This dog of mine. He is sometimes quiet and calm, he is sometimes excited, especially when the grandchildren are or the great-grandchild is visiting. He is fierce when in attack or prey mode and just silly the rest of the time. He is not the smartest dog I've ever had, he's not the most obedient, he's not the sweetest, but what he is, above all else, is the most loyal. He knows every tweak in my mood, he knows if I plan on going out or if I'm staying in. He knows when it's time to go for a run or a ride in the Jeep with no lid... yes, that's his favorite activity and it usually also means a walk or run somewhere fun.
He knows I'm not a morning person and he doesn't even ask to go out until I'm up for at least an hour and have at least two cups of coffee coursing through my veins. He eases himself around, if he gets up at all, he usually just shoots me a peek out of one eye and lays his big old head back down, starting his timer on when I'll be human. Even when he actually needs something, he sits quietly, staring me down. If he's ignored, he gets closer, until he's staring me right in the eye, but never a peep, never a bother, just quiet, polite requests.
He came to me during tragedy and he's been holding my head up and moving my feet ever since. He came the same day I had to have a 22 month old German Shepherd Dog put down. I just went to look at puppies because I was so distraught, but ended up with two shiny eyes staring up at me for the over an hour drive home. Link's paw prints were frozen in the yard when Drake was being house trained and every time he'd step in or over one, tears would pour down my face. When we'd go back in, this little puppy would snuggle up and make sure every tear was cleaned from my cheeks and wasn't happy until I could manage a smile. I allowed him more room for mistakes, I was more than gentle, more than patient, because I was constantly reminding myself that he wasn't a "replacement", he had to find his own place and his own balance.
I took him to training classes and it turned out he really had some great prey drive and the willingness to bite a sleeve. We made a two hour trek each way, every week and he was doing quite well, along with the new German Shepherd puppy purchased by my ex-husband. But Drake Excelled. This large, goofy boy with a so-so pedigree was putting others to shame, he was on track to title by the end of the year.
Then a family tragedy struck. Just as Drake was a little over a year old, my dear, sweet mother-in-law had a stroke from which she would not recover, she wasn't coming back home. Over the course of the six months she languished, my marriage of over 32 years was finally coming to an end and the day after his mother's funeral, my husband moved out of the house, taking "his" three dogs with him. Then I got laid off from my job. We rattled around in the big, empty house for a couple of months, just the two of us, then I decided I needed to find new horizons, I need space away, I needed time to adjust, time to think, time to plan.
So, I called my soon-to-be-x-husband and told him that he could have the house, I'd decide later how to work out the finances. I took what I wanted, put it all in storage, packed up the car with everything I'd need to live for at least six months and drove away, heading southwest. We drove 26,000 miles, visited numerous National Parks, visited friends and family and forgot about everything but the dart I'd throw to decide our next destination. After six months we were returning east and joining the family for my daughter's wedding in Florida, then we were finally headed "home". I found an apartment and a menial job and was waiting for my divorce settlement before deciding on my next move, but it hinged on the sale of a home we had occupied at one time and now used as a rental. After 2 years of paying rent and being frustrated that, at the height of the housing crisis, the property didn't sell, I decided the best thing to do was to take the property instead of the cash, at least it was owned outright. We settled in, I found some work and life went on, until the repairs exceeded the cash flow and I learned how to live with no light in my bathroom, a stubbornly clogged drain the basement, a leaky roof, a wall deteriorated from water damage, the inability to purchase new flooring, bad drainage and a myriad of other issues. While attempting to keep up with repairs, the taxes went into arrears and the penalties soon piled up, making it an almost insurmountable debt.
With the help of some friends ::grin, grin:: and family, I was able to pay a good portion, while making an agreement to make payments on the rest, so all was well... until I lost one of my jobs in February and my pregnant, teen-aged granddaughter needed a place to stay and some help with a newborn, so she took my spare room in March. With a part-time job, she was able to pay just enough to cover her costs. Then, in early May, two days after my great-grandson came into the world, I lost my other job. Since I had been self-employed, there would be no unemployment compensation, so I've taken odd repairs jobs where I could, just to stay afloat.
