You know the scene in Marley & Me when Marley’s so old he won’t go for a walk any more? Well, the Moosedawg, at 12, is almost there. When the cold weather hits, I think going walkies will be done and dusted. And the end won’t be too far away.
It’s sort of unreal when a dog is on his last dance. Especially one who was as big and smart and Moosey as this one — when we adopted the German Shepherd/Huntaway cross, he had a black face and hysterically LONG legs, like a baby moose.
Not that long ago, the annoyingly loud Moosedawg spent his every waking moment:
– slamming into our heavy wooden gate like the hounds of hell to let any passing dog know who be bad
– being on me like a shot if I went outside, LOUDLY saying with his eyes and his happy dance “WALKIES!!!”
– barking at dogs, noises, birds, trucks, the wind, various molecules, etc.
– or learning anything I wanted to teach him. Anything, well, except for the “SHUT UP” command. Huntaways don’t do shut up.
Then the age thing started showing up.
For about two years, Buddy has had to poop on our walks. At first, they just sort of popped out, guiltily. And being a great owner, I pounded him. Until I finally realized that, heh, he’s an 80-year-old man. He’s earned the right to poop whenever the mood strikes him. So I started bagging the moose-loads and moving on. He appreciated that.
Last month, he started stumbling around the yard, like a drunk. I figured he’d had a stroke, like our Shih-Tzus. Nope. The vet said the Moosedawg has cataracts and is losing his hearing. The huge benign growth on his abdomen is getting bigger. His hips are worsening, and the knee he blew out by slamming all evil-like into the gate hurts him.
Awhile back, the Moosedawg walked up to a big boy Golden Retriever, which reared up and got the better of him. A Golden Retriever besting the Moosedawg? I never thought I’d see the day. And a week or two later, Buddy snapped at a sweet young female German Shepherd that he’s played with before.
As the vet said, he’s surly because he’s in pain (hips, knee, back), and he can’t see or hear well. Fair enough. I’m getting like that, too.
The once mighty Moosedawg is also starting to go on “stand by” a lot. He’ll stand sideways in the driveway, “aimed” at the neighbors’ yard. Not moving. Not wagging. Not sniffing. Not barking. For long periods. With his brain on stand by.
But even now, the cute old Moosedawg has his moments.
He’s still 100 pounds and solid. He recently learned that if he turns sideways, blocks the stairs, and puts his weight against me, I have to stay longer downstairs to love on him. He discovered this accidentally, after he failed to cleanly turn around in a confined space. He sort of got stuck, like a rusty old semi-trailer truck that can’t turn as sharp as it used to.
Buddy showed his sense of humor yesterday. I scolded the garden bag man for coming into our yard unannounced. He said he’d called out, then decided to ignore our warning sign. I explained that Buddy didn’t hear so well but was still on the job. At that exact moment, the Moosedawg stuck his big ol’ moosehead into the garden bag man’s crotch just to say “hello”. I think his sex life passed before his eyes. Har.
Yep, he’s old, deaf and arthritic, but I have proof the Moosedawg can still dance, ever so gently.
In February, when the wife’s wild Tui bird, Twee Twee, had grown up and was about to leave us, it decided to playfully hop around as she watered it and the garden. Twee Twee also cheekily hopped around and under the Moosedawg, repeatedly. I doubt Buddy could see the black bird very well, and I bet he was thinking, “I know your wife likes this thing so I’ll dance with it. But really, if I smoosh it, IT’S NOT MY FAULT.”
So I sit here today, looking through a dog book, thinking about a Moosedawg “replacement”, as if there could ever be one.
And despite 12 years of barking and digging and pooping — and non-stop complaints from the wife about his moosely sins — I know we’ll all miss him. I know that one day pretty soon, I’ll have to cradle his big ol’ moosebutt in my arms as they put him to sleep. I just know the Moosedawg’s last dance is coming.
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