Dog Years by Ayelet Waldman ***

My mom subscribed to some popular magazines years ago; Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, McCalls, to name a few. I enjoyed reading them sometimes. I ran into an article on, of course even back then, dogs that I had to read. I have kept the article for years. I decided I wanted to share it with you. I contacted the author and she gave me permission to use it here. It speaks about dogs, but it also is about how time can change our perceptions. I hope you enjoy it.

I hated having a puppy. Yes, Fanny was adorable. So adorable that people used to pull over in their cars, leap out, and squeal at her in baby talk. There I’d be, standing with my actual human baby proudly strapped to my chest, and all anyone wanted to cuddle was my roly-poly Bernese mountain puppy.

Somehow, in all my pre-puppy reading, I’d missed the chapter on what a complete pain in the neck a real puppy is. Nowhere in the crate-training book did it warn me that she’d howl and cry all night, keeping me up far more effectively than a newborn baby, who could at least be nursed back to sleep. I was ready for chewing on the furniture, but nobody told me that a puppy was capable of consuming an entire couch!

A couple of years passed; Fanny stopped chewing, stopped whining at night, and developed admirable control over her ‘business’. I paid pretty much no attention to her, except to complain about her bad breath or the orbs of shed dog hair that rolled around our house like props in a cheap western.

Berners aren’t long-lived, and by some trick of time, Fanny and I entered middle age together, our symptoms oddly coincident. Her knees gave out, and so did mine. She got a titanium transplant; I got physical therapy. She started to slow down, no longer flinging herself off and on the furniture, at the same time that I began to think the breakneck pace at which I’d been living my life was a little, I don’t know, extreme. Her waist thickened. Mine, too.

Suddenly, we were ladies of a certain age together. No longer cute, but maybe still elegant. I spent more time stroking her forehead and digging my bare toes into her warm fur.

And then one day, Fanny collapsed. Her rear legs simply buckled. We rushed her to the vet who diagnosed her with a mysterious ‘spinal stroke’ and gravely informed us that it was time to ‘let her go.” But my husband was leaving town for a week, and I simply could not face “letting go” of Fanny on my own. The vet agreed to keep her until my husband returned.

Over that week, I visited her-quiet in her small cage-and cried at her stoicism. I knew she wanted to go home, and she knew I knew, but the thing about Fanny was that she had always (wrongly)trusted me, and even then she simply waited for me to decide what to do.

At week’s end, the Dr. Kevorkian of vets called to say that, defying expectations, Fanny had begun to walk again and could go home. Within a month she was on her feet-creaky and limping, but really no more creaky than I and with no more of a limp than my own.

It was then, strangely, that I began to fall in love with Fanny. We might have entered middle age together, but dog years run faster than those of humans, and she’s becoming old on her own. leaving me behind. Nowadays, when my husband travels, she sleeps on the rug next to my bed, as if she knows time is short. When he’s at home, she sleeps on the couch, and though she’s a little smelly, honestly, I don’t mind her being up on the furniture. Surely her old bones deserve upholstered pillows. After all it’s because she ate its predecessor that we have such a comfortable place for her to sleep.

Avelet Waldman has raised one dog and four children. Her books include A Really Good Day, Bad Mother, Red Hook Road, and others. [Good Housekeeping Feb 2012]

***This was re-printed here by courtesy of Avelet Waldman. Thank you