// you’re reading...

filed in Daily Life

Pet Love, part 6

My dog Rose will turn 13 in March. The pace of our walks have changed dramatically since her manic days as a puppy. She’s much slower and more cautious. But it doesn’t make me love her any less. Today as we were inching around the neighborhood, I thought wistfully of those younger years, and hoped that someone will be equally patient with me, when I’m walking slower too.

Tea bag art by Ruby Silvious


6 comments for “Pet Love, part 6”

  1. Petra says:

    Oh, Wendy, I love this image. Reminds me of the late Miss Bella Daintypaws–she was a black cat. I could tell that she was getting older in her last couple of years, still well but just a little deafer. She used to run and hide at the first distant peal of thunder, but in that last year, the thunder would have to be very loud.

    I love to hear you talk about Rose–she is so well loved. And a good reminder to all of us that we likely will be walking more slowly eventually.

  2. RS says:

    Tl;dr reflection coming. I found this very poignant and it made me feel feels and think thoughts about the inevitability of slowing down. Being far into middle age now (55) and approaching the next life transition in the not too distant future, I am facing this truth more and more each year. My mom passed last Thanksgiving (hours before my 54th birthday) at the age of 93. My dad is 90 and mostly spends his time just sitting and napping in his recliner now. I think there is a natural tendency, until faced with brutal reality, to feel deep in our bones that aging and decline is something that only happens to others, not ourselves. Of course, the rational parts of our mind admit otherwise, but I think it can take a long time before we *really* believe in our guts that it will happen to us too. A number of years ago, when I was in my early 30’s, I saw my uncle who was in his 80’s at the time and in vibrant good health. My uncle was a career military man and he had always been athletic and worked out at the gym daily even in his 80’s. I remember feeling astonished by his strength and vigor and was inspired to to start working out myself. I felt as though he was a shining example that we did not have to decline. I suppose on some unconscious level I felt as though if I worked out everyday and lived a “healthy lifestyle” my uncle and I could stay strong and vigorous forever! And no doubt my uncle’s exercise regimen helped him maintain his strength for as long as he did. But a few years later he got very sick with an illness that nearly killed him. There is perhaps a case to be made that it should have, but it didn’t. He survived, but he was never the same. Following that illness, he became an “old man” – a shadow of the vigorous, imposing tower of strength he had been. Quiet, frail. He died a few years later. I went to the visitation at his funeral and was struck by the thin, withered body in the coffin – what happened my uncle who was one of the biggest, most imposing and forceful men I had ever known? And I remember our family dog, Katie, who passed a few years back. She lived to a ripe old age for a dog and was spared any bad illness or suffering, but she slowed as she got older. We could all tell when she was getting near the end. I remember the last time I saw her when I was visiting my mom. I went outside with her to go potty. Her motor control was all messed up. She would walk a few steps, crookedly, and then stumble and topple over. But she would get up again and take a few more steps. And the thing that struck me was it did not seem to bother her in the least. She was not in pain or sick or suffering in any obvious way. She was just old and very slow and her batteries were about out of juice. She died about a week later. That memory sticks with me – her enviable equanimity at her own decline which, of course, she probably never even perceived in the way that we would with our too-large-for-our-own-good overgrown monkey brains. I think of the poem from Tennessee Williams’ Night of the Iguana:

    How calmly does the olive branch
    Observe the sky begin to blanch
    Without a cry, without a prayer
    With no betrayal of despair

    Some time while light obscures the tree
    The zenith of its life will be
    Gone past forever
    And from thence
    A second history will commence

    A chronicle no longer gold
    A bargaining with mist and mold
    And finally the broken stem
    The plummeting to earth, and then

    An intercourse not well designed
    For beings of a golden kind
    Whose native green must arch above
    The earth’s obscene corrupting love

    And still the ripe fruit and the branch
    Observe the sky begin to blanch
    Without a cry, without a prayer
    With no betrayal of despair

    Oh courage! Could you not as well
    Select a second place to dwell
    Not only in that golden tree
    But in the frightened heart of me?

    • wendy says:

      RS, it seems like you’ve got some good longevity genes! After writing about Pet Love, I thought of my friend Betty, who died almost 2 years ago at the age of 88. As I’ve posted before, Betty was my hero, my inspiration. I knew her from ballet class, where you’d find her 5 mornings a week, up until the last few months of her life. Betty never slowed down. Literally. We used to walk from our cars to the ballet studio (about 1/3 of a mile), and I could barely keep up with her pace, even when she was 88. Betty’s death from cancer came quickly. And it’s my belief that she simply couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to move and walk quickly. That’s the way I want to go.

Leave a Reply