I got my Shih Tzu Mellie when she was six weeks old. She was my first stab at parenting. I was 25 years old and ready to take this little bundle and shower her with every last bit of love and tenderness I could muster. I know over the years, most of my family members have considered my pet parenting behaviors to be a bit over the top. Yet I’ve never considered her any less valuable than the two kids I physically birthed and though Ive never heard her actually utter the words I love you, I don’t need any endorsement of her affection, it’s simply implied in everything she does.
She’s an old broad, 84 years old to be exact, and for these past 12 years she’s been a constant presence;, the one living, breathing creature who has always been eager to comfort me. In fact for the first half of her life- I guess you can say it was a pretty self-indulgent relationship for me. Wherever I sat, within seconds she was right next to me snuggled up, she never pulled away when I tried to kiss her or reach out for a hug and for years she’d wait for me each morning until I was ready to get out of bed ( the old girl has slept till 11am on many a weekend morning without so much as a bark).
On the very few vacations we’ve taken without her-( because I hate leaving ANY family member behind!) I’ve left her in the care of my family- with specific instructions on how to feed her and give her water. The old girl needs to be hand fed and she will bark at the bathroom sink when she wants water- at which time one needs to fill up a cup of fresh water and she will then proceed to drink ONLY from that cup.
I know dogs are granted to us humans for a short period- and we have to manage to squeeze out as much love and memorable moments as we possibly can during those fleeting years. But it just doesn’t feel fair, and recently, as I’ve been watching my once spunky Shih Tzu slow down; she’s now blind in both eyes, needs to be carried up and down the stairs and just seems less willing to be cuddled and manhandled, I’ve been feeling this sense of dread and panic well up in my chest.
Perhaps because my dad recently passed away, I’ve more keenly aware of the ominous presence and reality that death will befall us- whether we want to acknowledge it or not. Also the fact that I’d slowly watched his declining health- which on some level seems to be mirroring that of my Mellie’s, has me even more cognizant of the fact that I’ll have no control over hers or any of my loved ones’ eventual passing. I’m just not ready to say good bye but I guess perhaps none of us ever really are.