Ode to an Old Dog

You’re fifteen now, and every single time I make your breakfast I cry until I can’t see the bowl in front of my face, because every day that I get up and you’re still around is a reminder that soon, inevitably, you won’t be. I can’t even remember or imagine this house without you in it. Your name is Presley, but lately I just call you Dog, because you’re the very essence of dogness, you’re the only dog, not a dog but The Dog, the only dog I want in my life, now and forever. Dog is a word that means love – if there is a God, I’m sure he’s happy that his best creations have his own name, spelled backwards. Dog means love, because dogs are made of love – they know nothing else. So I just call you Dog. It doesn’t really matter what I call you though, because you’re deaf now anyway. You used to be able to hear food fall to the floor from a mile away. There are a lot of good things about you being so old. You sleep a lot, so you don’t get bored, you can’t walk far, so we never have to go out in the rain and walk for miles and miles while I wish I got a cat instead, and since you’re deaf you don’t bark at fireworks for the whole of November. You also shit on the patio instead of up the garden, which is a bit unsightly but makes picking it up easier. You’re pretty convenient now you’re old, Dog, but you’re still you, and everything I loved about you, everything that made me choose you out of all those rows of sad dogs in cages, it’s still there. You’re still scruffy with a beard and hairy feet and a white tip on your tail, and you still love hugs, and you still grumble about everything – mum used to be scared of you, because you growl so much, but you’ve never bitten a single person in your long, long life. You just like to grumble.

I love you, Dog, more than I love most humans, to be honest. You can still get up and down the stairs, you can just about jump into the car, sometimes (though sometimes you can’t, and I have to lift and boost you, and you’re one hell of a lump – sorry, but it’s true), you’re still smiley and exuberant since the vets put you on painkillers for your arthritis, pills for your Cushing’s, but even so, Dog, you’re like 94 in human years, and every time I look at you now I wonder when and how it’s going to end. Sometimes you sleep so deep I’m not sure if you’re still breathing, and I hope it’s that, in the end, that you just slip away in your own house. I don’t want to have you put down, at the vet’s, where you’re scared and you trust me to get you out of there safely but this time I won’t – I’ll leave without you, forever, and go back to an empty house with your worn out collar in my hand, hanging loose, nothing inside it but memories and your fading scent.

But however it goes, I hope it’s not for years. I hope you break world records. I hope you live to be 32. I get bad feelings a lot, when I say goodnight to you, and I say ‘See you tomorrow’, and wonder if I won’t.

Please don’t die, Dog. Not ever. Here’s some incentive: Mum says that when you’re gone, she’s getting a cat. Maybe even two cats. That’s right, Dog. There are going to be cats living in your house and drinking out of your bowl, and being hugged by your humans. Fucking cats, Dog. A whole army of fucking cats. So you can’t die. You have to keep the cats out, just like you always have. Hating cats is your raison d’être.

So that’s what I wanted to say to you. But for me, I need this part – I need to make a list of all the things I love about you, while you’re still here, and I’m going to keep adding to this, every single day that you’re here with me, even as my tears fall and my makeup smudges. I need to be able to remember you, everything that made you so special. This is your legacy, your history, your life. This is my love for you.

I love your grumbly hugs – sometimes I pretend I’ve forgotten to give you dinner just so you come up and give me grumbly hugs until I relent. I love the way you go down the stairs like a floppy old rug mated with a Slinky, boing, boing, flop, flop. I love all our memories together, when you were young and able and we’d explore the woods for hours, and sit on rocky outcroppings overlooking the forest. I remember the times you’d chase squirrels and throw yourself right over cliff edges, but somehow you always came back up, smiling. I remember when I had a psychiatric assessment at home, and you were with me, and it was the one time I could vocalise myself without crying. Ironic now, that I cry almost every time I hug you, because I know you’re leaving.

