L i f e W i t h D o g
She is 7 and a half years old now, with much grey in her muzzle and we think she is having some problem with her teeth, or a tooth, as she isn’t as eager to bite into her treats or carrots as she used to be. Living with her for all but the first four and half months of her doggy life, we know her well. Her many personalities. Sharing my days with her all day every day as I work from my home office, I know more or less when she will come over to me at my desk and inform me it is time for her lunch or dinner. She is at the same time entirely predictable and completely unknowable.
Why does she decide that it is time now to move from the couch to the door, but no, not quite what she has in mind; to the doggie mat in my office, then to the steps. She is restless. She probably needs to go out but if I open the door and let her poke her little leather nose out to sniff the rain, she will turn away. In snow she will run out wildly and roll around in it and jet propel herself across the yard with abandon. Rain only makes her wet. I always imagine that the weight of her wet fur is what annoys her.
She has a way of looking so pathetic, so world-weary, that I feel I want to weep right along with her. I must console her. And as soon as I change my position to pet her, she changes hers, and that look disappears and all is right with her world again. Her doggie “loyalty” is really her canine pack instinct at work. And yet to us humans it cannot help but feel like unrequited love. This is to her advantage, obviously.
She is so “teachable” that I am embarrassed by her bad behavior. She is stubborn, and certainly not as eager to please as a Lab, but I know what it takes to make my point and sometimes I don’t have the time or energy. She is not a dog who learns her lessons “once and for all.” They say the Pomeranian was bred down from the large, Nordic, sled dogs, and their intelligence honed for decision-making. If the command, “Mush!” would result in a foray over thin ice, the dog must disobey for the good of all. I am supposed to believe that this is why she hesitates when I command her to “Sit!” A command she knows well. Perhaps to sit at that exact moment in time would endanger both of us. I don’t know. Only she knows. I can almost hear the clockworks of her lemon-sized brain grinding to a conclusion. (One I will never be privy to.)
But love her we do. Our dedication to her well-being is much larger than her physical self which is only around 9 pounds underneath the bush that is her fur. Our joy at her very existence does not wane. When we tell her to go up to bed (around 9, her bedtime) she does so. But first she looks at us to ask if we intend to come to bed also. When we don’t, she goes hesitantly. Half an hour later she comes back to join me on the couch as I read, having decided that I may be staying up later than she expected. If I do come up I will find her on her back, her paws twitching in her dog dream, her head tilted to one side, with her eyes half closed. My arrival will cause her to open those eyes and then watch, expectantly, in case I decide not to retire. She will rouse herself from a semi-stupor to complete alertness instantly. But, unlike when she was a pup, once she is comfortable, she might not just leap out of bed at the chance to go out.
She is getting older. We see it in her temperament and her teeth and her bones. It is sadder even than watching myself grow older. Dogs are perennial children in their spirit, and we don’t really accept that time ages their bodies. I very often have nightmares about her demise. How easy it would be for her to be harmed. She is really such a tiny creature on this huge, random planet, even though her presence in my life is so large.
Copyright 2018 Rachel A Levine