Discover more from Stark Raving Mad
Thinking about fear, the golden years, and doing better.
(This one is a little different. I’m playing around with how I use this place. After watching Elon Musk throw a tantrum about Substack this week it honestly spurred me to think about how I could use it more. Let me know what you think. It’s a work in progress. So am I. On that note, sorry for everyone who got an email that I turned on the chatroom function. I don’t know what I’m doing.)
My dog is old. Eleven and a half, having spent all but a month of that by my side. How old that would be in equivalent human years is a little hard to figure. The old rule I knew growing up (which is apparently not true) puts him at 80. The American Veterinary Medical Association puts him at 71 1/2 years old. Purina (albeit with a calculator that doesn’t include the breed my best guess puts him as) puts him at 85. The AKC chart puts him at 75 1/2. I obviously pick the lowest age, but the fact remains that he has more days behind him than ahead of him, a fact that brings me no small amount of anxiety.
To be fair, he’s still full of life. He sleeps more than he used to, he’s a little stiffer, and a little lumpier, but he still loves to play and walk and bark at other dogs out the window. As I edit this he just demanded we leave the room where I’m working so he could go find his blanket that he carries around like a little Linus. He’s been remarkably healthy (I say as I tap on the wooden desk next to me), and I should enjoy these nice days for however long they last.
My last dog passed at the age of 12, which adds to my general concern. Of course, he had gone through an extended stretch of poor health, including an extremely invasive surgery and multiple bouts of a mystery condition that twice seemed on the verge of killing him (a condition that obscene amounts of tests failed to identify). My current dog is completely different. Different breed, no similar issues, etc.
But I still worry.
So I try things. I switch his food to a fancy one. My vet tells me I’m already using a very good food and why mess with what’s already working but I do, because of course I do. I can afford something nicer, to go with the parade of toys and treats and beds that are probably more comfortable than my own mattress. I switch to one of those fresh diets, which just leaves him ravenous all the time and feeling sick. I try to supplement with a new fancy freeze dried food and it just makes his stomach issues worse. Two months later and I’m back to his original, still-very-nice food. Did I learn a lesson? I wish I could say yes.
I stress when he has a bad day or two. Is it a sign of something serious? The beginning of a painful decline? He threw up twice this week, something out of the ordinary. Both times after I gave him a new treat. I put that bag aside and the issues immediately vanished. He’s fine.
I spend a lot of time trying to keep him happy, stressing if work keeps him from walking as much as he would like. Wondering how he feels when I spend hours on calls during which he gets shushed if he barks at the neighbors.
I don’t lightly call him my best friend, especially after spending more than a decade as my constant companion. We’re an ocean away from where he was born and where I rescued him. He has seen some very high highs and some very low lows along the way, and handled it all with delight.
I can do more than I could when I was younger. Better foods, better medical care, more toys. He gets daily supplements, car rides, extra treats. I can’t do the things that I worry matter most, and that weighs on me. I cannot explain to him why people have vanished from his life. I can’t tell him why things have felt so unanchored for years, why we’ve moved so many times, why each place we’ve stopped along the way was not our home. I can’t explain that soon, very soon, we’ll stop moving all the time. That we’re on the verge of settling and that will be where he gets to stay. That the people who surround him now aren’t going to vanish.
Sometimes it all feels upsetting and hard, and then we have a moment of pure joy. I had one of those yesterday. I had taken him outside and we were walking back. I started to jog, I nudged him to play. He delighted at the chance to frolic, running alongside me, bouncing with fun. His endurance isn’t what it used to be, and a few minutes of that leads to a peaceful nap after.
Maybe I am doing the things that matter. Maybe he doesn’t think about the things I worry about. Maybe I have a lot more time. I hope I do.