Patience

Fly in October 2000

David and I still have not heard the status of the house in Oregon that we put an offer in some time ago (the weekend of Tryouts, in fact!). We’ve been assured that THIS WEEK we should hear something, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much.  Trying to be patient. Trying to be patient is like trying to not overtry during a run – it’s a strange Catch-22 that has left me feeling worn out, even though I haven’t actually DONE anything.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about Fly.  Every minute I spend with him is even more important, it seems, because I’m not sure how many months, weeks, days, minutes are left in his life. Tryouts this year marked a big weekend – not only did we put an offer in on a house in OR, not only did I compete at Tryouts, but that weekend, Fly had some momentous events that have now contributed to a sharp decline in his mobility.  I’m sure in his mind, he’s getting around just as fast as he ever did, but his back legs continually betray him.  He never was one to sneak around, you always knew when he wanted something or was headed somewhere, but now the dragging of his back toes heralds his coming from across the house, slow, steady, but determined.  Somehow he still manages to make it up and down the stairs, on sheer will, because those back legs are no longer helping him, they’re a liability, dead weight. Not entirely dead, but getting close. He used to hate having his feet messed with, but now he doesn’t even seem to realize I’m massaging his back toes. His little stub of a tail still works…and thankfully, so do his bladder and bowels.

Fly will be 14 in September.  His eyes are still mostly clear, with no cataracts. His hearing is still the same as it ever was, which is to say that he hears what he wants to hear, when he wants to hear it. His teeth are still good, he’s never had a single one pulled.  His internal organs are healthy. His feet and toes still look like a dog half his age, which is a miracle, given all those wooden contacts, wooden slats, aframe repetitions, mistimed turning cues, sheer number of trials…all the aging he has experienced has concentrated in his spine.  When I had him xrayed in May, his vertebral column looked like a frayed rope; arthritic changes blurring the edges of every vertebrae, bridging the gap between each one. And the two accidents he had seem to have kicked his arthritis in to hyperdrive, because since then his back legs work so poorly that he appears drunk in the rear.  But still, he gamely motors around the house, up and down the front stairs to pooter around the block with David on walks.  He splats as he goes up the stairs back in to the house, and doesn’t seem to mind.  He splats and falls at the bottom of the steps, and seems to pay no mind to it, getting up and continuing on toward whatever his goal was.

Fly does not sleep all day.  He is alert.  He sleeps no  more of the day than Solar, who is only 5 but who is easily the most lethargic dog in the house.  Fly does sit around a lot during the day, or rather, lays around a lot, but he does not sleep.  He waits.  Awake, ears pricked, he waits.  Waits for David or me to get up from our computers, waits for us to move toward the kitchen, toward a meal, toward a biscuit. Waits for us to make a movement that might indicate time in the back yard, or a walk around the block.  He waits.  Patiently.  It seems, at long last, at nearly 14 years old, Fly has learned patience.  He still can’t put it in to practice all the time, as he does sometimes seem frustrated by his inability to go as fast as he’d like to go, get on the furniture as frequently as he’d like to get on (he was jumping up on our sleigh style bed as recently as April).  But, he has learned patience.  He sits and watches the flies when they get in the house, tries to approach slowly to maximize his chances of getting them without having to chase them.

It would be better, I think, if Fly acted old.  He looks old, and his back legs look even older, but to look in his face, other than looking to be a bit more patient (a learning experience not of his choosing, but forced upon him), he is still alert, with no apparent deterioriation of his cognitive abilities. Watching his physical decline is made more difficult knowing that he still has so much life left in the front part of his body.  But, I try to be patient, overtry, really, and it makes me tired.  But, this is just one more journey that Fly and I make together.  The last one, the hardest one, the one more impacting than any competition, any ribbon, any placement.

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