My Dear Old Dog

Astro is my first Yorkshire Terrier, my first Pocket Pup. He’s my dear old dog, the oldest dog I’ve ever owned. (My cat lived to a dignified 22 years young.) Astro will turn 14 next month. Our time together is running out.

I have had dogs off and on for my entire life and I’ve loved them all. But Astro stole my heart. Dogs, heck most pets, give unconditional love. This tiny Pocket Pup has more love in his tiny five-pound frame than all my dogs put together.

The breeder allowed me to visit Astro when he was six weeks old. I was smitten immediately.

My dear old dog at a very young age. Now I prepare to say goodbye.

He was a tiny bundle of joy when we brought him home.

We nearly lost him to dehydration when he got sick a week after he came home. Thanks to the emergency vet, he survived.

 

He loved his big brothers Nemo and Cosmo.

Nemo crossed the rainbow bridge first.

When we brought home a rescue dog, Gizmo, Astro cuddled right up to him.

Astro loves his pack. He cries when one of his four-legged ‘brothers’ leaves to go to the vet or grooming or a walk. He was despondent when his older brothers passed. Gizmo comforted him.

Being with his people is almost as important as being with his brothers. When he was younger, he jumped fearlessly up onto the sofa to be with us. He’s slower, frailer now. We lift him up to sit with us.

He’s lived a pampered life with plenty of treats, lots of petting, and tons of adoration. I’ve learned to groom him. I swear I cut off at least two sweaters worth of hair when I groom him. I don’t know what he’d weigh without his hair. I say he’d look a lot like a chihuahua. My husband says he’d look like a tall rat. He’s not that tall.

During the past few years, his signs of aging have increased. There are more gray hairs. He has severe cataracts. And he’s lost most of his front teeth (he still has his molars and still prefers hard food.) Sometimes he sleeps a lot.

The thing that is most worrisome is that he has seizures. At first, we thought he’d eaten something bad. But the seizures continued. We thought he might have epilepsy. But that’s not the case either. The vet believes the seizures are due to a brain tumor. He was old enough when this started that we chose not to subject him to frightening or painful procedures.

We watch over him during his seizures. Make him as comfortable as possible. Watch that he can breathe and that he doesn’t hurt himself. And we give him the space and time he needs to recover. And he does recover. He still loves to cuddle, and eat, and drink. He roams the yard and ‘protects’ us from dangers on the other side of the door (postal service employees, delivery folk, even neighbors, and family).

It’s hard to watch him have a seizure. What’s most difficult is that he’s losing his way. At first, he acted dazed after a seizure. Usually, that would last less than five minutes. Over time, that dazed period has grown longer.

Now, he gets lost. He gets up to get a drink of water and cannot find his way to the water bowl. Or, he cannot find his way back to his comfy doggy bed. I’ve tried calling him. Sometimes he doesn’t hear me. If he bumps into anything in transit, he gets ‘lost.’ He turns a wrong direction and walks. Sometimes, he’s stuck in a loop of walking. He doesn’t know where he’s going, but he must walk. Sometimes I herd him toward the water bowl or the door or his crate. Sometimes he stumbles around until he finds his way.

We know his time with us is drawing to an end. But for as long as he loves to cuddle. As long as he eats and drinks and is part of our pack, we will love and hold him close and give back unconditional love for as long as he needs it. Saying goodbye to my dear old dog will be hard. Remembering his playfulness, his joy, and his love is easy.

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