After winging it for over 4 months, I finally got far enough behind that my Jeep was repossessed and my utilities were on the verge of being disconnected. All the while, still going over to take my turn caring for my aging parents, dealing with my father's dementia and my mother's increasing frustration, complaining and martyrdom, I was now forced onto public transportation for the commute.
With everything crashing in, I was sure to lose the house if I couldn't find another job. The granddaughter's behavior since the birth of her son has been erratic and not in the child's best interest, my mother has gotten physically weaker, my father's dementia has taken his ability to find common words, all of the siblings are doing what we can to keep them at home and I'm trying to keep my own life from unraveling completely.
And my dog, as always, is here to comfort me at the end of each day. He reads my mood and knows whether or not to even "ask" to get in the Jeep and go somewhere for a run. Always ready to sympathize, always ready to lay his big old head in my lap, always ready to pick up a toy and make me laugh or make me play, always knowing exactly what I need at any given moment and complying with fervor.
The next logical step is to sell the house, take what profit I can and cut my losses. There's nothing left for me here, the road beckons, change is afoot. With the down payment on my house, I was able to pay off and re-repossess my Jeep, a day before it was to be sold. I've dismantled my aquarium and sold my fish, given my children most of the "family heirlooms" that had been in my possession, gotten rid of all furniture except my bedroom and a few chairs, a small table that can be used in a kitchen and my personal belongings. I'm headed south, to the east coast of Florida, where the sun shines and I won't have to twist arms to get my family and friends to visit.
I had a meeting with my siblings and offered to remain here and move in with my parents to take over their complete care for up to a year, so I won't feel guilty when I go, but I'm not going to pay rent to stay here. My siblings agreed and left it up to our mother, who promptly declined my offer. The closing is set for Friday and I've asked for a week to get the house emptied, so I'll be heading to Florida within the next week and a half. After the closing, I'm purchasing a trailer large enough to carry what I'm taking. I'll pack it over the next week and pull out the following Saturday.
In the meantime, this past weekend, when my son-in-law was moving my granddaughter to her recently departed great-grandfather's (my x's father) house, my dog started having trouble keeping one of his back legs under him. He fell twice and had trouble when he went outside to pee, he fell when he tried to life his leg. I crated him right away, waited until everybody was gone and checked him out, checked him for DM (degenerative myelopathy), which is a spinal condition and ends in paralyzation. Thankfully, it was not DM, but unfortunately, it's looking like hip dysplasia, which isn't much better. The good news is, warm weather will help, the cold winters are no friend to bone issues, so Florida will do him good.
Let me now say that I have recently noticed weakness in his hind legs and I've just written it off to approaching old age, loss of agility, arthritis. But honestly, more than anything, I've been in denial. I've done everything right, I've kept him lean, I've kept him exercised, I've kept him on a quality food and I've not fed him junk or table food. He doesn't look his age, he has no gray on his muzzle, he's muscular, he's strong and people are shocked when they ask his age, many say he doesn't look older than three, though he's almost nine. So I've denied, but I can't deny any longer, our days are numbered and I'm not sure if I can simply just be, just function, without him by my side, this gentle, understanding soul who knows me so well, reads me like a book, has been the only constant in my life and always a positive constant. When I return home after being out, he calmly comes to the top of the steps to greet me, wagging his tail. He doesn't go berserk, he doesn't run around, he just calmly greets me, like I was expected at just this moment!
The only thing he has ever done to annoy me slightly is lay smack-dab in the middle of a doorway or in the middle of the kitchen floor. Lately, I find myself stepping over him, instead of making him move out of my way. I know the day is coming when the floor will be wide open and my heart will in pieces. I know that today is all we truly have. I know that he's still my constant, he's still my most loyal friend, I know that he has my back, no matter what. I will cherish him and do everything in my power to make every day he has the best day that it can be. He really is my heart and I don't want to wait until after he's gone to remember everything he is and everything he means to me. If possible, we'll get some wheels, if it will prolong the time we have together, but I will never allow him to suffer, I will always put his best interest above mine, even when it destroys me. I will love him always, this dog of mine.