Editorial November 2003 Issue

Old Dog

We never know how much time weíll have together.

I havenít talked about my senior dog, Rupert, for a while. Heís living with my dad out in the country, but I get to see him about once a month. Heís completely happy living with my dad, and far more comfortable there than at my house.

Rupe likes to follow his favorite people like a shadow, which has gotten somewhat problematic in his creaky old age. Our last visit to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California at Davis pinpointed the source of Rupertís declining mobility as his knees, whose ligaments were frankly described as ďblown out.Ē At 14 years old, with cardiac arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and failing kidneys, heís not a candidate for surgery. As my dad says, ďOnce he gets up, he gets around. Just like me!Ē

When I first sent Rupe to stay with my dad, I saw it as a temporary deal. My mom had just passed away, and I knew my dad would benefit from Rupertís constant offer of love and attention. But Rupe has benefitted from the arrangement as well.

At my house, my office is down a flight of stairs, and Iím up and down the stairs all day. This left poor Rupie either standing and staring, disconsolate, at my office door (heís also pretty deaf, and his vision is not all that great, either), staggering up the stairs, or coming down them in a more or less controlled fall.

My dadís house doesnít have even a single step. Plus, my dad is retired, which gives him lots of time to pet a deserving dog. Plus, when Rupe goes outside, there are sticks absolutely everywhere Ė not a surprise, as my dad lives in the woods, but it makes Rupieís heart sing to find crunchable toys everywhere he turns.

Rupert is happy to see me when I show up at my dadís house for a visit, and he whimpers excitedly as he greets me, tail wagging and eyes shining. But I notice that he doesnít follow me every time I go outside; he only makes the effort to get up and go out when Dad goes out. And at bedtime, he sleeps at the foot of my dadís bed, not on my sleeping bag with me on the floor of the living room, like he used to when we would visit.

On the other hand, Dad says that Rupe would absolutely not allow him to undertake all the grooming that I perform on the furry old dog every time Iím there. I give Rupe a bath, pick the foxtails out from between his toes, clean his ears, cut his nails, and check the current size and location of all his fatty tumors. He looks like a star when Iím done, and smells and feels so good I canít help but kiss his shining head again and again.

I donít know if Rupert will make it through one more winter; weíll see. For now, heís in the best possible place, and even though I miss him, Iím happy heís happy.

-Nancy Kerns

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