Oh, my sweet Wolf King


The Wolf King, my sweet Tucker Pup, is the first dog I have ever had who has lasted.

My first dog, when I was four years old, was smooshed by a passing car after only two weeks with us.

My next dog, when I was nine, was way too much trouble and was given away two years after I got her.

I never had another dog until I was 34, living in the first (and only) house I’ve ever owned. My two children were young. My third was still just a distant hope in my heart.

We got a dog. She was sweet, gentle, smart, a lot of fun. She was here with us when our third child was born. We loved her!

Then we discovered that the kids were desperately allergic to pets. After our son got home from his asthma/pneumonia hospitalization, we had to let her go. She was adopted by a local family, but we never saw her again.

Then, finally, we got Tucker. The kids were all grown up, all able to manage their allergy symptoms. All on their way to their own lives, away from here.

We got Tucker. Tuckerman. Our big (much bigger than we anticipated) hound dog.

The Wolf King.

He has brought us so much joy, love, aggravation, fur and pleasure. He was Sadie’s boon companion for the last eight years of her life.

Now he is an old man. He doesn’t see well. He doesn’t always digest as efficiently as our nasal passages would like.

His back and his hips are arthritic, aching, weak.

We got him, God help us, a puppy.

Who has made him remember what it was to play. The puppy has reminded him of the joy of chewing rawhide. Its been good.

Except.

The Wolf King sometimes can’t get back up the stairs after a romp in the yard with the pup. Sometimes he needs us to give him a push. Or a lift.

How degrading.

This afternoon the two dogs were outside, romping, jumping, pretending to be ferocious fighters. Bark, bark, growl, bark, jump, twist, bark, bark, YEOWCH.

The Wolf King couldn’t get back inside. We got the pup in his crate and we urged and encouraged and finally the old guy wobbled his way, step by aching step, up onto the deck. He shivered and shook his way into the living room, where he laid down on the rug.

We gave him his gabapentin. We put on an ice pack. I massaged along his spine. He lifted his regal head and looked me in the eye. “This sucks” his deep brown eyes said to me. “It does for sure,” I said out loud.

He fell asleep. I rested my forehead on his. My tears soaked his sweet, puppy soft fur.

What will I tell Ellie when her best beloved old Tucky isn’t around anymore to comfort her when she’s sick?

I know. He isn’t done yet. He still loves his walks and his chicken liver and his romps in the snow with the pup.

He still loves us.

And he sure does love his Ellie. Yesterday’s post proves that.

So.

I’m happy for every day with this old guy. I’m happy for every time that Ellie leans down to kiss his old head.

And you know what?

I’m happy for every single time that puppy Lennie gets him to forget his aches and pains for a few minutes.

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Ouchie. Ouchie big time.

 

 

The Wolf King Reborn


I am the Wolf King.

Or at least, I used to be the Wolf King.

Lately I’ve been The Old Dog Who Can Hardly Get Down The Stairs.

What can I say? Time goes on, and arthritis hits hard.

For the past few weeks, I have had to contend with the humiliating prospect of a young pup, constantly jumping up to nip my ears or grab my collar. Always trying to get me to jump and play.

Annoying little fool. I have gone along with him as often as I could, but sometimes I just wanted to smack him. I have barked and growled at him so much that my royal voice is getting really creaky.

Today was a sunny day, and the air was crisp and cold. The yard was filled with fresh white snow, and birds filled our feeders.

The puppy, so foolishly named “Lennie,” was whining to go out. Woman Who Feeds Me made those sickening little cooing noises at him, and soon he was wearing his blaze orange collar.

I stood, slowly and regally. I do not beg to go outside.

But I don’t say “no”, either. I waited, aloof and calm, as the Woman Who Feeds Me put on my bra…. I mean, my Wolf King harness.

We headed out into the cold.

For a few minutes, I walked calmly alongside the Woman. The small, annoying puppy ran in circles around us, barking and yipping and racing in and out of the woods.

After a while, I noticed that my leash seemed very lax. I was able to wander away from the Woman Who Feeds Me without feeling the tug of the leash. Hmm.

Suddenly, a truck pulled into our driveway.  Somewhere, deep in my brain, I remembered that I am the Wolf King; the protector of our castle.  I began to bark. I ran toward the truck.

A though went zinging through my head.

“Hey! I’m running, and there’s no leash.” I glanced back at Woman Who Feeds Me.

Sure enough, she looked guilty.

“Tucker, come!” she called. She held out a tiny cookie.

One. Tiny. Cookie.

Ordinarily, I would walk on hot coals to get one of those cookies. But now. Now the cold wind was rushing through the woods. The smells of deer and moose and birds and fox came wafting toward me. I lifted my head. I sniffed.

I looked back at Woman Who Feeds Me. Her hand was out. Her voice sounded stressed.

I looked forward, toward the woods. I saw the puppy, running free, racing in circles.

“Tucker?”

My old eyes met the worried eyes of my Mistress.

