We adopted Bear from the Sonoma County shelter when he was middle aged. He was quite a handsome dog, mostly Chow with his black tongue, and not my choice. My son Shane picked him out. But we all loved him dearly.
I wrote this piece in 2008 and never published it:
Old Dog Teaches Me New Tricks
My dog Bear is probably around 11 or 12 now. We’ll never know because we adopted him just over 4 years ago. They said that he was between 6 and 8 years old but they didn’t know for sure. He never said. But I have noticed that in the past few months he is slowing down a bit, which is very difficult when a short walk takes 15 minutes because most of the time is spent sniffing. I don’t even call it a walk sometimes, it’s just a sniff fest.
I am thankful though that Bear still has an excellent sense of smell. His hearing has gone down a bit, as has his eyesight but he’s still functioning fairly well. All you have to do is say walk or dog, and he starts to get up, sometimes very slowly. Occasionally these days, he’ll arise to be holding his right rear leg up in the air and then hop around a bit like a 3-legged dog. I think that the leg either falls asleep or is too painful to walk on. I am sure that he has arthritis but when he hears the jingle of the leash, it matters not at all whether he has 3 or 4 functional legs. He wants to go out. Bear is incredibly lucky, as he gets 3 walks every day. In fact, when the family goes away we carefully screen our dogsitters to find out who will really take him out for his regular walks.
Bear lives for walks, and I am sure that Bear’s walks are helping us live better, which brings me to the new tricks that I am learning these days. The most important one, if I had to put them in order, is the lesson of slowing down. When you walk at such an excruciatingly (to me) slow pace, you have time to pay attention to everything around you. It’s as if the world is almost standing still, pretty much because I am not moving. But I get to examine the trees and notice gardens, in both back and front yards, depending upon which walk we take. Today I noticed that the huge squash plant that I’ve seen all summer now has a giant pumpkin-like squash on it, which is probably something being grown for a Harvest Fair entry.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Late in 2009, Bear started to decline even more than what I’d written about here. His walks got shorter but he still wanted to go. That 15 minute walk turned into 30+ minutes. I said that when he no longer wanted to go for his walks that I’d know that he was done. From November until he departed in August, we took him for acupuncture and chiropractic treatments. I made him food, and he loved it. I think that he lived for his food when he never cared before. But his hind legs and back got too bad for him to walk much at all. His paws got calloused and his nails bled. He couldn’t get up and down on his own. Near the end, he fell down a lot and I helped him walk, like a wheelbarrow race.
On the morning of his departure day, Bear woke me up early and it was the first time all summer that I saw the sun rise. After he was gone, I fittingly saw the sunset, and then the beautiful full moon rise. Since then, the sun has mostly been shining. We had a few hot and warm days. And I take comfort in knowing that Bear had a good second half of his life with us. He was mellow but stubborn and independent. He didn’t freely give kisses but he showed us that he loved us with an occasional kiss. He will reside in my heart forever. But as my father said (see the blog post here), Life is for the Living. So I shall have to walk myself these days but far more quickly, taking time to incorporate the lessons learned from Bear: patience, persistence, perseverance and faith – that there would always be one more walk.