Sometimes we get our life lessons in really unexpected places, don’t you think?
Our old dog, Tucker, has been having back problems lately. He takes an anti-inflammatory every day, but that upsets his stomach, so he has to eat some yogurt with probiotics. He has pain pills, but we try not to give them to him very often, because they make him groggy and cranky. He goes for acupuncture about once every two weeks.
Tucker is getting on in years. His fur is getting gray. He sleeps a lot and he doesn’t show the same interest in chasing things that he used to show.
He is kind of like us. Well, actually, he’s exactly like me, but that’s part of the story.
You see, I have begun to think of all of us, Paul, Tucker, Sadie and me, as a group of old folks. Our backs hurt. We don’t hear as well as we used to, and our eyesight is troublesome.
I look at my old doggie, and I feel so sad that he is sore. I sit beside him on the couch, and I kiss his silky furry head and I say, “I love you, old boy.” I bring him treats when his tummy seems off, and I carefully stir good Greek yogurt into his kibble every night.
Our children are all grown up now, and Tucker and Sadie have sort of become our babies. We make sure that there is cold water in their dishes every summer night, and we put one of those dishes in our bedroom now that Tuck’s fading eyesight has made him afraid to walk the length of the hall to the kitchen.
And herein lies the lesson. We have started to think of ourselves as four old folks, living together.
The dogs, though, don’t seem to be on board with that interpretation. Dogs don’t seem to sit around taking count of their various aches and pains. And here is how I know.
Last night, the four of us went to sleep in our bedroom. The humans were on our Posturepedic mattress, under our clean sheet. The dogs were each on their special orthopedic dog beds, Sadie on my side, Tucker on Paul’s. The water dishes and water bottles were filled and there were tissues nearby. We all fell asleep together at around ten.
And then, at sometime between 2 and 3 in the morning, Paul and I awoke to the sound of both dogs, growling softly. As I came slowly awake, I could hear the distant chorus of a pack of coyotes, deep in the woods. Both of our dogs rose up at the same time, and moved quickly down the hall, all thoughts of poor eyesight forgotten. We lay awake, waiting to see what they would do, hearing the sound of their clicking paws on the floor. Suddenly, Tucker began to growl, and then he let our one sharp bark. Before either of us could react, both dogs began to howl, in perfect harmony. The eerie sound rose and fell, her higher notes winding around his deep, primitive howls. They were singing in the night, not like aging pets, but like the wild animals that they still are, deep in their hearts.
I sat up, and I listened. We both told them sternly to “hush” and “lie down”, but in all honesty, I didn’t really mean it. I loved the scary sound of the big, bold animals who live in my house.
In that dark, wild moment of the night, I was so happy that my old dogs were able to simply lift their heads and give a voice to the wildness that still resides so deep inside them.
I learned a lesson, don’t you think?