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The Privilege of an Old Dog

February 21, 2021

It has been a hard week, a friend lost her old friend, a dog (and human) I admired. Another friend is facing the diagnosis of the end of life of their long time friend. And I am watching my household age every day. It has hit me hard.

Everyone one loves a puppy and they understand the chewing and housebreaking and silly things that happen with a puppy but they often don’t think about what happens in 12 plus years. Sometimes we forget the privilege and honor we have when we have an old dog who has loved us and we have loved. We forget who they were when age makes them someone else. We need to remember what an honor we have to love that old dog.

My portrait of PJ

As Solstice we have 4 senior dogs and although the girls at 11 and 12 are just not as active as they once were, the old man PJ (14+) has lost most of his hearing and vision and is suffering doggy dementia and some times he is incontinent. He sleeps most of the time and he can’t go out in the yard alone as he gets lost especially at night. It hurts my heart. We use nutritional support and make sure he has whatever makes his happy (treats and jerky and soft beddies), clean up after him but everyday I watch and evaluate his quality of life. When do we know they are ready to move on and are we keeping them with us for us or for them. I try and remember that we make a promise to them to always take the best care of the them and sometimes that care is the thing that hurts you more than you can bear.

I have understood this poem by Kipling since I was young. I have loved many a dog and each time they leave the take a piece of my heart. Hug your dogs, young and old, time is always too short with them. We are lucky ones who have given our hearts for a dog to tear.

The Power Of The Dog

By Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?


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