Thursday, February 19, 2009

Grace & Dignity

I ran my hand up and down Malcolm's hind legs. He was nervous at first. He doesn't like his paws being touched. However, I spoke to him calmly and reassuringly while I looked for any sign of the bite that the dog walker said he received from a neighborhood dog. Thankfully, I found none. Malcolm may have a bruise on a muscle, but the skin wasn't broken and there is no physical sign of trauma. We both seem relieved. I sit on the floor with Malcolm for a few minutes, scratching his ears and neck and simply enjoying the moment.
As I do so I look at Malcolm's face. The fur on his chin is very grey and he even has grey on his chest, upper leg and haunches. I chuckle to myself; we seem to be greying in tandem. We're getting older.
Malcolm has been moving slower lately. Not when there is food involved, but rather when he gets up from a nap. He pushes himself upright with his front paws and waits a moment or two before he slowly lifts his back-end up.
Not too long ago, we saw this in its extreme. We were going to bed. The TV was turned off and the telltale "click" of the stereo powering down is usually Malcolm's clue to start heading upstairs. Malcolm pushed himself up with his front legs but was very frustrated by the fact that he seemingly couldn't lift his back legs up, too. I shushed Doyle out of the living room and said "Come on, boy. Let's go to bed."
Malcolm tried to move - and couldn't.
"What's the matter, Malcolm?"
He looked at me, straight in the eyes.
Do I see sadness there? Concern?
I walked behind Malcolm. His tail wagged strongly. Still, no movement. I began to stroke his back. "Take your time, Malcolm. No rush," I said as I ran my hands softly down his hind quarters. "It's OK. We'll wait for you."
Malcolm looked back at me and breathed deeply. Then, slowly, so slowly, he started to lift himself off the floor. I guided him with my hands, adding a little bit of "oomph" to his effort. Soon he was standing upright, tail wagging. He waited a moment or two more before he slowly made his way to the stairs. I walked beside him the whole time. We reached the bedroom and he walked over to his bed that lays at the foot of our bed and he laid down again. He looked up at me from his forest green dog bed and wagged his tail. I reached down, scratched his ears and said a quiet good night to the old boy.
Throughout this whole ordeal there was not a sound - nor a whimper - from Malcolm. I have no idea what truly ails him. I think he has arthritis and he's going to the vet next week to confirm this. Yet, for all of these little moments where his body doesn't react the way he wants it to he comports himself with an uncanny grace and dignity. I know he's hurting sometimes. Yet, through it all, he comes to the door when we arrive at home and he runs around the house with his grunties when he's feeling playful. Like me, I think these moments of activity result in many days of aches and pains. Still, he shoulders on.
Malcolm is now allowed to sit on the sofa with us when we're watching TV. He derives comfort and security from being close to us and, when I'm 77-ish, I hope that people treat me as well. Sometimes, when he's laying with his head on my lap, he looks up at me and wags his tail. I scratch his ears or his chin and whisper "Good boy" and he seems content.
As he puts his head back down on my lap and slowly drifts off to sleep, I realize one simple fact: Our dogs become old just as, someday, we surely will, too. As we watch them age, we see a glimpse of our own future; a destiny that we are fated to meet.
I hope that when I meet mine that it is with the grace and dignity that Malcolm is showing me everyday.


Blogger Fox In Detox said...

Sweet post friend. Poor Malcolm. It's definitely tough getting old.

PS...The title of your post and the photo of the dog scared the crap out of me.

9:35 AM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Bridget said...

It is tough getting old. It's very sweet that you're helping Malcolm through it. Glad to hear that his run-in with the neighborhood dog wasn't more serious.

9:45 AM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Summer Ryan Doyle said...

Really glad this wasn't a goodbye post.

12:04 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Andy said...

You and me both, Summer.

3:15 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Cynthia said...

A very touching post, Andy. He sounds like a dignified older gentleman.

When you have trouble lifting your hindquarters, I'll be there to give you some oomph...with a pneumatic jack. ;-)

8:05 PM, February 24, 2009  

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