Recently I popped in to our local hardware store to collect some lagging for our water pipes which keep freezing up whenever we have any frost. I got to chatting to John, the owner, about the weather, as one does, and I mentioned how difficult it had been for me to acclimatise to the cold having just come back from visiting Kiera in a very hot Washington DC. The conversation then veered off into how one’s life changes when the children leave home and how hard it is having our offspring scattered around the globe. (His daughter lives in some godforsaken place in Australia and he misses her terribly.) I commiserated with him over the fate of parents who, when their children leave home, are left with the dogs and then the dogs bloody well go and die. “It’s a cruel life”, he said.
It reminded me of the first verse of the Roger McGough poem, A Joy To Be Old:
It’s a joy to be old.
Kids through school,
The dog dead and the car sold.
My very old Milo Mutt has been deaf for some time now. He also shows signs of what I think is doggie dementia in that, for the most part, the character of Milo is no longer recognisable. He simply exists in a world of his own and appears very confused most of the time. When he is on the move, he is constantly underfoot and in the way. He drives us crazy by following us around and always standing just behind us or in doorways and passageways so that he can keep tabs on where we are. And when he is taken out for his late night piddle, our patience is sorely tested (especially in the middle of winter) by the incessant dithering that goes on. When he is not on the move, he can be found sleeping, gently snoring, on his bed in the bedroom.
However, there are moments when the old Milo reappears. He is still a trooper. Dogged (as in dog·ged ) is the word that comes to mind when he slowly eases his arthritic body off his bed first thing in the morning and lurches down the passage, through the kitchen and garage and into the garden where he finally releases the pee he has been holding in. His tail, which has been held straight down during the journey, suddenly springs back up as we tell him what a good boy he is, even though he can’t hear us. Sometimes he doesn’t quite make it but we give him an A for effort anyway.
Later in the morning, come rain or shine, he takes himself off up the driveway to Edna’s wee house. If her door is closed he barks to be let in and then he makes a beeline for the titbits that she leaves out for him in the kitchen. When he is finished, he turns around and walks straight out and back home. Recently, instead of turning left at Edna’s front door to come back, he sometimes gets confused and turns right and gets a bit lost. But he doesn’t let that deter him from his daily dose of Edna’s leftovers.
And most afternoons, if he is awake when it is time for walkies, he insists on accompanying us all the way, slowly and laboriously on wobbly legs. However, on the home stretch the spirit of Milo the Younger seems to kick in as he races down the driveway at breakneck speed. We hold our breath as he careers around the corner, missing the garden shed by inches, and into the kitchen where he waits excitedly for us to catch up and give him his treat.
Earlier this year he lost his sense of balance and I really thought that his time had come. But he rallied after being put on cortisone and antibiotics and that’s the trooper in him. So despite being deaf, doddery and demented, I don’t think that he is quite ready to shuffle off this mortal coil just yet.