I’m trying to have it. Grace, I mean. I’m trying to appreciate the every day joys and not worry about the couldas or shouldas.

So it is loving an old dog.

He’s had bladder cancer since at least last summer. I’ve been driving him 40 minutes each way to the holistic vet, sometimes once a week, sometimes every 2 weeks. They all love him, and he gets very excited when he figures out where we’re going. He lets them pump him full of all kinds of things, and he is never upset or afraid. He is just his loving, happy self.

“Thank you for choosing to adorn me with a Christmas bow and not a disco elf costume like that of my smaller canine brethren.”

But I’ve been upset and afraid. I’m doing that for both of us, although he’d never ask me to carry that mantle.

At Christmas, I got a call from our beloved dog sitter. Big Doodle was limping. Like, really, really limping. She offered to take him to the emergency vet. “Oh, we’ll see how he’s doing when we get home tomorrow, don’t worry about it,” I said.

She wasn’t kidding. Our boy wasn’t using his back leg at all. Seemed to have no concept that he even had a back leg. Drug it around like it was an almost-forgotten security blanket.

More vet visits and 10 days of the entire family avoiding all stairs in solidarity, he has some use of his leg. Maybe this is the best it will get. Maybe it will get better. It probably won’t get worse. But we’re starting to really look at his quality of life. We have this privilege and burden.

For his part, Big Doodle is happy, if perhaps a bit bored. He’s not in pain. He’s not sure why we’re not going for walks – I guess he doesn’t see the correlation between “I can’t walk” and “Why aren’t we walking?”

He’s sleeping a lot. Like old dogs do. And he is old, even if he never got the memo. He’s 11 years young, and still as sweet and spazzy as when I met him almost 7 years ago. His dad and I had a blind date, and agreed to walk dogs to get to know each other. Big Doodle was my charge, and it was instant love. The joke is that I married My Guy because I fell in love with his dog. Like most jokes, it’s funny because there’s a kernel of truth to it.

“I’ve always had a way with the ladies.”

I know we have done and continue to do everything we can for this sweet dog. But I’m having trouble letting go of the idea of fixing it. After a certain point, there’s nothing to fix. It just is. And we’ve had wonderful bonus time with this fine, fine boy.

But it’s hard.

It’s hard, and I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. My legs work just fine, yet it’s the guy who’s down a paw who has to convince me to get moving.

I’m trying to embrace the grace, to enjoy these days for what they are. To let go of expectations or desires and to be present. To savor what’s here.

What’s here is a lot of dog pee. And I’m trying to laugh about that. Because maybe I could get a giant squeegee like they use on astroturf. And that would be kind of cool.

But what else is here is a big ol’ dog who is happy to be here, who feels just fine and is glad to see us. There are no greater riches.

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  • Reply Jenny Hart Boren January 8, 2016 at 12:14 am

    As always, we are their stewards on earth. You will know what to do; the hardest part is knowing when to do it. Big Doodle is an absolute cutie pie, and you know he would do anything he could (and there isn't much he CAN do) so YOU won't be sad. Thanks for including us all on your journey. I think of you often, invisible cyber-pal!

  • Reply Laura January 8, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    He has the sweetest and most wonderful face. I have an 11 year old St Bernard who is on borrowed time, so I can relate to your struggles. I love him so much and want him to live forever, even though I spend a large amount of time cleaning up drool. You are doing a wonderful job for Big Doodle and I am sure he knows how fortunate he is to have such a great family. Hang in there!

  • Reply Colleen January 8, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Cha Cha, I'm tearing up just reading this post. All of us with pets know exactly what you are going through and it doesn't get any easier.
    Focus on the positives and enjoy everyday you have with him. He sure is a handsome man. From me and three Bassets in Kentucky, we are sending BD healing prayers, drool, and positive thoughts.

  • Reply Kari Wagner January 8, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Sending big fat hugs.
    It is so hard as they get older because they are just so loving and never give up on us.
    So to imagine giving up on them? I KNOW.
    Sending even more big fat hugs.

  • Reply Green Girl in Wisconsin January 9, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Your heart is so huge and that dog knows how loved he is. Hugs to you as you help him through this. He's got the most affectionate face I ever saw on a dog.

  • Reply Karen (formerly kcinnova) January 9, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Oh, Cha Cha… so much grace (for both of you) and so much pain (for your heart).
    I am not surprised that BD helped you fall in love with your guy. Who couldn't love that face? Sending love from me and my aging black lab (who now looks at me with cloudy eyes when he isn't sleeping)

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