So there's this dog here at the house, a bona fide canine, I mean. This said to distinguish the curious quality of Stray Dog which hovers about my particular person. Then there's my personal affinity with canines in general - but I digress.
The wee dog here is a mostly Sheltie dog, some other canine mixed in with it I guess, and she's about mid-sized and I realized a few years back I have known this one dog longer than any other dog in the span of my life. That milestone is also added to the appreciation I have for this particular dog's name, which is Groovy. So much fun to stand on the porch and yell out her name in the wee hours of the morning, calling her home. "Groooooooooooovvveeeeeeeee!!!"
I did not name her. I met her when she was almost a year old, and that was about 15 years ago, so her age is somewhere between 16 and 17 -- doing the mythic dog math means Groovy is 112 or older.
So Age itself hunkers about the poor creature of late, her hips corroded with arthritis and the extra weight she has place on her front legs now often leaves them slightly swollen, and she limps somewhat too. A year or so ago, she lost some control over her bowel movements --- you know what I mean - that ugly revenge Death takes on the Living. There usually are no messes, though, as she knows when action is imminent and she is well looked after in her home.
All those years in the past, the days and hours spent running and playing are dwindling away to days mostly spent sleeping - a walk in the yard nearly taxes her beyond her strength. I ponder on how long I should allow the Groovy One to suffer, and then she has a few days when she is fine - able to walk at least, run just a little. I can tell when her spirits are high and when she is dipping into pain, too.
She does take some pain medicine via the vet who cares for her and we add glucosamine supplements to her food.
But time is not on her side.
Truth be told, given the Stray Dog qualities of my life, I have only a few friends (other than my immediate family) with whom I have spent as much time. I am most thankful for them all -- But on many days, I prefer and have always preferred Groovy's company to almost any other life form on the planet.
Growing up, like bajillions of other humans, I have had pets and have buried them. It is never easy. And in the last 8 years, I have also attended the burials and passings of many of my family, so that the number of those who have populated my own life since birth are likewise dwindling.
So I am aware the passing and pain of one lone pup is barely a blip in the Universe of considerations of everyone and everything alive which exists.
I attempted to describe to a friend recently a certain mental image which has developed in my own muddled mind over the years as I (just as many others) try to accomadate an acceptance, an agreement with the spectre of Life's end. Again, to dredge up facts of my own past, I grew up with Death as a large presence -- my grandfather's farm was connected to a cemetery where he and my uncles worked to maintain the grounds and dig graves; my father, as a minister, ushered many families through times of Death; and I had a close childhood friend whose family home was the lone mortuary in the small town where I grew up.
So Death has always been in the edges and sometimes in the center of experiences.
With the recent demise of many in my family, along with an elderly and often sick mother and a few other elderly friends I help with household day-to-days, the particular mental image I have made might seem grim to some, but to me, it's more of an image of symbiosis.
One cannot be without the Other. Death and dying hover about each of us, like carrion birds, vulturous pets which as time passes begin to gnaw away at the very perch they require, to whittle away on us. In too many places one the planet, violent death and destruction are constants. So in context, living in this fortunate country is a wild and imagined luxury for many.
But here's the deal: Groovy is my friend and Death is replacing my prominence in her life - Age and Time grip each of us in a smothering hug which culminates in lifelessness.
For now, I assist the Groovy one as much as I can and am mindful that a day is swiftly rising in which a decision will have to be made, unless through some merciful moment, she simply fades while sleeping. I doubt that will happen - and it is a selfish thought, for my benefit but also for hers.
One day she'll look at me with eyes that ask for me to play Dr Kevorkian instead of fetch. I don't like that fact, but again, as I mentioned, I am forced by Time and Experience to be ... accomodating. It's like that line of Dickinson's poem which I have always liked -- "because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me."
As a writer (and a living creature, too) I so appreciate that particular word choice.
Both the creamy warm human center in me and the aforementioned Stray Dog-ness crave to Live as long as Groovy - to be 112 one day would be fine, as long as it did not happen at the end of a hose or on handfuls of dizzying medicines. If I were to reach that age, the year would be 2072, and in all my imaginings that part of my life would be in the early days of galactic human migrations. Given the state of humans in this year, 2006, I seriously doubt any such event is likely by 2072. Maybe by 2172. Maybe.
Humanity's taste for self-destruction which reigns so supreme in 2006 makes it more likely that 2072 will still be a time of Tribal Wars, as it is today.
Personally, I am glad to have no affinity for minds which see honor, glory or goodness in exploding or shooting other living things. Maybe those minds never had the simple joy of having a dog as a friend, maybe their minds were nutured in some holy fervor wherein Death and Killing are the (deeply misunderstood) avenue to moments of transendence.
Most days, for instance, I think the world's Tribal Leaders (and their fervent followers) have not even the tiniest grasp of what Life or what Death means. So it is no suprise to me they have no concept of what words like Freedom or Equality actually mean. Their non-creamy human centers must be instead bitter and barren plains, vast and endless. They and their followers must be swamped in such learned ignorance and greed for intangible and imaginary Power that they barely (if at all) touch the outer-most edges of Humanity
Again, to be more direct, it's that I treasure this rather simple problem of boy and dog and the progression of Time.
Within that parameter of Time, we are playing, or she is nuzzling my hand as I scratch her nose. Those millions of moments have more value than a flag or an anthem or a committee. Within that section of Time, Joy is the constant, and the end is barely a millisecond.
Like George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life", I know I am one of the wealthiest people on the planet.
I wrote the above about one month ago. Today, the Groovy one died, due to her failing health and our ardent wish for her suffering to end. Not an easy thing, but it was the right thing. She gave me that look late last night.
When I got to the animal hospital with her this afternoon, she waited in the truck while I spoke to the vet. An assistant asked me what color of fur she had (I have no idea why that was important) Before I could even think to answer, the words "She's golden" came out of my mouth. She is and always will be.