Column: Brutie is growing old


My old dog, Brutie, is slowing down.

He’s 14 now, and repeated ear infections have robbed him of his hearing, cataracts have dimmed his vision, and arthritis and hip dysplasia have put a hitch in his get-along so that it takes a couple of minutes to get the hind quarters in gear after the front end starts moving.

It also has created a little incontinence, so he has an accident from time to time. This seems to confuse and embarrass him since he knows he’s been potty trained since puppyhood. I try not to be too harsh with him, because I know I too am growing older and slowing down.

Brutie sleeps more now as well. Old dogs seem to do this. Maybe they think they will age more slowly when sleeping. Still, if I fail to let him out before I go to bed, he will wake me in the middle of the night with a kind of cross-legged sense of urgency. I guess old dogs do that, too, and I’m reminded that I too have to get up in the middle of the night from time to time.

During the day when he is not sleeping he seems to be at odds with life. He’ll ask to go out, but three minutes later will want back in. I think he doesn’t know what he wants, he just knows he doesn’t have it.

Now and then, he will nuzzle up to me with the hope I can explain it to him. I tell him it’s just part of growing old. I give him a loving scratch behind the ears, and that seems to satisfy him.

When I have work to do outside, on the other hand, Brutie is like a young dog again. He will run pell-mell from one end of the yard to the other, investigate and give a perfunctory dig to a couple of mole tunnels and spend long minutes exploring the back yard burn pile and barking at the chipmunks that have taken up residence among the piled up tree branches.

I know his days are numbered. But, so are mine. I don’t go exploring like I once did, and I can’t remember the last time I ran pell-mell anywhere. I too am slowing down.

But, as it stands, the two of us are still in the middle of living. And just the other day I looked him in the eye and quoted Robert Frost, who reminded us that we still have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep.

I asked him if he understood that, and he nuzzled in for an ear scratching. I took that as a yes.

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