He's 105 years old.
In dog years, he's past 15. His eyes are dim and his pace is slow. Sometimes he stumbles and other times he painfully lifts himself from the chair and carefully lowers himself to the floor. I can tell just by his walk if his arthritis is beating up on him. He tries to eat but it almost seems too difficult to chew and manage his food on certain days. I stay patient and try to give him smaller portions. I stand close to his ears and speak louder when I want to get his attention. He looks at me and stares.
Yet there are moments and hours when he reclaims his former self - a deep bark, a playful toss of the head. He can't go on long walks but he can walk to the playground and he holds his head high and seems to enjoy the wind ruffling his coat. He sniffs into the wind and I see him as he was ... young and frisky and always ready to play ball or frisbee. He used to leap up when he was a pup, so happy to see me. Now he wobbles and lets himself be led.
He is my daughter's dog but we have a lot of history together. He was in my charge while his owner took an assignment in Hungary for a year. I never had a dog growing up but he worked his magic on me and we became friends.
He has the heart of a prince. Not once has he harmed the babies and actually seemed to appoint himself their official guardian. Now he gets so many pills and creams and vitamins per day that it doesn't seem fair: phenobarbitol to relax him, glucosamine to help with the joint pain, other prescriptions to help take the edge off each day's struggle to stay with us, keep watch over the clan.
He's still the "best boy dog in all the world". It was my routine with him when he lived with me for that year of Jenn's absence. I'd put my finger in his warm ear and scratch and tell him so. He knew he was special. Now I administer ear drops for a recurring infection but I still tell him he's the best.
Taking care of him again this past week, I can't help but compare his plight to those of the old old we have in nursing homes. They are wobbly on their feet, their senses are failing, and at times they just seem to be in the way. For those of us who are busy and still blessed with good health, the elderly are clumsy and too too slow. Yet, aren't we catching glimpses of ourselves? How will we handle our "golden years"? Who will take the time to make room for us at the table or in the family circle?
We are all finite creatures.