I’m taking care of my parents dog. She’s 98 years old, and consequently, a little set in her ways.
She’s a mutt, maybe chow crossed with Shepard, but who really knows? Her nose is wet. Her tongue hangs out. My dad bought her for five bucks out of a cardboard box — and the consensus is, she’s the best dog we’ve ever had.
She’s just had surgery to remove a growth on her side, and wears a plastic collar around her neck to keep her from the stitches. The pathos of this collar is immense and surreal. As she moves through the house, the collar catches on drawer handles, chairs, the back of my knee. When she eats, she seems a combination of dog and vaccum, when she barks, it’s as if she’s been fitted with a long-abandoned piece of technology designed to allow dogs hail other dogs on passing clipper ships.
She’s deaf, nearly blind and a tremendous pain in the ass. Caring for her is difficult. Worst of all she barks, loudly and at random, Perhaps just to remind herself that she’s alive. I don’t get much sleep.
At first, my fear is that she might die while my parents are traveling. But soon, the real fear bubbles to the surface. The fear that this is all just a dress rehearsal. That one day, I will be measuring medication for my parents, waiting patiently as they go to the bathroom, and praying, as I listen to their labored breathing, that it’s not as bad as it seems. And I won’t not be surprised if I have to watch my hands around Dad’s mouth. He’s been known to snap at people. I don’t mean to insult the man, just don’t reach for his plate while he’s eating.
And this realization, makes it easier to take care of the old dog. Sure, she’s a bitch. But then so’s getting old. And all in all she handles it with a great deal of grace. I sure hope we can do the same.