“Adios!” I barked. And I raced like the wind away from the yard and into the woods.

Oh, OK. Mostly I didn’t really race. I sort of lumbered. And limped a bit. But I still went into the woods with the puppy dancing around me.

It was glorious. It was heaven. It was freedom, remembered from a time long ago.

It. Was. The. Best.

After a while, Woman Who Feeds Me, Annoying Puppy, Poopie Baby and Young Woman With Treats all went back inside the house. They called me to come.

But I would not be tempted back inside.

No. The Wolf King decided to sit outside of the house. Resting in the deep snow. With freezing ice pellets sticking to my niblets.

My back was aching like you read about, what with all the running through the woods, jumping over fallen trees, avoiding puppy kisses, and climbing over snowbanks.

I kind of wanted to go inside. Back to the fire. And the heat. And the cookies.

And the couch.

But I remained firm. I stayed out for hours.

I was so proud of my freedom and my strength.

Eventually, as I dozed with my paws held over my half frozen nose, I smelled the intoxicating aroma of cooking chicken livers. The window to the living room had been opened, and the simmering pot placed on the ledge.

“Oh, Woman Who Feeds Me,” I howled. “Have you no shame?”

She was trying to lure me back in.

But I would NOT be moved.

I stood erect ( except for my bendy spine and my splayed-out back legs.) “NO!” I barked with royal strength. “No! I will not yield to the liver! I am the Wolf King and I am FREE!”

I lasted a full four minutes before my aching back, my shaking legs, my frozen niblets and my empty belly got the better of me.

OK. So I came back in.

I got all warm. I ate my liver. I let the Woman and the Baby cuddle me.

I came back in.

But really? I only did it because I could hear that puppy whining for me to come back home to him.

I can’t resist the little goof when he gets all kissy like that.

But don’t be fooled.

If they drop that leash again, I’ll be off.

The Wolf King will be back. You can count on it.

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Still as handsome as you ever were.

The Wolf King Meets His Biggest Challenge


Oh, for God’s sake.

Doesn’t anyone here realize that I am The Wolf King?

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I am majestic. I am proud. I am the ruler of all I survey.

So it’s been a rough few weeks.

I knew that Miss Sadie was heading out of this world. I have known it for many, many weeks.

My humans are, of course, less intuitive than I am. It took them almost too long to see that she was fading, and that only her thinnest shell was left here with us.

At last, though, they heard her, and they let her go to rest.

I miss her.

She was calm. She was quiet. She pretty much followed my orders. She used to look at me with her big golden eyes and say, “You are the Wolf King. I am not worthy.”

I liked that a lot.

Then she was gone, and the Woman Who Feeds Me was often quiet, and I could smell the sharp iron smell of sadness coming from her, even when she took me for easy walks along our street.

Man Who Walks Me smelled different, too, but with him it was harder to know what he was feeling. I know that I wanted to lean my head on him more often. I wanted to rest my noble chin on his bare foot.

He seemed a little lost, to be honest.

And so it went, for a few short weeks.

Then everything changed. I had noticed that both of my humans seemed a little more like themselves. As if a shadow had passed over. Happier times seemed to be at hand.

One morning, very early, both Man Who Walks Me and Woman Who Feeds Me woke up early. I could smell nervousness and eagerness on them both, like a field of grass burning far away. Their voices were tense, their bodies alert as they petted me good bye. I watched them go, the Wolf King left in charge.

I settled myself to guard the castle from my comfy perch on the couch. I dozed, but only because everything seemed pretty safe.

Then I heard the car. I slowly got up from my resting spot, stretching my spine as I made it to all four feet. I made my way to the top of the stairs, clearing my throat so that I would be ready to give the traditional Wolf King Howl Of Welcome.

Man Who Walks Me came inside. He smelled odd….he smelled like a strange mixture of happiness and guilt.

Hmmmm. I was suspicious, but I am loyal. I am the Wolf King, but I know who fills my kibble bowl. I let him attach the leash to my collar.

He lead me outside.

And there I was met by Woman Who Feeds Me and……What was this? Could it be?

A Little Dude was there, dancing on the end of his own leash.

 

He smelled like faraway places and chemicals and fear and loneliness. I did NOT like this smell.

I stood stiffly, the regal crest of my neck fur standing up with electric fury.

“STRANGER!!!!” I barked. “RED ALERT!!”

Every one of my aging muscles was rigid with warning.

“Woman Who Feeds Me,” I howled in warning. “Watch out! A stranger has come to our home!”

Woman Who Feeds Me was looking kind of goofy. She had a big smile on her face and her voice was high and full of false promises. I heard her use my name, and then the tone that made me think of bath time and nail clippings. Or worse.

I was alert. I was not going to fall for the soft sound of her voice.

I looked at the stranger who stood in our midst, in the place where Miss Sadie has stood so recently.

He was tiny. He was vibrating with the energy of youth that makes the old want to simply sleep. His eyes were bright buttons of curiosity and his smooth golden fur was shivering with excitement.

