Here is Mama Pajama this morning. We celebrated her sixteenth birthday in June. She was born on June 29, 1997 into my hands, so we are not guessing her age. Her sister, Jessie, is also thriving in Baltimore and loved by her Linda. We lost their brother Fat Charlie just this spring. Good genes.
Those of you who have shared your world with a Very Old Dog will understand. You'll nod and your heart might feel a bit full and for a moment you'll have to think about breathing. In. Out now. In again. Okay.
It's that juxtaposition of one moment you're staring hard: oh please! Are you still with me? And you see your old dog's ribs moving and yes everything is fine. You go back to getting dressed, or doing the laundry. And the next moment your old dog is looking at you through her cloudy eyes and wagging her tail. She smiles at you, which makes her sneeze. You laugh. You scratch her neck and she's not sixteen, she's just your dog like she has been for sixteen years. More than half of your thirty year marriage. Feels like she's been with you forever.
I feed her her very favorite food, until she decides it's poison, then I find her new very favorite food, and feed her that. She holds up her end of the bargain by licking her bowl of Grape-Nuts and goat milk, or boiled meat and oatmeal bread with the sugar snap peas cut up into indiscernible bits shiny clean. Woo-weeee now that is some happiness: the shiny clean bowl of a sixteen year old dog!
Sometimes, because I am only human, I do not live up to an agreement. Last week I forgot to turn on my bedside lamp in the evening. We were watching TV in the other room and I thought, "Crap! I forgot to turn on a light for Mama Pajama." I spilled all the dogs who were using me for extra cushions and ran in to our dark room and flicked on the light. I found Mama Pajama facing the back of her crate, staring hard with her filmy eyes and special ears at the wall, wondering why on earth I had shut her in. "Oh honey, I'm sorry!" I told her. "Here!" I clapped my hands. "Here! You're not closed in, you're just backwards, sweetheart!" Because she is not only human, she forgave me.
She has forgiven me for so much in 16 plus years. Only dogs and God are capable of that. All the nail dremelings, tooth scalings, late dinners. The getting left behinds, that whole nightmare of her illness, the accidental toes stepped on, the empty water dishes. I mean really, as you know, it's infinite.
But after all of that, with all of my disappointing shortcomings, she is here, welcoming me home.
Hug your hounds...