While I was busying putting some more festive touches on the house in between editing a wedding, Duke was taking a post-bath nap on his bed in the office. I paused, as I often do, so many times to give him little kisses & appreciate the depth of his snoring while I bustled around getting things done. But watching him sleep, curled up so tight, in a dark little corner of the house, I suddenly had a burst of emotion well up. It’s been happening more and more. It starts with that gripping feeling in my tummy, the quivering of my chin, sucking in of my lip…and eventually the tears spill over and I end up curled up with him on his little bed, playing with his toes or rubbing his ears while I tell him what an amazing dog he is and how grateful I’ve been these past 12 years to have him in my life. That’s when I inevitably notice the spread of his grey…on his chin, face, a bit over his brow now, between his toes, sprinkled on his legs. And I notice the hollow of his face, his spine showing through that gorgeous glossy coat a bit more, the callouses on his feet from dragging them a bit on his walks.
So, I decided that on THIS day, his office bed just wasn’t going to cut it. It wasn’t good enough for my sweet, charming old man…damp still from his coconut-scented bath. So I bribed him up & out of his slumber and listened to his sleepy padding feet follow me into the bedroom. To the brand new California King, Temper-Pedic bed…covered in fine Portuguese sheets…layered in Hungarian goose down & Pottery Barn deliciousness. And as we walked in, I felt the temperature rise from the warm sun pouring in through the windows…right onto the bed, heating it…readying it for him. And after clearing off all the bed “fluff” of pillows & throws to make more room, I patted the edge to let him know the special surprise I had woken him up for. His big brown doe eyes lit up: “What? Mom? Really…YOUR bed? ME?!” And as I carefully lifted his waning 90+lbs up onto the delicious cozy softness of the bed, he literally sunk into the heated spa blissness of it all. There was no turning of five circles as is customary now when he beds down…in fact I had to push the rear of him the rest of the way into the center of the bed due to his front end collapsing in pure heavenly joy the minute it made it up.
And a nap above all naps ensued. A deep, warm, cuddled in the bosom of bliss, snoring, dreaming of fresh mountain lakes & chasing deer through the woods, drooling, heavenly sleep. His damp ebony fur turned to warm, dry fluffiness in no time. His joints ceased their popping. His old body rested, warm & completely loved. His joy. My joy.
“He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his love; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him…sick with worry when he is not along to care for me. When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another being. With him, I am powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me… whenever… wherever – in case I need him. And I expect I will – as I always have. He is just my dog.” – Gene Hill