My dachshund is snoring. It’s a large snore for a little pup. More like an amplified smoker’s wheeze. No that’s not right… it’s akin to a pigeon with asthma cooing loudly into an old fashioned Victrola’s megaphone. Hmmm, that’s close but no… I got it. His snoring sounds like the echoing metal on metal sound of a breaking subway train on the far side of a station in the winter when the wheels are caked with frozen slush.
Look, he’s old and fairly deaf so the wife and I cut him slack. It does not help that most of his teeth are gone and he has allergies that clog is nose. The poor little guy obviously cannot hear himself so we let little Sir Grunts-A-Lot make his oddball sounds no matter how loud they get. He reminds me a little bit of my Dad when he doesn’t have his hearing aids in, giving a contorted strained smile and nod when he sees your lips moving and then responds in a volume that is either too low or too loud for the conversation. Luckily both my Pup and Pop are both pretty darn lovable characters.
Apparently, in people years, my dog is nine-hundred and seventy-two years old. Or something like that. I have problem with the math on those ‘animal years to people years’ conversion charts. I kinda had to stop reading them. I remember one time we took our elderly cat to the vet for his geriatric check-up and they had a cutesy framed poster on the waiting room wall with a convert your cat’s age to human years graph on it.
My eyes started working their way down the chart darting further and further until I got to the bottom. My cat was a year older than the oldest age listed on the chart. ‘Great’ I said to my wife ‘in human year’s he’s apparently dead.’ It freaked out my wife that he was off the charts so I tried to calm her down by saying the whole people years thing is like the wind chill factor, it’s just a way to make things seem more dramatic and intense. I was fibbing. I was freaked too. And for the record, he did not live another year. Maybe we would have all been better off not knowing. I now ignore those things.
I don’t need a chart to know my dog is very old. He was a rescue and was middle aged nine years ago when we adopted him, so we really do not know his exact age. His facial hair is as grey as mine but it’s more obvious on him because he actually has fur on his head.
He has hip issues, bladder problems and cataracts but still likes to go out in the yard and chase squirrels. The problem is the squirrels know he is harmless at this point so they taunt him by scurrying about 4 feet down the fence out of his limited sightline and then just sit there playing with their nuts instead of burying them. Or at least the male ones do.
The poor dog will stand there all excited looking the wrong way up the wrong tree that a squirrel hopped out of five minutes earlier until he gets distracted when he realizes he has to pee for the 800th time that afternoon. I can’t make fun of the frequent peeing though; my Wife says he learned it from me and my tiny ever-churning kidneys.
The other day the Wife was running late for work and let the dog out for his usual final futile shot of bladder emptying before being trapped inside for the day. He spotted a squirrel and started running but either did not see, misjudged the distance, forgot he could not fly or just didn’t remember that months ago we moved into a house with a pool.
She said he bolted at full speed and as he got to the pool’s edge he launched himself with beautiful form, grace and style like a mighty gazelle galloping over a tiny puddle without altering his stride. Unfortunately even in his youth he could not have leapt twenty feet over a pool so instead of gliding through the air, he splashed into the chilly water a foot or so from the edge. Needless to say my wife was late to work that day after having to fish him out, wash him off and dry him up.
Yes, we laughed at the pooch’s feckless flight turned belly-flop, but we love him. To childless people the dog is part of the family. So even though he has an expensive mushy food diet, numerous accidents in the house and yes, snores/wheezes like a drill sergeant using a leaf blower underwater, we deal with the inconveniences because the alternative is far worse. Even for dogs, growing old sucks.
Unfortunately the dog’s aging issues constantly reminds my Wife and I of the difficulties associated with getting old. He reminds us that just like him, both of our Mothers and my Dad are dealing with their own versions of the ravages on your health and well-being that aging causes. It scares me for them and for me. Not just mortality but the unstoppable bodily breakdowns leading up to the inevitable end.
But because it is our only choice, we all blindly march down the yellow brick road of life till our happy songs of youth turn into scary unimaginable things like ‘insulin, oxygen, catheters, oh my… Insulin, Oxygen, Catheters Oh My… INSULIN, OXYGEN, CATHETERS OH MY… We can’t stop getting old and we can’t stop the accompanying aches and pains that turn more and more serious as the years pass. Like an old beloved car that was almost maintenance free when it was new but now you have to keep tinkering with to keep it running, your body breaks down as the years roll by. Time flies incredibly fast and you realize that your beloved car has become a classic, then collectable, then an antique.
Decades disappear in a blink of eye. The friends you grew up with all disappear. The people that understand your era, that get your inside jokes and references all disappear. You stand alone feeling helpless that the one thing you could trust, your body and mind, are now failing you and there is nothing anyone can do to change it or reverse it or make it better. No doctors or magic or religion can bring youth back.
But before I get overwhelmed I need to stop and think of my little dachshund. The little old guy does not let his limitations get him down. He is still young in his mind and in his at heart (the one with the increasing murmur) believing that if he could just make that leap over the pool he will catch that damn taunting squirrel. I hope when I’m 972 I am the same way.