My roommate is a senior citizen.
She is grumpy, moody and often very bossy. She’s arthritic and prone to falling down stairs. Every day it seems there is a new medical issue she and I must face together. Yet, she readily wags her tail when I come home, scratch her butt, feed her food or give her a treat.
I’m talking about my dog Daisy, who as I sit and type this up watches me from her bed a few feet away. I’ve had her seven years. We met at the LaPlata County Humane Society in Durango, Colo., the town where I was living at the time.
When I adopted Daisy she was already at midlife at about 6 years old. We will celebrate her birthday next month on Sept. 25. She will be 13, or roughly 91 in human years. Though, at the shelter, they really weren’t sure how old she was when I got her.
After my mother died, I was terribly depressed. I was living in an apartment that wouldn’t allow pets, so the day I moved to a pet-friendly apartment I adopted Daisy. Before her adoption, I visited her on my lunch hour every day for a week. I had wanted a small or medium-sized dog; instead I got a Labrador retriever/pointer mix.
She was overweight when I first adopted her and she had a constant limp. I later learned her limp was not due to arthritis, but a bad knee. Two bad knees, actually. One of those knees blew out a few years ago and required surgery.
In the time I’ve been her caretaker, I think she’s had more doctor visits and surgeries than I have. And, for all the great care I’ve tried to giver her, I know that we are moving closer to her final days. Though, she may surprise me.
Over the last six months, it’s been clear that her body is growing tired. Her arthritis is a constant source of discomfort. If she doesn’t get her dog aspirin and glucosamine and chondroitin, her back legs just won’t work right. Some days they don’t seem to work even with the medication.
She’s taken a tumble down some of the stairs a few times. Now, I make sure to walk behind her on the way up, keeping a hand on her.
Some days I tell my dad, I’m not sure how she is feeling. She is still wagging her tail, yet she struggles for breath walking or going up the stairs.
She has always been such a trooper.
Like when her knee finally blew out and she had to have knee surgery. I was so worried about the pain she’d be in from the surgery. The veterinarian said she’d probably been in pain for a long time from the bad knee. The surgery, he said, wouldn’t be any worse.
That knee surgery gave her a new lease on life. She could run for the first time since I’d owned her. We could go to the dog park and she could take off and just run, she would be so joyful. I have a photo, the one with this story that is of her on one of those days. She was joyfully running through the clover at . Now, she can only walk in brief spurts. She’s left gasping for air. We no longer visit the dog park.
As she grows tired, I worry because I don’t want her to suffer.
The vet has offered to treat some of her ailments, but the care is beyond what I can afford. And, even if I could afford it I wonder, would it really help? She is old. Most big dogs don’t live as long as she has.
As a human, I don’t want someone continuing to poke me with needles and keep me hooked up to machines to keep me going. I’d rather die happy, knowing I’d lived the best life I could. No hospital ending for me.
I’ve tried to do the very best for Daisy and many times I've questioned if it was enough. I regret the days she made me mad. The times I yelled at her. I wish I could take back the times I’d lost my patience and temper.
I hope she can forgive me for being a stupid human on more than one occasion. I also hope that Daisy has been happy.
Just about every person who has ever met Daisy has fallen in love with her. Though her muzzle is gray, she still gets compliments about how pretty she is. She can make even the most hardened person warm to her; I’ve seen it. She has always just wanted to be loved.
She's wanted to be loved so much that she suffers from separation anxiety. Whenever I leave a stricken look crosses her face, as if I may never return. She always waits for me at the door.
I’m preparing myself for a day I fear may be coming soon. I’m not ready. She’s helped me through one of the roughest periods in my life. She’s traveled across the country with me and has been one of the best friends I will ever have. I can't imagine saying goodbye.
The reality is one day she will leave me behind at the door.
When that final moment comes, I hope she will realize how much she was loved. Then she can merrily run off into the clover, her long tail a wagging.