We are drawing down to the last few months with Solomon and I am trying to brace myself and enjoy him at the same time. But I must say that it is difficult to love and grieve in tandem.
The other morning, Solomon was not feeling well at all. In an effort to adjust his rations so that he's not carrying too much weight for his weakened back legs, I accidentally found his seizure threshhold. He'd had a mild one the day before and had been a little off, which isn't unusual. But he also wouldn't eat the day afterward, something that's only happened probably three times in his entire twelve years and has never been an issue after a seizure (to the contrary, actually). And I was worried.
It was still dark outside and I was the only one up. I'd cooked him some scrambled eggs and sat on the floor beside him trying to get him to eat. He nosed the bites and looked away. A wave of sadness washed over me. In spite of myself I started to sob.
Solomon's sight is going, as is his hearing, and he often seems a little indifferent to attention unless it involves something he specifically wants (food, outside, his bed fixed, the water dish filled, Ruby removed from the burrow she's made in his blankets). But my crying got his attention. His big head rose and his eyes, glazed with age, fixed on my face. He pushed forward and began to wash away my tears, nuzzling me, licking my hands, pressing closer. It was humbling and uplifting. I thanked him and offered him another bite of eggs.
To my surprise, he devoured it and asked for another. And another. Watching me closely, he ate all of them and asked to go outside. When he came in, he slowly picked up a dog toy and carried it over to me, then laid down in his bed. Believe it or not, this is doggy braille and the message in human terms is I'm fine. Get up. Get going. Get happy. And I've heard it before. Countless times.
Years and years ago, when I was suffering from depression (the first time I'd ever been there and I had no idea how to combat it) and he was a puppy, Solomon took it upon himself to give me therapy. He would climb in my lap, wash my face, and bring me every toy he owned. When he got older, he would stand over our bed and drop tennis balls on top of me in the morning to get me to open my eyes, to play with him, to take him for one of our many long walks. How I was feeling, whatever else was going on in my life, fights with my husband, sick kids, unpaid bills, he was the constant--always there, unchanging, faithful. And the message I got from him was consistently loud and clear: Get up. Get going. Get happy.
I have a fantastic support system of people who love me, so many in fact, that you wouldn't think I'd need the coded message of a dog to motivate me or lift me up, but Solomon didn't clutter his advice up with words or philosophies, Bible verses, or self help therapies. And that made what he had to offer easier to internalize and take on board.
He is better today. Eating again, happier. But I am aware that tomorrow may be different. We're weighing his time now--how many good days versus how many bad ones. I've got my eye on the balance. I am hoping we'll see Christmas together, but have accepted that we may not.
Do you know that it is really difficult to tell most people how important your dog is to you? How he went into your inner battlefields and pulled you from the flames of yourself countless times? That his courage and his joy really were contagious, that you caught them from him? That he's been such a huge part of your life for so long that his not being somewhere nearby is just not an option? Only a small number get it--I mean, really get what I'm trying to say. So I've stopped trying to explaining it. Until now.