Wrote this for my professional writing class as a 'personal narrative article'. It's pretty close to home, though, so thought it could probably go up here as a little snapshot of my thoughts at the moment...:
My dog is going to die soon. With every week that goes by, we find more and more growths under his skin. With every week that goes by, he gets weaker, more senile, and life becomes harder for him. He might last another month, or he might last six. We can’t really tell. The only thing we can know for sure is that he hasn’t got long.
After sharing fourteen of my eighteen years with him, it’s been a shock to suddenly realise that there will be a moment at which he will cease to be a tangible part of my life. He’s my best friend, more human to me than most people I know, and I just can't think what I would do without him. Sometimes I hold him for hours, late into the night, wracked by the thought that it might be the last time.
I remember when my parents brought him home from Pets Paradise on a sunny Saturday afternoon in 1995. He was a tiny bundle of salt-and-pepper fluff, full of energy and life. He wasn’t house trained, but we soon learned that he had already worked out a use for his sharp little teeth. Before long, he’d been named Nipper.
I can’t help but feel like I wasted those first five or so years of having him. We weren’t exactly close – instead I was more inclined to berate him for barking than to pat or hold him. It was only in about mid-2000 that I recognised what a wonderful companion he can be. Unfortunately, the middle of 2001 saw my family move to London for twelve months, away from friends, family, familiar surroundings, and Nipper. I took two framed pictures with me for that year – a group shot of friends, and one of him. Every glance at that photo was a painful reminder of what had been left behind.
Since returning in mid-2002, we have been close to inseparable. Every day, when I came home from school, he’d bound over to me in a flash and we’d tumble around, play-fighting until we were exhausted. My brother, sister, and I would throw his favourite toy to him, and he’d leap onto and over obstacles with a manic glint in his eye, as happy and free as can be. He’d occasionally stop, lift his head, and howl like a wolf – the least dangerous wolf ever to grace this earth. He loved these games and so did we. They’d go for hours at a stretch. These days, when he actually has the energy to play, it’s half-hearted, painful for him, and rarely lasts longer than a few seconds before he limps off to go back to sleep.
We love him most for his personality. He’s socially maladjusted, immature, often idiotic, and suffers from a terrible case of small man syndrome – he’s wonderful. When walking him, he used to ignore other dogs unless they were at least twice his size. Only then would he react, baying for their blood. When they inevitably ignored him, he’d trot along with his nose in the air, like a victorious prize fighter – never mind that these same dogs could almost certainly tear him to shreds. If a stranger ever came to our door, he would do his utmost to protect his territory, barking manically and sometimes even lunging at the intruder with teeth bared. For such a lovable little rogue, he seemed to take upon himself a role as the fiercely protective guardian of his family.
These days, though, his cataracts and growing deafness mean he can rarely hear people coming into the house, let alone see them. There’s no more yapping, growling, and frantic movement. He just lies there, barely reacting to what’s going on.
He barely reacts to anything at all.
That was the old Nipper - the one who would chase anything that moved; the one who was always there with a wagging tail and an excited howl; the one who showed so much love. He is but a shadow of his former self. His days are spent asleep on the couch, or under a bed. At nightfall he stands at the door, barking at his own reflection in the glass, thinking it’s another dog just out of reach. Even this, though, is half-hearted. He is displaying the traces of his former aggression and energy, but it is now more sad than empowering.
I still cling to what little remains of that dog I grew up with. Every now and then, on his good days, it’s almost like old times again. These don’t last, though, and they are becoming rarer and rarer.
Mortality is a difficult thing to come to terms with. Nipper is slowly but surely slipping away from us, and it’s out of the realm of human control. I guess all we can do is make it as comfortable as possible for him, and enjoy the last days we have together. But I know that no matter how much I brace for it, that final day will be worse than anything I can imagine.