Old

Diego

Diego is 13 years, 10 months, 3 weeks, and 5 days old today. It’s not a milestone birthday – heck it’s not even a day that marks a new year and that’s ok because every day with him is worth celebrating. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not declining rapidly nor is he getting any better – he is just being, and therefore so are we. 

We never expected to have him this long. He’s a large purebred lab and many like him don’t make it into their teens. Add to that his history or foreign body ingestion (also known as eating weird things that can kill him), his delicate constitution (a fancy way of saying surprise diarrhea), and the massive benign tumour that was removed from his belly almost two years ago and it’s an absolute miracle he is still here. 

If you have (or had) a really old dog you know the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with that. In the last couple years we’ve had multiple moments where we have been brought to tears thinking that he was in his final days, only to see him look years younger the very next day. So, we’ve decided to no longer spend our energy fearing the day we say goodbye, speculating on how long he has, or focusing on the things he can no longer do – instead we try to focus on his resiliency, and zest for life – there is still a lot of that to be found…

  • He sleeps much more than he used to – but he also runs in his sleep like he’s chasing the fastest backyard bear ever. He never catches him but we know he’d kick its ass if he did.  
  • He is stiff and quite arthritic- but he still does his dance of pure joy before each meal as if it was his first one  even though he’s actually had over 10,000.
  • His hearing isn’t very good – but somehow he still knows when the restaurant delivery service has quietly left dinner on our doorstep.
  • He can’t do the stairs anymore – but boy does he smirk when my husband gasps for air as he carries all 80 lbs of him up and down them. 
  • He almost always smells like really bad farts – but they are weirdly comforting because we know we will miss even that one day. 
  • He doesn’t rough house anymore with our younger dog – but he has found a new way to play that involves lying on his bed and chewing on her head. 
  • He’s not as comfortable being alone as once was – but now he’s always nearby and willing to cuddle. 
  • He no longer gets up to greet me in the morning – but I sure love the way he looks up at me when I say  “Good morning! Yay, you’re still here!” 

Someone once said “My old dog does this amazing thing where he just exists and makes my whole life better because of it”.  Very wise words indeed.   

Eleven

 

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Diego turned eleven today. Diego is our chocolate lab. He was re-homed to us when he was eleven months old because … well… because he was nuts.

I remember the day we went to meet him after seeing his smiling mug in the “pets for sale” section of our local news website. I was so excited! I always wanted a chocolate lab because they are chocolate – I am a simple girl.

We called the number in the ad and arranged a meet and greet. The address wasn’t easy to find – we drove down a mud road deep into the forest in our trusty old beater Jeep. We found the house, knocked on the door and a very tired looking young woman answered it – she had a baby on her hip and two toddlers at her side. “Oh, you are here to see TJ”, she said. “Just a minute. He’s not here, but he will be,” she added. She stepped out on to the porch and screamed at the top of her lungs “TJ!” and we waited … “Tee Jay!” … nothing – it was getting awkward … “Teeee Jaaaay!!!” Off in the distance, a brown blur of craziness emerged from the tree line moving towards us at a speed our brains could barely comprehend – jowls flopping in the wind, drool flying through the air, eyes spinning in circles. “There he is,” she said nonchalantly “he always comes back.”

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Diego’s first birthday

I remember thinking – is he going to be able to stop or will he just run right through us? The answer was both. He managed to skid to a hault in front of my husband and I but not before knocking both toddlers into a puddle and covering us all with mud. “We’ll take him!” we said in what was probably a moment of temporary insanity. And then, we – paid – her. In retrospect, it probably should have been the other way around.

We put him in the Jeep with us and off we went envisioning this to be your typical drive with a dog – you know, the one where you open the window, the dog sticks his head out with a big-ass smile on his face taking in all the scents and sounds of the journey. It wasn’t quite like that – instead he climbed into the front and ran frantically back and forth over top of us barking maniacally at every vehicle, person, bicycle and street sign we passed – taking a break only to chew on the little hair my husband had left at the time.

When we got to our house I was convinced things would get better – after all I was prepared after having googled “how to introduce a new dog to your home”. Google said to keep him on a leash and walk him calmly through the house so he wouldn’t feel overwhelmed – and so that’s what we did except he pulled like a rabid ox until he choked and his eyes bugged out of his head … and then he pulled some more. He settled for a brief moment – just long enough to lift his leg and pee on one of our house plants.

That moment not only marked his territory – it also marked the beginning of our journey with Diego who turns 11 years old today. It hasn’t been easy and it certainly hasn’t been boring but we never, ever gave up on our Mr D. We gave him a new name and a forever home and in return he taught us about patience, commitment and unconditional love.

Happy birthday, Diego. We love you buddy.