I love how you like to round up your humans, how you have to know where everybody is, so whenever I come upstairs you follow me, then you do your rounds – bathroom, toilet, bedroom – until you find me. Then you lie on the floor and chew some trash for a while, and go back downstairs, where there’s more going on. I wish it didn’t make you so stressed every time I go out at night – you never used to be like that when you were young, but now, you hate people leaving you at night, even with the lights on. It’s sweet and sad all at once when I come back and you’re lying right by the door, in the draughty hallway, waiting.

I love how you have no interest in toys whatsoever, unless it’s a ball to catch. Instead, you like trash – empty chocolate wrappers, receipts, tissue paper, it’s all fair game. I love that you see the wonder in trash, that you delve through my bin and cause absolute fucking chaos, then you find your favourite bit of trash and lie down to munch on it for hours.

I love how you come out to see me whenever I go down in the night – I don’t know how you do it, now you’re deaf, I guess you catch my scent, but if I go downstairs at 2am, you’ll get out of bed on your stiff old legs and come to give me sleepy hugs, smelling of soft warm sleep-laden fur. I love your shoulders, where the fur is thick and soft and I can lay my head and you don’t mind – I’ve seen all the articles about never hugging dogs, but you like it. You like it when I whisper in your ear, too, maybe because you’re deaf and it’s the only sound you hear now, or maybe it’s because I like it when you snuffle in my ear too. It feels nice. You get that. I love your crazy hair, that your white patches are twice the length of your short black parts, so you have a white mohawk on the back of your neck, a furry, furry belly, big white shaggy feet, a glorious beard and a tail like a fox. I love your eyes, how you look like a seal when you’re sleepy and your ears are back – nothing but gleaming black fur and big, shiny, deep brown eyes. I love your smile, it’s easy to make you smile, even if I’ve been boring, even if I’ve been on the computer all day and you’re so fucking jealous of my computer – you forgive me. You smile, you give me hugs. I love you – all of you, every bit of these past thirteen and a half years, even when you pulled me over and I grazed my knees, even when you stayed up all night barking at thunderstorms, even when I had to walk you in the rain, even when you shat in the park and I had no poo bags and that chav yelled at me, even when you chase me around barking because you think six treats in a day isn’t enough – I’d never take it back. Not a second of it.

I’m honoured to have been your Person, but it breaks my heart knowing that I only got that privilege because somebody else dumped you on a random street and drove away. Because you were, you were a sad dog in an RSPCA cage – you’d been a stray. Nobody claimed you. But you’d been loved – for months you kept trying to curl up in my lap, thinking you were still a tiny puppy – someone had held you and loved you, and then you grew up into a wild, anarchic, shoe-chewing teenager and they just dumped you. They fucking dumped you. I know how anxious you get waiting outside shops – I rarely do that to you, because you hate it. But those people, whoever they were, who’d loved you as a tiny little bundle of black and white fluff, who were everything you’d ever known, they left you waiting forever, in distress, cold and hungry and lost. You’re so forgiving, Dog. You were wild and noisy and crazy and frequently a royal pain in the arse when you were young, and I admit, we had some discussions about you being the wrong dog for us (especially when you tried to eat my mum’s favourite cat, and we had to split the house in half – dog downstairs, cats upstairs. You outlived the cats, much to your delight…), but you were always loving, and so much fun. And now you’re old, there’s less fun, but so much more love. You’re my best friend. I’m on pills too, Dog, you know I’m always at home, not like I used to be. Well, people, humans, they’re not like you. They’re not forgiving, they’re not made of love. If you can’t be fun anymore they dump you just like your asshole owners did. So now, you’re all I have, really.

