My gentle, sweet Sophie is beginning to show her years, the gray encroaching more and more in the black of her face. She wants nothing more than to be at my side, to feel my touch. When I sit at my desk to write, she comes up to place her head on my thigh, gazing up at me with her soulful eyes. I know then that it’s time to take a little break and focus on connecting with this loving creature. There are wonderful gifts that come with loving animals and people who are growing old. Some people don’t see the beauty of this precious time, seeing it as a nuisance, a chore. I have been drawn to those in their twilight years since I was a child, and my heart feels great tenderness for the challenges and changes of that rite of passage.
With Sophie, I see her beginning to slow down slightly, to sleep more. There is a look about her that is more settled, even more gentle. I have to wait for her when I call the girls in to be fed, as Soph is always last, sometimes walking in part way so that I can’t close the door- she is caught up in the moment, too happy to see me,wagging her whole body in excitement. It could be the beginnings of dementia, but the changes are so slight that is difficult to say from this vantage. I am patient with her, give her extra attention and love. I’ve had her since she was seven months old, when I adopted her from the Humane Society to be my mother’s companion. She loved my mother, but bonded with me right away and has always really been my dog.
Sweet Sophie napping with Dan.
Guinness young and old…
I have lived with one other dog who lived to be a senior- my Guinness, who lived to be almost eighteen. By the end, he was in full-blown dementia and racked with arthritis. Each gradual turn along his way was painfully beautiful to watch, the sharing of the most precious time of life. He was a gentleman to the very end, and we stared into each other’s eyes as I kissed his nose, wet with my tears, as he left us. As has happened before, with Guinness it seemed that he was young and vibrant, and then suddenly he wasn’t. I know that’s not the case, but we often see what we want to see in those we love.
The same was true with my mother. I couldn’t see her as truly old- she was too full of life, even when her body gave out on her. I cherish the time I had with her, being able to help her when she could no longer help herself. It was a priceless time of pure love that I wouldn’t trade for the world, even though it brought some of the greatest pain I have ever experienced. I hope that I can always fully be there for the people and animals that I love as they age and enter the final season of their lives. They teach me how to age with dignity and grace, how to embrace life until my own final breath. There is no sadness in aging. Oh, it brings challenges and aches and pains, but it also brings knowledge and perspective, a coming full circle. It is a time of knowing what it really important, knowing to hold onto, and what to let go of. My aging loved ones teach me not to be afraid, but to embrace life and treasure every moment. I am grateful for each and every experience I have with these teachers. Their lessons are priceless.