My dog will turn 11 years old next month, and I am sad because I know that time is catching up to us.
As I watch her face slowly turning gray and hear her groaning when she lays down, I look back on all the time we’ve spent together – traveling, hiking, and just living – and she has always been by my side.
She is not the kind of dog that loves everyone, eager for pets and affection; I once had a golden retriever named Sam who would leave my side to go with a perfect stranger as long as they were petting him.
It was like he missed the lesson in loyalty in puppy school.
Peppermint Patty is the opposite. She prefers not to meet strangers and instead sits quietly by my side, calm and reserved. She is easygoing and looks to me before she makes any decision.
Our morning routine has begun to change. She no longer gets up with me, but instead just lifts her head to see which direction I’m headed. She will eventually get up, but she takes her time.
Dinner, which used to be a happy dance full of circles and jumps, is now a series of slow stretches as she gets up to head for her bowl.
We found her as an orphaned puppy, about 8 weeks old, with no family in sight. She was covered in ticks; it was the heat of the summer, and the bugs were rampant. There were so many on her that her belly skin wasn’t visible, and her ear flaps were unrecognizable.
After we cleaned her up, she was a lifeless pup for days. I had no intention of keeping her. When I found her I had Sam, the golden retriever, who was 9, and Einstein, a 15-year-old basset hound, who to this day represents the longest male relationship I’ve ever had.
As it goes, I kept her. She was so easy. She never chewed a single thing, never had an accident in the house, and never made a fuss. She would do whatever I asked her, from getting in her kennel to staying off the furniture.
Sam and Einstein both died, neither living much longer after I took in Peppermint Patty, and I’ve always felt it was supposed to work out that way.
We have been thinking about getting another dog so she can train it. I can’t decide though if it is unfair to her or if she would enjoy it.
We moved recently, and our new yard is a dog’s paradise. It is one of the reasons we bought the house.
It has lots of room and soft grass. Peppermint Patty doesn’t run through it like a young pup would, but instead lies in observation of the birds, bunnies, and squirrels, taking it all in. I’m glad we were able to give her luxury in golden years.
Her calmness and pure enjoyment of the space reminds me that I need to do that more often.
Melissa Federspill is a staff writer for the Leader-News who treasures every day her dog is around.