This is mostly a letter to you, but you can’t read it, and humans can. So I’d like to say, don’t leave the old dogs rotting in their cages. Don’t go for the cute little puppies. Old dogs are wise and beautiful and loving, and extremely lazy. They can be great. Yes, you’ll lose them soon, and the vet bills might stack up, but they will love you, and shuffle up and down the road with you, pissing lethargically over the lampposts. We only got Presley because of a misunderstanding – we thought he was old; his grey beard, a confusing sign on his cage. We thought he was an old, calm dog, and it turned out he was 18 months old and fucking mental. But we were in love by then, so he came home, and Dog, I’m so glad you weren’t old back then. Every shoe you destroyed, every grazed knee as you yanked me onto the pavement, it’s been worth it, to have had all these years with you.

Whenever you go, you’ll never be forgotten. I don’t know how the world will continue to turn for me, honestly. There’s too much, Dog, too much to even list. I love you. Please don’t leave me…

 

________

 

Edit: He can’t get up the stairs anymore, he doesn’t even try. He has an ear infection that makes him fall over and gives his head a tilt and he can’t take treats or eat properly. He’s going. 24 Feb ’17. Please, please, get better Dog…

 

____________

 

Edit 2: 22 June ’17 – he’s on extra medication and has his balance and joy back – I can’t express my gratitude. We thought we were taking him to be put down, and he’s still here and happier than he’s been in months. He still doesn’t attempt the stairs, can’t get into the car without being lifted (and he IS a lump), doesn’t like going out most days. But he’s still Dog. He’s still smiley and grumbly, and he gives the best hugs in the world. He knows when I’m ill, he gets worried, and when I’m well enough to give him hugs again he smiles and presses his face to mine, and I love him beyond words. His shoulders and thighs are turning grey, his eyebrows are very distinguished now, but he’ll always be Dog. This week I lost a human friend, and I need Dog to keep going – I can’t take more sadness right now. He loves his treats, he gets in and out through the dogflap ok, he’s managing, he’s happy. If he makes it to winter he’ll be 17 years old, and that’ll mean more to me than Christmas. I love you so much, Dog.

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10 Responses to “Ode to an Old Dog”

  1. Believe me, you have all my love in this. My 12 year old dog had to be put to sleep just two weeks ago and it’s been miserable. Just have all the cuddles you can and take all the pics and doggy-and-you selfies imaginable. xxx

    • Awww, man, I’m so sorry 😦 I’m dreading that day. and it’s coming closer and closer…even the difference in him from last summer to this summer is huge – he was out with me in the garden all day every day playing ball last year, but now…none of that. He still gallops up and down the stairs, he’s still doing well, but I know it’s coming. Please, let it not be the vet’s, I couldn’t bear it, I hope he does just pass in his sleep, and it’s peaceful, but it’s so horrible all the same. I’m so, so, sorry for your loss 😦 I’m trying to get as much time with him, as many videos of him, being his grumbly self, but I want him immortal, I want him always. I want him to be the *only* dog, and to live as long as I do, but it’s inevitable, and it’s coming 😦

      • I am kind of having to force myself into a Buddhist ‘life is life, death and rebirth is natural and good’ kind of attitude to save my sanity in regards to my dog and also with elderly relatives who aren’t long for this world… The nature of the universe, the smallness of the event into relation to the immensity of existence and going back into the fabric of the universe… thinking about it this way helps alot.

        Granted, the loved one is YOUR universe and the death is in no way insignificant to the person who loses them, but it helps me to think of it in another way. Slightly hippy-dippy, but returning to stardust is a nice way of thinking about it. 🙂 xxx

      • I definitely have spiritual beliefs, not an atheist, so while I believe that the afterlife is deeply surreal, I think it’s beautiful, I think you *are* reunited with your loved ones, and closer than ever before – not trapped in separate vessels, you’re a part of everything and everyone – perfect understanding, and love flowing through you all like shared blood. I guess that briefly sums up my theory, mostly based on psychedelic trips, and what I saw and felt…and then after my friend Gretchen died, and weird shit went on – she was around, her presence, her soul. There’s something out there, and we’ll see them all again…but it still sucks, knowing it might be decades. That’s a long time to miss someone 😦

