Our old Shetland Sheepdog is slowing down. Way down. The walk to the paper-box this morning through the lane took an extra five minutes. And once we returned, he did not recognize me.
Last night I let him out for a few minutes because he was pacing and uncomfortable. When he didn’t return to the door with his usual peering-in and the ‘Well? Well….?” expression, I went outside looking for him.
And found him lying on the deck, in a familiar place for summer; but when it’s storming, blowing, raining and 38°; then it’s cause for concern. His great confusion about what to do when I began to usher him toward the back steps tore at my heart.
His brother was the one who kept the two of them young, playful, and alert. Pepper has never been the same without Prince, and times like this make me feel both Prince’s loss and Pepper’s mortality even more greatly…
My old friend
I will tenderly carry you in my arms
into the quiet sterility of the place
where our lives must finally, heartbreakingly, part.
We have been saying our goodbyes to you
these last years
as we watched the ravages of time
slowly take their toll
upon your unaware and undeserving body.
as you follow me off to bed
and when you slowly sink to the floor at my side
I hear your sigh of relief at being off your feet
grow longer and deeper.
Your sleep grows deeper
and more quiet;
and so many times
if this is to be
your final night with me.
We took particular care to keep you warm, well-fed,
and as comfortable as possible
as you accompanied us
everywhere we went
while we shared your final days, together.
You did not understand
why your body gradually became less willing
and its communicated pain
dimmed your spirit visibly
but never for a moment did it quench it.
Always ready to care,
your strong, loving Sheltie heart gradually has grown weaker.
And you do not understand
why at seemingly random times
you grow dizzy and disoriented
when you try to stand and walk.
You are terrified by
that sometimes great pain in your chest
and your inability to rise
and walk away from it –
your natural Sheltie reaction
to something you don’t like.
My old friend,
no matter where we drove
you wanted to go along.
But the easy step up to the seat
you could not manage any more; and so
I gently, tenderly, gathered you up from the ground
to allow you to stand up softly on the seat.
The once bright eyes and big smile in the mirror
are dimmed now by concern
as we go from place to place;
your cloudy vision
making you a little anxious
until you hear, see, and smell me; near-by again in the front seat.
you gently step out
your dismount slow,
because of your back.
You have not enjoyed
the increasing visits to the vet
(except for the cookie at the end!)
but because we were going
you were always our gentle, happy companion.