My dog Brutie is slowing down. After all, he’s going to be 13 years old in another month. In dog years that means he could have fought in World War I, running from trench to trench delivering important battle messages or emergency medical supplies.
Today he divides his time between exploring the backyard, barking at other dogs walking down the street with their masters and sleeping. And while he sleeps, he sheds.
Every morning I walk into the family room to a carpet that looks like a case study for the treatment of leprosy. Brutie drops his fur in great black and white clumps.
Part of it is normal, I’m told, shedding the summer coat and building a cozier one for winter. The rest is allergies. When the leaves begin to fall, Brutie begins to scratch. He also chews on himself and yanks out great patches of fur, leaving me a dog that looks a lot like the carpet he sleeps on.
I’ve taken him to the vet for shots. I feed him Benadryl wrapped in slices of cheese. I brush him daily, getting basketball size wads of fur.
I also make sure he has a good diet including raw eggs and extra doses of cod liver oil. And, of course, I lay on a daily brushing.
I’ve often wished I had a spinning wheel to twist that soft fur into yarn. A woman I met at Minnesota’s Renaissance Fair years ago had five or six dogs that looked a lot like Brutie. She sat in her booth and worked a spinning wheel making dog yarn. On the table were stacks of beautiful sweaters she’s knitted from the yarn.
I asked her if they were named for the dogs. Rover, perhaps, or Spot. I was kidding then. Today I’m not so sure.
Some dogs naturally shed more than others. Huskies, Shepherds, Retrievers, Chows and St. Bernards top this list. The non-shed category includes Poodles, Yorkies, Maltese and Chihuahuas.
I’m not sure where Brutie falls on this scale. He’s just a mutt. His mother was a hybrid mix of Husky, Chow and Shepherd. I suspect his father might have been a Border Collie. That’s because when he’s not sleeping, shedding, barking or chasing around the yard, he does what Border Collies do best – herding.
Every day Brutie herds me and my wife from room to room, ushers the grandkids to one corner or another of the family room and when there is no one around, he sits and stares at us waiting for instructions.
When none are forthcoming, he sleeps and sheds. Which is about what you could expect from a 101-year-old dog.