During the last few months, when I enter the house, often he does not acknowledge my arrival. There is no excited bark or jump off the couch. He just raises his head, sometimes turning his body to make his belly accessible for pets. On the first first 80-degree day of Spring this year, we took a three mile roundtrip walk. On the way home, he stopped and just laid down in a patch of grass, happily staring at the squirrels frolicking in big shade tree overhead. After five minutes, he was ready to continue. Later, he rested in a puddle of water for five minutes. A few weeks ago, walking home from the coffeeshop, he fell down mid-stride. Nothing tripped him, his legs simply gave out. On our request trips to the dog park by the lake, he takes things very slow. Younger dogs tear past, but he no longer tries to jump in with their games. He’ll lope behind for a moment, but then just smiles and watches them frolic.
Jack is an old happy dog. His age has not brought grumpiness. His disposition remains sweet. He’s lost a couple front, bottom teeth, but still eats well. Actually, with the chicken and healthy leftovers I give him he easts better than ever. I keep trying to convince myself and everyone who knows him – especially my kiddo – that he has several more years, but I can not honestly say how long he has left. How long does anyone have left? Life is given and taken away with no explanation. We are just here to share the best journey we can with those we love.
This afternoon, we take him to the vet. He was given a clean bill of health, “He’s got the health of a much younger dog,” less than six months ago. Now, there is a large bump (mass?) over his chest, between his shoulders. This once was the grandest point of his body – muscular, rugged chest muscles that were sometimes even intimidating. Now, those muscles hold a soft fold of fur where skin has sagged and age has diminished his strength. Where they used to launch him off of rocks, now they gingerly hold his legs as he gets purchase on a downhill trail. He has had an amazing life and I hope the doc says that the mass is just a natural shift of muscles, but I’m also prepared that these may be the best last days.