I’m grateful every time that Stellar poops on a walk. That means less chance he’ll poop on his bed or on the floor. I’m even more grateful when he poops off the trail, but that doesn’t happen much anymore. He cannot longer squat, so he poops as he walks along. Anyone who has ever loved an old dog, (or a puppy, or any dog, or a cat for that matter) understands the importance of monitoring their companion animals’ digestions, from what goes in and how often to what comes out and how often. It’s not a tasteful task but necessary, part of everyday life as much as attending to our own digestive systems.
There are the jokes about praising your dogs when they poop. But there’s a good reason for doing this: training a puppy, helping it understand what a goooood boy or girl it is for pooping outside not inside. Some puppies learn it quickly, others slowly. I don’t think Stellar every pooped inside. I think he was house trained by the time we got back from Florida after a week on the road in the Mothership. He never pooped in the Mothership. We stopped often enough that he had ample opportunity to learn that lesson, and by then I had learned to always take a puppy out after every time it eats or drinks, and be patient, and praise a good poop.
This is the third winter he’s suffered from neurological damage in his spine, at first presumed to be degenerative as he continued to lose strength, muscle mass, coordination and mobility in his back legs, and began to lose bowel control. First it was just a random golfball on the bed overnight, and then another a few months later. Around that time a friend posted a query on Facebook: “Does your old dog ever leave a hard dry poop in the bed?” Yes! I answered, as did some others. We figured it was just an old dog thing.
Since he moved downstairs a year ago, bowel incontinence has increased. For awhile it was every morning. I adapted his feeding schedule, and made his walks more intentional, and now it’s back down to every few days. There’s a little turd or two in his bed when he gets up for his morning walk. The earlier I get up and walk him, the better the odds for me: less laundry. Also for him, I think. He doesn’t know it when it comes out, but I think he’s a bit ashamed when he notices it. You understand. Old dogs, they’re special. I’m grateful to meet any old dog.
I am so grateful to have Stellar’s last days with him, alone, the only dog I need to love right now. He’s been the most remarkable companion a girl could ever hope for. He’s made patience practice easy and a pleasure. I would be immeasurably lucky to get a thousand more days with him, supremely grateful for a hundred or two, or three; grateful even for only ten more. Ten days from today he’ll turn thirteen.
Granted, I’d feel cheated by only ten, since he’s finally doing so well (though I’m well aware, every day, that I could get only one more). After two years of steady decline, his health has been slowly improving for the past six months on a magic formula called ‘moleculars,’ a half-homemade diet, and a routine of two short and at least one long walks a day. Long being relative, half a mile or more.
I was grateful this morning when he chased Cynthia down the driveway. He hasn’t run that far in at least a year. Run being relative also, but he managed a pretty quick wobbly lope that I couldn’t keep up with walking. He got way ahead of me, and she was way ahead of him but he was gaining on her. I yelled her name, and I can’t stop him!
She assessed the situation, then walked toward him to turn him back across the field. Overjoyed that he’d caught her, he turned to lead her back to me, still lope-limping, til he spied a deer bone, which he grabbed and chewed, and trotted with toward home. We waved, and she continued on toward the Barn, while I headed home with my dog and my cat. I’m grateful for mid-morning quotidian adventures.
More gratitude for Stellar’s Last Days will be expressed leading up to his birthday… It’s too much for just one post.