Good Days and Bad.

He looks up at me from the grass. First with just his eyes, then he lifts his head. I love that face. It looks exactly the same as it did a decade ago. He needs a haircut, but I don’t want to make him do anything that is unpleasant. Not now.

His eyes seem to question, but I have no idea what. He doesn’t seem to hurt. He is stiff. His back legs don’t work as well as they used to and this morning he didn’t have an appetite so he refused the medication that makes his heart work. I worry. That’s what I do. It is useless, but I can’t make it stop. I think back a few years to when he hurt his back and we had to keep him confined in a human baby’s pack-n-play to force him to rest up. He was a trooper then too. I was a basket case.

Yesterday he was hungry and he will likely be so again in a little while, but for now I give him the only thing I know he wants. I let him lounge in the grass, in the sun, in the yard we told him we made just for him.

I try not to cry around him. He’s never liked that, although he’s always tried to comfort me in times of sorrow with a lick or a nudge or just proximity. I only want him to feel happiness and love. I would gladly take all of his pain into myself. I would give him my heart of I could.

In a few weeks he will be 14. I don’t think he knows that, although I think lately he feels his age. I wonder if I had done things differently if he would have more time. I realize I have no idea how much time he has. I think of all of our adventures and wonder if he enjoys them. He’s been everywhere with us. He’s an excellent traveler. He never complains.

I cook for him now. Trying to find just the right formula like a new 1950s housewife trying to please her picky, hungry husband when he arrives home from a long day at the office. I try recipe after recipe thinking that one of them will be the magic stomach-settler. He loves chicken.

Bartoo gets up and takes the few steps from his spot in the grass to the foot of the porch where I am sitting, drinking coffee. He woofs that woof that tells me he needs something and twirls around to chase his tail. Just a single rotation. It makes him cough a little, but I take the activity as a good sign, although I can still hear his insides churning and gurgling. OK, plain chicken and white rice and you can come sit on the porch, in the shade.

I step down to where he is and pick him up. Even if we had already finished building the stairs to the porch he wouldn’t be able to get up them on his own, he stopped taking the stairs inside the house almost a year ago. I kiss him on the top of his head. I’m not sure he understands this gesture, but I do it for me. I put him down on the porch and he sniffs the air. A gentle breeze blows the long white hair back on his face and he looks thoughtful. I wonder, as I often do, what (if anything) he is thinking.

We sit for a minute or so before I talk him into coming back inside. The water is boiling. I throw the chicken in the pot. “This will work,” I think, “this will fix the problem inside him. One of them, at least.” I hope. No one can really seem to tell me what the problem is. Side effects of the drugs? Allergies? Bad food? I am left with observation, trial and error and lost sleep. I do it. I place my focus on him.

He deserves it. He’s my dog. He has good days and bad.

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