Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My friend, my doula, my Nightingale dog. Pepper.

I recently mentioned on Facebook that I had lived with my dog now for as long as I have lived with my own mother. Counting accurately, it's not exactly true. But it's close enough.

I was seventeen when my mother kicked me out. That's seventeen years I spent under her roof. We've been living with Pepper since 1995. That's sixteen years this coming Christmas.

This is a post I have been putting off for a while now. Long-timers to my blog have probably seen me post at least once each season for the past few years (at least) that I doubt she will see out another winter/summer. And still, this old battleaxe is chomping through the days. Well, I suppose now she's gumming them.

One of my favourites for showing Pepper's younger personality:
This was taken the day after Ella was born, she was so happy to see Steve!

In the time we have had Pepper, my fingers have had a lot of hours to rub her ears, stroke her head, massage her doggy shoulders and back, find the spots where she loves most to be itched. Those would be on her rump - she would give me the best doggy grins and "huffy-puff", as Steve and I called it, really showing her appreciation for the scratch of our hands - and also a thumb and forefinger drawing a slow line into a pinch from the base of each ear to the centre of the back of her neck. She still loves that one.

But it's hard for me now, to do it. Each time I interact with my dearest friend in the world, I'm reminded: she's not quite all here and not yet all... there. The shape of her skull has changed, I noticed just tonight. Another thing to add to the mental list I've been compiling. The space in front of those beautiful, almost regal, proudly pointy intelligent ears (can ears be intelligent?? Hers were very smart on her, that's all I know) has hollowed. Her top lip protrudes now, unhindered by strong, full length teeth. Her breath is foul. Her rump - once the subject of much discussion with her vet - is now my main cause for concern, for twice today, her back end has collapsed under her feather-weight. I dread... I just dread the next bit.

I want to have it over with - I curse her numerous times a day for still being here (it is really very difficult nursing a palliative care dog!) but find myself tending her for countless minutes as well. This is where my lost time is spent. Where once I used to gaze at my baby, I now gaze at this old girl before me (as I type, right next to my feet - she is still happiest and most settled there, where she knows we are).

In her heyday, Pepper was a portly 25kg at her heaviest - may not sound like much but she had to be under 20kg to be healthy. It wasn't the last time I worked hard to help her lose weight - it helped me too - and several months later, she tipped the scales 6kg lighter. The vet said she should be the poster dog for weight loss and commended both of us. Peppy huffed her audible, huffy-puff smile. It was a telltale symptom that would eventually turn out to be a collapsed larynx in her later years (something that good ol' homoeopathics has been easing lately, would you believe! Yes, so? I had a consultation for my dog... so what about it?)

I just know I am going to be so bereft without her. Ahhh, shite. Made myself cry thinking about it. It's so close, Internets. I can really feel it now. In so many ways, this dog has surpassed the Tour of Duty any dog makes for its owner. She has caught so many countless of my tears in her fur that even to this day (literally, today), she knows when I am giving her a hug... it is because I really need a hug too. And bless her sweet, age-addled heart, she gives it back. I wish I could balance a camera in one hand to show you what we look like together.

I'm angst-ridden. I looked at Steve tonight as she sat in a very awkward dead-legged position, unable to shift her light weight to stand up and said softly, "It's not going to be long now."

Bugger it.

We've had so very long together, my doggy and I. She has meant more than I can express - when nobody knew how to deal with me after Ellanor died, she was my only comfort each day. I would cling to her and weep and she would sit there and whine softly as I did so. You cannot pay any therapist to do that for you. She's surpassed being simply a "dog" to me - I suppose the good ones always do, don't they? I am tending her now as she tended me in my deepest, most bereaved years. She never ever failed me. Ever. There's not quite enough words to convey just how much she has meant to me, how connected I feel to her. All the ways we used to be connected - gazes for seemingly ever into each others' eyes, her ability to come from anywhere to sit by my side when I was upset, countless word and visual cues (she was the smartest dog who applied herself so diligently, almost anxiously, unlike the smarter Jazz who doesn't apply herself nearly as well and has a devil-may-care attitude and a whippy bloody weapon of a tail to match) - have all fizzled and petered out now to virtually none. The only connection I have to her, one of the only distinctly Pepper things about her are those gorgeous, velvety ears. She looks at me and I know half the time she doesn't remember a thing. I can see it in her face. Yet somehow, she also knows she needs to be near me. These days, I am the comforter. And while I do have my many moments when I'm frustrated to tears by the mere fact she is still existing, I don't, can't, imagine her not existing now. I marvel with Steve often that she is still here. And we still joke regularly that she may just outlive our seven year-old "puppy" yet....

I never expected to get more than ten years with her. That would have made her twelve. We thought that was old. She shouldn't be alive. Kelpies don't live (very well) past about sixteen. Pep's turned eighteen this year. She's gotta go soon. And I can't bear the wait.

Just cannot stand it.

And you know what hasn't been helping as I write this?  It's one of the most beautiful songs that came on my iTunes playlist (one I actually played over and over when I was pregnant with my little Lolly). I can almost hear all the final seasons in this song that she has lived - out-lived - and it's getting close now. Real close.

If I go missing anytime in the next few months without word.... will you promise to remember why? I just don't know if I'll be able to post about it.

Ever faithful, even with impending arrival #2 a short month away.
Never turned an eye or an ear from me, until her faculties began to fail her in 2009.

That lovely bushy tail is a mere lifeless stick now.
And once again, Jazz the photo-bomber stole her thunder....

Archived Posts


Related Posts with Thumbnails