday is Thursday. Thirteen.) Giacomino waits at the top and the bottom of the stairs for my assistance. Maria barks to be covered up. Her back legs tremble when we stop to chat with neighbors on our walks; his back feet drag on the sidewalk after we get going again. They are not what they used to be, but they have been what they are for a while now.

We laugh. I ask Maria, "What does a cheerleader say?" She gets a sparkle in her eyes, and dances around, winding herself up and lets loose with a perfect, "Rah, rah, rah!" Unless, of course, we are performing the trick in front of guests, in which case she answers, "Arf. Arf. Arf, arf, arrrr-roooo." And then she winks at me, and when the conversation has turned elsewhere, under her breath she whispers, "rah, rah, rah."

And on our walks, Giacomino shows his exuberance in the form of modified leapies. When he was young he had the most delightful habit of leaping straight in the air, off all four feet with legs pogo stick straight, *boing* up as high as my five foot five inch head. Staying perfectly parallel with the ground. A capriole. This did not involve the slightest pull on his lead. One moment he was walking along in front of me, and the next moment his butt was eye level. It was usually accompanied by sort of war woop, "wooahrarrr!" And it was saved for special times. The first warm, sunny day after a long gray cold spell. Exiting the van and finding himself at a Lure Trial. A walk with a special visiting friend. Nowadays he does the modified leapy. It's frankly more of a lurch than a leap, and I always gasp in fear that he'll fall splat, because he has, but even so these modified leapies make me smile all the way from my fuzzy socks to the pompom on my hat. And I'm toasty warm all of a sudden.

On the day that Giacomino wasn't himself, not even his older version, I sputtered. He was vulnerable, and so mortal. I had settled in to the Very Old Dog reality show as though it were an over sized down comforter wrapped around me. I had forgotten. The privilege of loving these souls comes with a price. And when my sweet Old Dog gently reminded me that part of the deal was to go on without him at some point, I wanted to negotiate a new contract.

Maria's self-assigned life's work has been to create laughter. Trotting around shaking the bejesus out of a squeak toy or back talking woo-woos when you point an accusing finger at her, and then play bows with wagging dances when she hears the laugh she was after. And Giacomino, even as a starved rescued puppy was so concerned about his humans. He couldn't bear human sadness, cocking his head and drawing up his eyebrows until his forehead was raked with wrinkles. Three times Giacomino cried tears from his eyes. When we were mourning Bill's dad. When I moved away from my friends. And when my first whippet died. When I was overcome with sadness, so was he, and that snapped me out of it.

So I've had a gentle warning. An overheard whisper of what will come. A chance to brace myself, to steady my steps. To laugh louder for Maria, and to shout "woo-HOOOO" right out there in public at the top of my lungs for each modified leapy Giacomino attempts. To dawdle a bit more during the geriatric amble around the block and let them go ahead and bark at the Stupid City Squirrels. To sneak a lot more people food from my plate to certain waiting lips.

It is, after all, my very special privilege.

Hug your hounds.


  1. Patience, what a wonderful reminder of what we have with our dogs and how we should enjoy them even more in their older years. This hits so close to home with me here with my 13 + years old Spats and after having just lost my 15 year old, Copy..... Some of the things they do make me smile, while some make me sad or reminisce.
    I'm so happy to be celebrating tomorrow Spats one year anniversary of his cancer surgery. So far I've had an extra whole YEAR with him! What a gift that has been! He is quieter now most times and doesn't hear as well, but he still loves to play and squeak his toys and go for walks and lets me know when he's hungry!! Like Giacomino he is always RIGHT there if he thinks I'm going somewhere without him:-)
    Thanks for putting into wonderful words what I have been realizing too....hugs to everyone, especially Beans, Mama P, Maria and Fat Charlie :-)
    laurie and gang

  2. I don't even want to think about Joey becoming a VOD, but he will be 9 next month! Thanks for giving me the link to the pasta recipe, I adore anything with spinach but never would have thought to add lemon to a pasta sauce like that. I have book marked it and you may just see it make an appearance on my blog :) I have to go I think I hear some dog opening the fridge...

  3. Patience, Very wise words. And thinking on it more, it can be said to be true of all we love and care about. Our old dogs, and the young dogs, and all our people too.....we never know with any of them do we. And it is never, ever long enough. Another kiss on old ones soft head mmuuuaahh. God Bless. I'm off to hug my hounds...*sniff*

  4. i worry every day about my dogs. i' m just a worrier.

    our boscoe is 12 1/2, and he's in good shape, but he has had a few problems in the last year or two that are new --- pulled muscles, lumps on his skin, etc.

    if you ever feel like crying, go to my blog and check the sidebar tale. "the story of old mr. puffy pants" is the story of my lovely toby's last year. he had a bum heart, and it eventually did him in.

    but his last year was a good one. we can do that for them.

  5. oooh! hugs to you and your hounds, young and old

  6. I love your VODs and your MADs (middle-aged dogs) and you VYDs!(very young dogs) It's so neat in the spring and summer time to see them all bounding out the front door and hear their excitement as they do so!

  7. Does that mean I can slip a piece of cheese or wheat thin under the table?


  8. Oh,dear Patience,you've made me teary again!! As "they" say, no matter how long,it's never long enough. Martha and P-doggy hugs and kisses to all,young and old,of the waggle

  9. Patience
    I don't thik there is any way to truly preapare yourself...It always hurts like mad..but yes you can showew them with love as you always do and love them every precious moment
    Asta's mommi

  10. Deawest Sam I Am
    I looooved ouw dance!!! You ae so light on youw feet!! a wegoolaw Fwed Astaiw(only a lot cutew!)
    Lindy Loo is a wild one, and so vewy pwetty..evewyone wanted a dance with hew!

    You know thewe is no need to be scawed of Stanley..he;s big moosh! vewy gentlwe and lovable and not the jelly type..othewwise i wouldn't love him..he is happy if I have othew sweet boys to love!
    smoochie kisses,

  11.'s all quite sad, but then again, we are all so blessed to have these gentle souls grace our lives.

    I think there is something in the moon -- that the VOD's and whippies with many problems are just a little off kilter right now. Or that's what I am hoping.

  12. Dear, Dear Patience,

    The Barkalots are virtually away, so I can seize the moment to tell you how touching your thoughts about the VODs are. Nothing ever prepares us -- not for the departure of an aging parent, not for the departure of a beloved dog.

    My Jake and Just Harry are still young -- and yet I look at them every day and wonder how to bear the inevitable. Best not to try to be prepared, but just do as you remind us every day: Hug Your Hounds. Some a bit more gently than others, but always hug!!!


  13. We were the proud humans of an ESS for 16 years, and a standard Schnauzer for 14 before that, but it only gets harder to let go. Since Gus is not yet five (but soon, soon) I wonder at times if this is my "last" dog. If so, he's a special one, and I am grateful for every day. Even those days when he throws a big virtual pawty and I have lots of virtual poop to scoop.

    gussies muzzer

  14. Note to self - do NOT read Patience's blog sitting at your desk at work.

    *hugs to all your hounds, from me & mine*


  15. Note to self - do NOT read Patience's blog while sitting at work.

    Hugs to your hounds, from me & mine.

    Kathy & Agnes & Doodle & everyone


Love your comments! Love them we do. Don't be bashful! Thank you for visiting :-)