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I got tired just looking at him.

I groaned and growled and barked to show my displeasure.

“I am the Wolf King!,” I cried. “I will not tolerate a wild hippy child in my kingdom! Get this Little Dude out of here!”

Nobody paid the slightest attention.

It was a long, strange day.

The Little Dude repeatedly peed on the floor. I knew that this would be a Big Problem. I settled my chin on my paws to wait out the reaction.

But Woman Who Feeds Me just kept cleaning it up without a word. She even scratched the head of the Floor Pee-er.

The Little Dude raced around the house, banging into walls, bouncing off of furniture. No one complained.

He tried to sniff my royal butt. I barked so loud I hurt my throat. That made him back off for about a minute.

He tried to lick my face.  Are. You. Kidding. I barked even more loudly, using my best Kingly voice.

That hurt my throat even more. Little Dude danced around my face until Woman Who Feeds Me got him to follow her down the hall.

At last, after a long and confusing day, we all got ready for bed. Man Who Walks Me and Woman Who Feeds Me filled their mouths with the sweet minty smell of bed time. They put Little Dude into a crate in our living room, and the three of us went down the hall to our beds.

Wouldn’t you know, though? That little golden furred, energetic annoyance kept whimpering and crying. I knew the sound of sadness and loneliness; I recognized it from the time when my litter mates and I were lost in the woods.

I waited a few minutes, safe and warm on my bed next to my humans. But the sound of Little Dude all alone down the hall pulled at my heart in a way that I wouldn’t want to make public.

I stood up slowly, grumbling the whole time. I made my way down the hall to the darkened living room.

“I’m scared!” I heard from the crate. “I’m not sure where I am…”

“Oh, be quiet,” I grumbled in my most royal Kingly voice. “You’re with us now. You’re safe. Stop making that ridiculous noise.”

I heard a whimper, and then the sound of a baby dog settled onto a bed. I laid my head on my royal paws, snuggled down on my lovely leather couch, and thought about what the future would bring. I fell asleep remembering what it was like to race around the yard with the wind rushing through my fur.

Life is sure an interesting journey.

 

 

Mind over Momma


Sadie, aging far more gracefully that some of us.

I can’t tell if I’m dying or not. What do you think?

So I should know by now that my old dog Sadie is practically a mind reader. She is more sensitive to human emotion than most mental health professionals could ever hope to be.

I should know that by now, right?

I mean, ever since she came to us, some 7 years ago, Sadie has been reacting to my slightest emotional expression.  If I cry over a sad movie, she lowers her head and stars to shiver, gazing up at me with her big sorrowful eyes.  If one of us raises our voice to yell at a bad move by one of the Red Sox, she slinks downstairs to hide behind the furnace.

When we laugh, she wags her tail and pants like a puppy.

When I’m scared or worried, she comes to sit beside me, leaning her solid body against me to give what can only be described as a doggy hug.

So when Sadie fell ill with a mystery disease, and began to experience everything from diarrhea to excess thirst to a caved in skull, we thought it was the beginning of the end.

We started to talk softly around her.  There was a lot of, “Oh, poor old girl!  Poor baby. Oh, my poor baby girl.”  We started to think that we should give her extra love, extra treats, extra hugs and brushes and walks.

Over the past three weeks, our fluffy old girl began to really slow down.  She was sleeping most of the day away.  She stopped wagging her tail and spent hour after hour hiding behind the couch.

Her stomach got worse, her symptoms increased. We talked about euthanasia. We consulted with the vet.  We tried to spend quality time with our beautiful old girl.

She kept getting weaker. She no longer stepped out onto our deck as we arrived home, singing and jumping around in her joy at seeing us again.

And last Friday we debated whether or not we should go away for the weekend with our friends. They had invited us to spend three days out on Martha’s Vineyard in their new boat.  I really, really, really wanted to go, but I felt guilty.  What if the old girl gave up the ghost while we were away?  Paul and I talked it over, then decided that it would be OK to leave the dogs in the tender care of our youngest son, Tim.  We knew he’d be careful and would appreciate Sadie’s fragile state.

But we forgot that Tim is only 23!  He isn’t thinking “end of life care”.  He apparently came in the door full of life and youthful energy.  He brought a friend.  They cooked, they went into the hot tub, they listened to music. I’m sure they laughed a lot and hung out with friends and drank beer.

They gave Sadie her medicine, but I guess they forgot to pity her or sniffle over her. I don’t think they ever remembered to say, “Oh, you poor old girl…..”

So, yep, you guessed it.

As we drove down the driveway after our weekend away, both dogs raced out onto the deck, both barking and singing and howling with pleasure.  Sadie danced around, her tail going a mile a minute, her big furry face filled with a happy doggy smile.

She’s been full of energy ever since.

I should have figured.  As long as I keep thinking of her as a spry old broad, she’ll keep acting like one.

Way to go, Tim!  Way to go, Miss Sadie!