At home, I’ve been trying to be very tuned in to the slightest changes in manner and movement of our beloved Abbey, a 14-1/2 lb, 15-1/2-year-old llasa-schnauzer mix. She has been losing her sight and hearing, and her gait is a bit cross-footed and wobbly at times.
Indoors, she sleeps a lot, preferring the confines of her old carrying case for a deep, dark silence or a plump sheepskin pillow right underneath the TV in the living room, which is hardly a quiet spot.
The only time we hear from her, not that she was ever a noisy pet, is a mew-like sound when she wants water or food or does her business on a puppy pad.
Outdoors, she has more oomph, for want of a better word. On a long lead toward the front of the house, she wanders round and about, never seeming to tire enough to sit or lie down, though my husband has seen her do so. And a week ago, at a local dog park that has a “quiet area”—what a blessing!—she went round and about on the loose, never touching the fence on all sides or resting.
In the car, she rides in a plump, ribbed cat bed, which does more that cushion her ride—it also enables us to roll her up like a hotdog and transport her comfortably in and out of the car.
Left alone, but not quite alone, she gets by as she just gets on in age.
I have Abbey on my mind a lot—but not on a recent vacation, when somebody else’s pet made me pay attention and I learned a thing or two. A friend’s family had two 11-year-old boxers, and the week before I arrived, the “sister” died. The “brother” always has soulful eyes, but let us know through his moping around that he felt adrift.
Open the car door, however, and he was quick to move—into the front passenger seat. There’s little moving a fit 85-lb boxer that has no intention to oblige a human parent and no moving the creature for a visitor. Not until the last ride we took together, that is, when I whooshed him with a constant stream of admonishments and nudges to go between the seats and into the back.
So, I thought afterward, we’ve sort of become friends. I later learned what that really meant. When I was zipping up my wheeled duffle bag to head to the airport for a return flight home, the bag seemed to be a bit lighter than before. Star watched as I puzzled my way through its contents, content on an oriental carpet. Then in the corner of my eye I caught a flash of pink. Cushy indeed was his resting spot—on my anorak, suit jacket and two cashmere sweaters (the rest he left behind).
So, what did I learn from Abbey and Star? Do things on their terms.