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Living with an Old Dog: Every Moment a Blessing

This morning I thought my old girl, Ingrid, had died, and I was stunned as I tried to lift her head and leg and they just fell, heavy, onto the bed. I didn't even see her breathing. It felt as if there was no life in her body at all. I surrounded her with my body, thinking she was gone, calling her name.....and then she moved. :-'(. I thought, "this is the way I want you to leave," peacefully, without drama. Maybe she was practicing. I cried much of the morning. But she's still here....a blessing.

She turned 14 last week and quietly enjoyed a small birthday party attended by her two housemate dogs and three other dog friends.  She was subdued but enjoyed enough birthday treats to the point of vomiting them up onto the couch at midnight.  

She can no longer climb into the bed and anxiously paced back and forth along the foot board until I lifted all 50 pounds of her and she curled up and slept till morning.  On occasion I would awaken in the middle of the night to find her sprawled out alongside me, much to the chagrin of my other dog who always claimed that at his space.  But what Ingrid wants, at 14, Ingrid gets.

In December she began falling down, back legs failing,  walking into walls and doors, and seemed blind. Panicked and thinking she was dying, I rushed her to the vet, who diagnosed vestibular disease, the harmless version akin to severe vertigo and , easily treatable with medication.  She overcame two bouts of that within a month and slowed down significantly since then.

She has cataracts that impair her vision but she is not blind.  She has hearing loss which she uses selectively when she isn't interested in what I have to say.  Some nights she doesn't eat all her food.
Once in a while she leaves the entire bowl full.  But she'll eagerly grab a cookie, steal a slice of ham from my hand, and sit wagging her tail by the refrigerator looking up until I acknowledge her request; she knows that's where the Pupcorn snacks are.

Before bed she positions herself at the kitchen cabinet waiting for her thyroid medication.  
She is allowed to go out the front door off lead for a quick pee at 11 p.m.
She has privileges reserved for aging queens and takes advantage of each of them.

I bought her a leather ottoman to serve as a stepstone to the bed.  She managed to climb onto it but fell backwards,  temporarily hurting her legs.  I thought then she had done some damage but she was prancing happily in the yard within 10 minutes.

She taught herself to use that stool to hoist herself into the bed and seems very grateful for the lift.

I hold her every day and meet her third eye to third eye.  We just breathe together and transfer thoughts, She knows her significance in my life. She knows she is my life.  

At one time there was a palpable hole in the air in my house after my first Irish Water Spaniel left us.  I still had two other dogs whom I adored, but every time I came home, no matter how much I loved them and they me, I was greeted first by a black hole, a cold empty space that nothing repaired.

The day I brought 10 month old Ingrid to live with me, the hole disappeared and the energy in the house was seamless, smooth, peaceful, joyful and has been since.  She is the matriarch -- no, the monarch -- of our domestic world.

I think I have the hopeful  idea that if I write about her here, she will never leave.


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