He was a bit thin when he went in, but afterwards, he started to lose more weight, throwing up if he ate his normal amount and having some tummy problems (Mom wake up, wake up, I know it's 2 a.m., but I've got to GO!), losing 13 pounds. The vet couldn't find anything wrong that a bland diet didn't fix and we discussed nutrition for him. I took her advice, and switched his food. I'd been buying the same Iams he'd been on since puppyhood, but he just didn't want to eat it that enthusiastically and it didn't seem to be agreeing with him.
So I switched him to a brand several folks recommended, distributed here in Indiana. Holistic Select. The first ingredient was meat, that was something new. Plus they have duck and salmon flavors in addition to their other ones. He was in doggie heaven (duck!) His weight returned to normal and no more tummy upset, ever again. It's worth the extra $$ to get him what he needs to be healthy and happy (which includes the annoyingly loud Mr. Squeeky which could replace waterboarding under the right circumstances).
The confirmation that all was well was his yearly check up last Saturday morning. Just looking at him there in the waiting area, I could see the difference from the last year, when both of us were hurting more than we'd let on.
As he and I waited on the vet, instead of worrying, I could just play with him and talk to him as I always do, as if he could understand me.
"Say Barkley, do you want one of those "THUNDERSHIRTS that Doctor H. has on display?"
Barkley (cocking his head and thinking to himself). "I tried one on, I thought it'd make me look like Jim Cantore and chicks would dig me, but it didn't work".
He got his booster shots and a thorough exam. His lymph nodes were clear, no parasites anywhere, no heartworm, healthy in every aspect. I have to bring him in again for some doggie dental care, but outside of that we were good to go.
Dogs are an expense, they are worry and time and hair and walks in the rain and the cold. They are also part of the everyday fabric of our life, to the point that when they leave us, we feel the chill.
Our dogs don't care what we wear, or where we live, or how we vote or who our friends are, as long as those we surround ourselves with are kind. For they recognize anger, they recognize cruelty, even as they forgive more than any one of us ever would. Dog's don't know the word "love". To them it's just a word like any other, a sound that defines or simply fills a lack, a word they don't need to know any more than they need to know the word for fear and pride. Yet, though they can't articulate it, they show it, as though nothing else had ever been, our form the shape and echo of all that is necessary to them
I watch him play in a a little park in the old part of town, briefly as it's so warm out. So little makes him so happy, random barks, a metronome of a tail, jumping and grabbing his toy with that quality of never ending hope, the eyes looking at me with a look that is forever ready for mirth. I take the toy and he sits, looking at me with that tentative and abject eagerness of someone for which there is just one wish, and it's about to be fulfilled.
I own many books, on many subjects. Tucked in drawers, not on display, are diplomas and awards, commendations for things I have done, or have applied. Yet no classroom, no flight deck, no laboratory, has taught me more than a dog. How to look carefully and inquisitively at everything. How to love deeply, without restraint or judgment or expectation. How to be happy with what you have today, here, now. He does not expect me to live a certain way, or think a certain way, he only asks that I love him, with a soft touch and a soft voice, there in rain and shine, there by his side when it will be his time to finally let go of this earth.
As he sits down in the grass to ponder the miracle of a chew toy, I look around me, at the weathered roofs, at the dust on my truck, streaked like tears from a recent, too brief shower. Under the back seat is gear for work should I get called out suddenly. I look at a church off in the distance, standing among the sparse gleam of headstones, an angel's marbled muse looking up to the sky with the soft knowing smile that is both grace and glory. There are no others around, just myself, my dog and my thoughts. I watch him play, there in those long summer moments, the constant mourning doves calling back and forth in time to a dog's tail, small things that remind us that we are so alive and so very lucky.
Photo by my friend JP