Our walks have been slower these days. We don’t go nearly as far, and I’m often stopped waiting ahead as he sniffs around the neighbor’s yard.
He’s never been a quick dog or even an energetic dog. As a puppy, he found walking the length of the house too strenuous and would collapse in a ball of adorable fluff halfway through, looking sadly toward me as if to say, “It’s too far!”
I have very few memories of him actually running. Trotting, sure. Cantering, maybe. His ears bouncing ahead of me as he settled into his gait that was just a little faster than a walk. But running? No, he’s never been a fast dog.
I like to tell a joke about him. I like to say he was bedazzled by the devil, a Faustian furball who almost got everything he wanted. He asked the devil to look young forever. The devil agreed. He asked to sleep next to the woman he loved every night. The devil agreed. He asked that the woman he loved wait on him hand and foot, feed him every meal, take care of his every need. The devil agreed. The wishes were granted; he woke up, looked down at his paws, and thought, “Fuck. I’m a dog.”
He still has the face of a puppy, his little brown eyes and black nose a clown’s face on white fur, my little ghost. But he is slowing down, more so as the months progress.
Fourteen years is old for a dog. I know that almost all of our time together is behind us. My dad calls it the dark side of dog ownership: knowing you will most certainly out-live your dog.
So we take slow walks these days. We stop every two feet, and he sniffs the grass. We pause to look around, maybe look for my husband with our other dog far ahead. Then he looks up at me, with that same look he gave me at the shelter the day we met.
And I wait, so we can walk together, in my heart dreading the day when I will walk alone.