Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Dog's Life

Last March, I sent my dog Reilly to live with my mother and stepfather in Dayton. He was getting older and slower and was having serious difficulty with the hardwood floors and stairs in my apartment. In addition, L and I were beginning to look at houses, and it dawned on me that he might not survive such a move, especially if there would be more floors and stairs involved. Since my mother and stepfather are retired and have a house with most of the living area on one floor and since they doted on Reilly, it seemed worth asking if they wanted to take on the responsibility of a senior dog.

I talked to my mother, and after a few seconds of thought, she said they would love to do it. The kid was against the idea; she thought Reilly would miss us. It was true, I allowed, but I pointed out the differences between our house and theirs and their life and ours. And then I asked where she thought he would have the better life.

And what a life it has been so far. He has gotten energy back and played with puppies and other dogs, had the best care and groomings you can imagine, and probably licked more bowls of ice cream than I would ever have approved. He has spent whole summers in Maine the past two years, and he's still kicking. There are the occasional health scares and notes from my mother about little declines, but — yeah — still kicking.

It's a bittersweet victory, though. Some time over the past year, I realized how much I not only missed the pup, but how much I missed what a dog brought to my life. The time for walks with L and the kid melted little by little, as did my patterns. I no longer had the same incentive to get up and get my blood moving to greet the day. There was less incentive to walk off the thoughts of the day or reconnect over a half-hour's walk. Though Reilly had gotten too slow for the kinds of walks and hikes we used to take, I began to miss those too. Most of all, I missed the energy of having a dog around — the unconditional love, the comforting presence of him sleeping between our room and the kid's.

For practical reasons — time, money, extra hair around the house, a new dog wasn't in the picture until recently. The call of puppies became strong, especially with the opening of the farmers markets. And then word came that a friend had rescued an Aussie who also happened to be pregnant. As of September, there will be a new herding dog in our life. Named by the kid, L, and another friend, it's name is tentatively Snickers.