10 years ago, Ivy with Rudy and Emily
Having beloved animals around really brings you face to face with the passage of time sometimes. I don’t want to get too gloomy but some days now it’s really evident that I have 2 senior dogs, you see it in the way they walk slowly and carefully, the grey on their faces (especially Emily) and the cloudiness in their eyes (Emily again, especially).
Fifteen years ago I lived in a large suburban house, three young kids aged 7, 6 and 4 and a terrible marriage. Lara, my oldest, was 23 and still at home. We received a call one day from the local animal shelter – 2 daschund puppies were available for adoption. The children’s father and I had discussed the possibility, several months earlier, of getting a dog to join our goldfish and dear little hamster, George. He said he’d only consider a daschund and asked the shelter to let us know if one became available for adoption – I remember privately thinking this was probably unlikely, as surely it was mainly mixed breeds that ended up at the shelter, but oh well, I had enough on my hands with the house and everything. Will had been diagnosed by this time nad his behaviour was becoming increasingly challenging. And then that call came, and Conor and Ivy were so excited. We all loaded into the minivan and into Denver, announced we’d come about the daschunds (we can only take one though, I piped up, but nobody seemed to hear me). A woman led us off, past the area where all the sad, unwanted dogs and cats were confined. Two small black pups were waiting for us in a small room – I think were about 3 months old, I’m not sure. Conor and Ivy immediately fell to the floor in delight and were covered in kisses, and I said you’d better choose one, and the shelter woman said, oh, they are a brother and sister, what a shame to split them up. Their names were Romeo and Ophelia. The kids decided Rudy and Emily were more appropriate names.
All I can really remember about the next year is lots of puddles and smells, along with the kids being very, very happy and loving them so much. We’d all walk around the neighbourhod, Ivy on her trike, William in his pushchair, the dogs skipping along joyfully on their leashes. Emily was never happier than when she was chasing a ball; Rudy didn’t like to play this game and got jealous if Emily received too much attention. They liked to sleep with the kids, and barked at squirrels and birds and the lawnmower, even when the lawnmower wasn’t in use. I loved them a bit grudgingly because I was very quickly responsible for all their care. My marriage ended and the dogs came with me and the kids to a trailer and were with us through some difficult years, as the kids grew up and changed. When Ivy left for college, Emily would walk down the hallway into the tiny bedroom where she’d snuggled on the futon with Ivy so many times. She would look at the futon, then walk over to the desk and look up at the empty chair and I would say, she’s gone, Emily. After a while the dogs began sleeping on my bed. And now yet another chapter of their lives has started, alongside mine. And when they are up and about (they sleep quite a lot now) they love life here; all the smells in the park and the wonderful walks and tons of affection. I thought I knew everything there was to know about Doug before I came here but I didn’t know he loved dogs quite so much; they adore him and rush to say hello when he comes home from work. Doug has built a ramp to help getting in and out of the garage easier, they have collars with their names on, treats and regular visits to the vet.
Gosh, I didn’t mean to make this a long doggie post, what started it was when I rose this morning and started some tea and laundry just before 7, Rudy followed as expected, hoping for some breakfast and I said, where’s your sister? I checked and she was still fast asleep on her bed. So I fed Rudy, not too worried as Emily is usually sleepier and slower than him, but an hour later she was still sound asleep, which is highly unusual. And I grew worried, because she felt ill yesterday, throwing up a few times and not wanting her favorite snack, Italian bread, and she’s been confused a couple of times, peeing on the couch. I went back and forth into the bedroom and was just about to shoot off a text to Doug when she appeared in the kitchen, and ate a fairly decent breakfast, responded to my chat with a waggy tail. So, phew.
I’m not sure how I went from the woman who said ‘you will have to choose one!’ and being upset about things like ruined rugs, to a middle-aged woman who prefers the company of her dogs over most people, but there you are. I just cannot imagine life without them and so when I think about how old age is encroaching, I feel so miserable and afraid. I suppose this is what happens when you lose your heart.
Emily, cozying up to the heat register in the front room.