Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Old Age No Bed of Roses


I've written stuff about my senior Chi, Ginger, several times.  About how, back in 1999, she eased a bit of sadness at the loss of our son.  Her puppy antics were just enough to pull us out of our mourning for a few minutes.  She's been a remarkable companion for my wife and I throughout her sixteen years.

But life now sucks for a Chi who will celebrate her 112th birthday come the 22nd  of June.  She's endured two cancer operations but is otherwise physically pretty healthy for her age.  Oh, she sleeps a lot more these days, sleeps so deeply now that, when I walk into the room and look down at her in her bed, and see no manifest rising of the chest I fear that she's passed in her sleep.

One of the reasons she sleeps so deeply is because she can't hear much anymore.  If I had to guess I would say she probably retains about 5% of her hearing capacity these days...not well enough to hear me, but able to hear her young Chi sister's high registered yelp when affronted by a bird that lands on the patio.  

Ginger's eyes are now just blue marbled cataracts that have left her essentially blind as well.  She can sometimes detect a bit of motion but can't see through the haze of her old age.  If I toss an occasional bit of popcorn her way it bounces off of her forehead and she's left looking clownish....a cruel thing to do to such a fine, intelligent little doggie.

Perhaps the worst though is her tendency toward a little old age dementia.  Happily it doesn't include any aggressive behavior.  It's just that, often throughout the day she'll wander around in a stupor, not knowing what she got up to do.  She'll just wander around the room, then stop and give one of those thousand mile stares into an emptiness that I can't comprehend.

Perhaps the saddest characteristic of her dotage is when she occasionally rises to stand, only to have all four limbs go out on her and she clumsily flops back down to the floor.   She seems to retain just enough dignity to be embarrassed by it and my heart breaks a little, remembering how spry and active she has been throughout her life.

I guess I should be grateful that we still have Ginger.  In spite of her limitations she's still relatively healthy for a 112 year old.  So, when she goes out in the evening to do her business, and gets lost in a mental fog, so that I have to grab a flashlight and go and fetch her, well that's not too much to do for the old girl.   And though her old, creaky bones have turned her off from enjoying a session in my lap, she still greets me each morning in a half hearted attempt to jump up on my leg and bid me good morning, something that she's done since she was a pup.  And, when she needs a little loving, and a gentle butt massage, she'll rear up on her hind legs and place her forepaws in my lap to let me know she still loves and loves to be loved as well.

Ginger has shown me that old age is not for the weak of heart...that it's no bed of roses.  She's already proven she's tougher than me; when I reach the point where folks are tossing treats off my nose, and when my legs give out when I try to rise, and when I can no longer smell citrus blossoms, or see a lovely sunrise, I suspect I'll have very little reason to live.  Ginger, the fine soul that she is, has risen above that and honored us with her presence for a little while longer.  For that I'm eternally grateful.


Craig said...

Dogs are special. As my dog ages her body ages but her spirit stays puppy like. She would be saved over 90% of the people I know.

A Modest Scribler said...

Yeah, Craig...I prefer my dogs over some people.