I just let Azalea out into the cold snowy night. She's old, so she doesn't go far. I worry someday she won't come back. Then I'll have to suit up and head out there to find her in the dark. I know I'm 38 but it feels like a grown up's job to decide when its time for a beloved dog to go. I don't know if I'm up for it. Well, I know I have to be, but I want to do right by her. Rob thinks she knows she's mortal, that she's aware there is an end. I don't know. I have no idea what goes on in that head, in that soul.
She's been with us for 14 years, since she could fit in my pocket. I am accustomed to her presence in ways I don't even fathom. The girls love her, their fox-like brown dog. She catches snowballs, she chases the sled, now sometimes she wipes out and her back legs splay. She can't get up. She cries as she slides and she cries when I go pick up her hind part. I feel panic. Then as she walks away, wobbly, I feel like we're both a bit embarrassed.
I've checked for her twice now and she's not there. I know she'll come to the door when she's ready. She's so totally deaf now, it's not worth calling for her.
I know I can deal with alot of emotional and physical intensity because I am a labor and delivery nurse. I think I'm pretty tough, but in some ways it seems like Azalea is the grown-up. I don't want to be watching her age and decline faster than me. She is solid, content, accepting, protective of her boundaries and loving. All things I strive to be.
I check again and there she is. Looking up at me as I open the door, thundering up the stairs and bounding into the living room on old legs because she knows it's time for a bone and a sleep by the woodstove.