  2. Tony Martin Says:

    Hi Dorian. This seemed to be the best way to send a quick message as I don’t have Instagram, where I saw your notification on there today (07 Nov 16). I’d sent you a rather bouncy happy letter in a bit of a rush just before Halloween when you had seemed in such a positive mood on the release of Retribution. Please, please, given your circumstances right now, when it’s delivered, please understand the tone was not meant to be vacuous or flippant. It was sent with a kindly, warm and impish intent, not an unfeeling or glib one. When it turns up, please know that I understand you are entitled to all the time you need for yourself. Your own emotional and physical well-being matters more than any correspondence. I can only wish that there were some way to express to you how much I want things to improve for you, how much comfort I wish I could bring you, how much you matter to the thousands of lives you have touched. You (and Mr Pres) are lights in this world. You matter.

    • Thank you ❤ I know post takes a long time, especially through mail forwarding, so really, don't worry, I won't be offended, if it's joyful, that's awesome right now 🙂 I…I don't know what to do with Youtube right now – I have a vlog recorded, and I want to continue being honest, and I don't want to be absent, but it's a royal downer, this vlog. So do I just act, act my way through it? I'm not doing that. Tomorrow I'll edit the vlog, explain I'm on a writing hiatus to make me happy again, and then I'll be back at it. Everything is appreciated. I, actually, already received a lovely halloween letter from a Tony, so maybe that was you? 🙂 Sorry, I'm so, so tired right now, I won't dig it out and check for sure, it's just gone 9pm and I'm going for a ridiculously timed nap because I can't see straight and my eye is twitching with lack of sleep, but if it was you, thank you, and if it wasn't, I await yours happily ❤ (and I…will probably give you that half happy, half dark vlog soon, then I need to get back on track. I'm so flat right now. I need to be with my writing, until I don't have to bullshit. Until I can smile without wanting a damn Oscar for it. I'll get there. Sorry, this is a ramble, I'm exhausted, but as ever, thank you for thinking of me, really 🙂

      • Tony Martin Says:

        Hi Dorian, it’s wonderful to hear back from you. If the Halloween letter you mentioned had a Poppy Z chapbook in it then yes, that was me, same Tony as you mentioned from my first letter back on your Thyroid Bollocks and The Sisters of Mercy vlog. On which note, just hang on in there, you’ve no obligation to put vlogs out on any schedule other than what suits you and the same applies even more to replying to my daft letter! Given what you’ve explained on Instagram about your family circumstances at the moment, just focus on them and your own well-being; spend a bit of time with Rob and Eden, hell, if it provides a bit of an escape, read the silly novel I sent with my first letter back in September. What is important to me is that you and those you care for are all-right. (I’ve no idea how you put emoticons on here, but right now I’d show one with a mixture of concern, resolution and solidarity.) Just take care of yourself and be OK mate.

  3. Pandemonix Says:

    Dorian, this moved me to tears. I hope Dog dog lives forever and you enter him into Guinness Book of Records for oldest dog. In a world that feels dark for me recently, it’s nice to read something that filled with love. Trying my hardest to sum up the courage to write to you actually. I live near Birmingham, well I say near, I live in Rowley Regis which isn’t so far from Birmingham but close enough that if someone doesn’t recognise the general area I live in, it’s a safe bet, they’ll know Brum.

    Anyway, kind of went off track… What I mean to say is I know I’m a stranger to you but I watch your videos and you are in my thoughts. Things are rough for you, I’m rooting for you and your strength and I hope things get better soon.

    To quote Winnie The Pooh: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think,” (Full quote is ““If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.” – A. A. Milne”) Strange to quote Winnie The Pooh in hard times, isn’t it? Anyway, take care and hopefully that didn’t come across as ‘too weird’.

  4. Beautiful. Pet love is so painful but it’s the best thing ever. I would never give up my cats and it’s going to rip my heart out when they die. Thanks for posting this.

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