Tuesday, September 22, 2015

...Not just for Christmas

I'm sitting here in a lounge chair in the living room, and lying at my feet, her head on her front paws and her eyes (but not ears) closed, is our dog, Rosie. Known as Dog Rose, Rosalinda, Rosalita, Rosalie and other variants of her name.

She's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and unlike most of 'em has managed to get to ten and a bit years without a bad heart murmur. The vet was astonished to listen to Rosie's heart and admit there was a murmur there but barely discernible.

Her arthritis is getting her down, though. She has it in her offside shoulder, and now she's on daily anti-inflammatories for it. The vet recommended fish oil and glucosamine as well, so Rosie's nightly dinner now includes a cocktail of goodies to stop her stiffening up and being in pain.

That aside, she has aged. When I walk her she no longer pulls on the leash but lags behind. From the dog she was two years ago who could keep up a pace of more than six kilometres an hour for up to an hour, I now have to take her for her own slow walk and then guiltily leave her at home while I do my power walk.

There's a golden period in a dog's life for going for walks, I think. It's not when they're very young as they pull like mad and don't always want to come back to you when they're off the leash.

But somewhere around four or five years old they are the best walking companions you'll ever have. They don't pull insanely; they keep up with you and trot at your heels, looking up with a happy grin. At eight they are still happy to chase a ball again and again and again.

That's the experience I've had with the three dogs I've been lucky to share my life with.  But at nine, they start to slow. Rosie's interest in chasing balls dwindled. She'd do it once or twice, then give me the 'can't be arsed' look. These days I don't throw balls for her because I don't want her overworking her arthritic shoulder by galloping flat out and twisting and turning. She can do it - but she'll pay for it later and be in pain.

I'm aware that my lovely companion is, in human terms, in her seventies. She may live to a hundred. When I look at her, sleeping a little noisily, there's more white around her eyes than there was last year.

My previous dogs have made it to 13 and a half. I'm hoping Rose does too, or, health permitting, makes it to 14 or more.

Everyone loves puppies; some people forget that puppies grow to be dogs. Even then, they forget that - with luck - one day that puppy will be an old dog.

Dogs are for life, not just for Christmas, as the saying goes. I treasure my old dog. I love her to bits. I hate it that one day she won't be there any more. She's as dear to me now as she was when she was a puppy straight out of a Disney movie.

She'll need care with her arthritis. She's rather deaf (a Cavalier mystery as a lot of them go deaf for no discernible reason). She's precious beyond belief.

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