October 20, 2013
Every afternoon at 5pm my 13 ½ year old Standard Schnauzer, Splash, wrestles his body upright, shakes his head, and carefully walks to the front door where he patiently waits for his afternoon walk. I’ve never figured out how he actually knows it’s time for me to give him that attention, particularly because he spends most of his day sleeping on a huge yellow smiley face beanbag chair, but at his age, the rhythm of his day is deeply ingrained, and he holds fast to the habits that have defined his life and soothed him.
Walking Splash at this point is an exercise in trying not to obsess about whether or not he has a few years, let alone a few months, left. He seems to be blind because he looks in every possible direction before he lopes toward me. He is obviously hard of hearing, too, because he used to jump into action if anyone in his family of five came home; now you have to search for him before he actually notices that someone new has entered the house.
Most heartbreaking of all is that Splash has a massive tumor in his back left leg, and it is so large that he has trouble lifting his leg to simply clear a curb, and he stumbles in places where he used to have boundless agility. Going up and down the stairs is heroic, and I often cheer for him as he contemplates the challenge in front of him, and then gathers himself and tentatively tries a few steps before committing himself to the whole set. Sometimes he tumbles backwards and has to start all over, but he always eventually gets to the top.
Splash embodies “dogged determination.” He never stops trying to be at his best, even if he is bumping into obstacles, trudging slowly up a hill on a hot day, or fruitlessly trying to perch himself on a stair that once was a favorite spot. What he doesn’t know is how important his role-modeling of this quality has been for me in recent years.