Norwich Tales

Tales Of Old • November 2010

Bittersweet Are The Golden Years

When your puppy is young and silly you think he’ll never mature, especially when you are working on milestones such as housebreaking and teaching him the proper use of his sharp little teeth (yes Nigel I’m talking about you). When Nigel and Divot were robust young adults, they were so full of themselves – so energetic, and always ready to go. I could never imagine them being any other way. I could never imagine them not being able to keep up with me.

Playtime has gone from constant, to infrequent, to nonexistent. What used to look like two furry slot cars racing around my house, has been replaced by what looks more like two tiny, furry rugs at my feet. Nigel has become the amble-around-the-yard type rather than the hiking-in-the-mountains type he was, not so long ago.

In addition to her natural slow down, Divot’s anti-seizure medication makes her a little dull and lethargic. But just a few days ago, everything was just right; she must have been feeling really good, and she had a little burst of energy accompanied by one of her old pop and spin moves, and a quick sprint. It did not last long but it sure made us smile to see her like that again.

Some of their senses are beginning to dull just as senses do in every aging creature, although if there is any activity coming from the kitchen, sharpness and clarity miraculously return. The good manners they once possessed such as sitting quietly for their food, or staying out from underfoot in the kitchen have all but disappeared. They can no longer understand my instruction but that is okay. They did as I asked when they could, but now the most important thing is keeping them safe. I just have to be extra careful in the kitchen from now on.

Everything that involves Nigel and Divot takes much longer these days. A trip outside can take a remarkably long time to get both dogs down the “geriatric doggie ramp,” through the garage, and out the door to the lawn to do their business. Sometimes Nigel goes to the wrong side of the door and he cannot for the life of him figure out why I am trying to get him to go out the other side of the door – the open side. Sometimes I just pick him up and place him in front of the open door. There you go buddy, straight out from here now. This is the beginning of dementia. In the meantime Divot dawdles, making her way to the door, sniffing carefully along the carpeted runway in the garage. Despite my encouragement, she is in no hurry.

Finally outside, they do their business and now we repeat the whole process to come back in. Once up the ramp they stop and stand in the open doorway to the house. Perhaps they do this because I am standing in the open doorway, but since I am the only one of the three of us who can open or shut a door, I have good reason to be standing there. After much encouragement and a little prodding from me, they finish walking through the door and come into the house. This can only be described as like living with a hairy little geriatric couple that does not speak English…

Nigel has the uncanny ability to know when it is four o’clock wherever he is, and he demands to eat right then. During our travels, we have traveled through 3 different time zones in a matter of a few days and when the clock hits 4:00 p.m., no matter where we are, it is time to eat according to Nigel. This is the doggie version of The Early Bird Special. "It's 4:00 and it’s time for my dinner!" Like some older folks I know (yes Dad, I’m talking about you), they eat because it is time, not because they are necessarily hungry. Nigel either knows how to read a clock, or his internal clock switches over at cell towers like my phone does. I also believe he came equipped with GPS but that’s another tale.

This can all be a little frustrating at times but it is incredibly sweet, and incredibly sad. It seems that our time together has been relatively short and yet they have changed so much. I have reminisced lately about the wonderful trips we have taken with Nigel and Divot. We have seen beautiful scenery, and hiked some amazing trails together. I wouldn’t trade those high-energy times for anything, and yet I wouldn’t trade these slower, gentle times either. I have always thought of Nigel and Divot as being like my children – not that I think they are human – I respect them as the wonderful canines they are – but my children in a sense that I am responsible for meeting their needs, teaching them, and taking care of them each day of their lives. But suddenly I see them as very elderly beings. One day, my “children” became so much older than me, and it has required quite a mental leap to adjust. I can only hope that I am wise enough to meet their changing needs and do what is right to help them through the next phase. For now, we are treasuring each day and taking it slow.

Divot and Nigel – my favorite elderly couple