I was a kid when I picked her out from the litter. I actually picked and then re-picked and picked again... For as it goes, a teenager is oft to wax and wane between moments of indecision, closely followed by apparently obvious clarity. The puppies grew older and shaped into the dogs they would become, and I at last came to a final decision, and I could not have chosen better.
She turned out to be a gorgeous dog, golden flowing fur and perfectly proportioned features. She had a spirit of perseverance and calm passion, and as a pup a submission that won out over all her other senses. She would hit the ground with all four feet flung in the air if you so much as looked her way, let alone imply that you wanted her to do something. "That is the worst dog yet, she won't even come when she's called!" my dad responded in exasperation, as my puppy lay crying and quaking in her signature 'take me now' position, at the mere sound of his call whistle. She grew braver and more independent, and eventually very well trained. I trained her, and she trained me a little bit too. Lessons in patience, forgiveness, and a little skill I like to call planning ahead, as in don't leave the dog alone in a house of full garbage cans, or my personal favorite, don't let the dog off leash on a warm evening when joggers and their unsuspecting canine counterparts will surely be passing by.
We made a good team, spending most of our energies showing off, winning awards, eating up the many second glances and glowing remarks passersby would assuredly dole out to such a striking pair. We were a good mix of talent, time, and relationship. What a joy she has been to me, a strong companion, a willing presence, a simple witness to my existence and experience, and she has played the role with such grace and beauty.
What a strange beautiful partnership we've shared over the years. She got a crazy kid to call her own, and spent her life in the wake of change and emotional highs and lows. Maybe not the good-life of consistent routines and a calm, mature, level-headed master, but she remained steadfast and charming through it all.
She played the role of calm, of reliability, of love, and devotion, she was my proverbial rock. I could always tell when I was off-center, when I had spent too many days caught up in school work or high-school love affairs and not enough time with her - with us, which also generally meant not enough time with my family and my God. She would blend passively into the woodwork, until finally she could take no more of my poor choices and immaturity, grab hold of my leg, and hump like crazy. As uncomfortable and embarrassing as these moments were, I heard the message loud and clear, and I listened to it, unlike my response to most other wise counsel. A strange and beautiful partnership indeed.
I find myself finally beginning to take a deep relaxing breath in my life journey. To feel confident of myself and my choices, to sit back and settle in. I guess its called growing up, learning to take things in stride and confidently become who I wanted to be all along. At last my path seems to stretch out straighter - a less rocky, more peaceful experience surely lies ahead.
What a great road to travel down with a dog! And what better walking companion then the one who earned the right, the golden who remained with me on the wonderfully rough road of adolescence, and pre-adulthood. The dog who quietly weathered the storm of my indecision and fears, my joys and triumphs. The dog who kept up with the ridiculous lifestyle of a crazy teen, traveled away with her to college, accepted the challenge and whirlwind of a new husband, and didn't blink an eye when she added not one, but two more canine family members to the mix! Goodness knows she deserves a break too, an easier jaunt, one without so much drama...
But when I look down at her, I look into blue eyes, set in a face that is white with age. I run my hand across her body, lumpy and bumpy with tumors and cysts. She struggles to pull her stiff body up the stairs, and tires out on long walks.
I grew up and she grew old.
I'm having to come to terms with the fact that she isn't up for the rest of my journey. (Only don't tell her that, because she isn't planning on ever leaving me alone, and certainly hasn't a sense of age or time.) But she is slowing down, and her time is coming to an end. I know my children will never get to know her, that she wont help me raise them, that my life will continue without her in it.
We're running out of time, and I still have so much life I want to live with her.
She will leave a hole not quickly filled, for what will I be without her gentle influence, her annoying habits, her lovable shenanigans.
I grew up... And she grew old... I suppose that's the way of it... I wish I could make more sense of the sadness that this truth brings. Time... Age.. Love...Loss.