I miss my long walks with Cheyenne. She is approaching the mid way point between 14 and 15 years of age, a date that is only approximate as I got her from the pound in December 2009, and she no longer walks as she did, even six months ago. These days a substantial 45 minute walk knocks her out for two days and a trip to the mainland in the car leaves her exhausted for just as long. Afternoon walks hold no attraction for her and any offers to leave the house are weighed up carefully by my Labrador but I never contradict her: she knows her own mind.
It's ironic that in the past I sued to wear myself out walking for a couple of hours with my dog every morning after I got home from work. There she's be, impatiently walking back and forth on the deck waiting for the sound of my motorcycle and off we'd go in the car to seek out some new and interesting place to walk. She had a rotation, one island after another each day and on my days off we'd do Key West streets. It was good for her and good for me. Especially when she'd come up to me in the afternoon and stand in my face staring at me asking for an afternoon stroll as well.
Many was the time we would rush out of the house at four and I'd have to be dragging her back to the car, that stubborn dog, so I could get out of the house in time for work. Nowadays she hardly ever goes for an afternoon or evening walk, and the days when she comes asking I leap up with alacrity as its as much a treat for me as for her. Mostly she sleeps or she lies awake watching me so I give her a hug and scratch her and when she has enough she turns away and ignores me.
I have decided for my own peace of mind that I may have to go for a stroll by myself from time to time, wander the trails we used to walk together and it will feel odd being without her. Perhaps I will roll out my bicycle and perhaps that will feel less odd. I miss being outdoors and I have to steel myself to leave my dog home alone for a while when I could be spending a few more minutes with her.
Going to work hasn't changed. When I take my shower Cheyenne gets up, with a little difficulty these days owing to the weakening of her hind legs, and when I shower she still takes that as the sign that I will soon be abandoning her. She continues to protest my departure as she did when she was younger and actively wanted to go with me, by retreating to her night bed in the darkened bedroom and pretending to sleep when I come by to say goodbye. I end up thinking about her a lot while I am at work staring out of the window, wondering what it will be like without her one day in the future.
I have heard people say they don't want dogs because they die on you and it's true they do. But I always find making a rescue dog's life worthwhile is worth more than the pain of separation.
Outside the comfort of our air conditioned house life goes on, the sun comes up, the day gets hot and sometimes muggy and I hope cooler weather will give Cheyenne one last burst of energy. But she deserves her sleep if that's what she wants. She eats like a horse yet doesn't seem to put on weight. not like some elderly Labradors I have seen.
She goes up and down the outside stairs at our stilt home carefully but determined, refusing help from me with a look of injured pride and a side step that makes me want to hug her. She steps carefully through her dog door to enjoy some afternoon sunbathing on the deck, she lies down next to me, a rare event from this independent dog and I put my hand on her and she snores. Sometime she seems to strain a hind leg or the other with a miss step and my wife whips out the muscle relaxers and pops her one or two to get her back on her feet. She is, like any elderly dog (or human) a little slow and a little fragile but still full of life.
Her body is covered in tumors of one sort or another, mostly just ugly, but the vet says we can't risk having them removed as she may die in the operation which would just be cosmetic anyway. So she is a little lumpy, with a testicle growing under her tail, unsightly but not painful, and a scab on her ear that she enjoys having rubbed with leaves from our aloe plant. She eats her glucosamine pills at breakfast and she farts copiously in the car when bored on long trips, her form of silent deadly protest at being ripped from her home and hearth. When I try to entice her downstairs for a walk or to hang with me while I work on my motorcycle she often refuses and lays down, and cannot be persuaded to do what she doesn't want to do.
Like they say, every day is a blessing with an old dog.