Thursday, September 18, 2008

What a difference a week makes

This time, a week ago, we were on the road to Louisiana with the hopes of savin' lives and kissin' babies. We got moved around a lot, but that's about all we did. Pics and story of that to follow another day, as I'm still to busy to get them posted.

We got home very late Monday night. We dropped our gear, I put fuel in the truck (one last tankful on PEMA's dime), and I finally got in my car to go home at 12:30 Tuesday morning. I pull up to the familiar tan mailbox, red porch. Unlock the door and drag all my gear and garbage bag of dirty clothes into the house. It's quiet. Too quiet. That's the thing about your dog getting old. They don't greet you at the door any more because they can't hear too well any more. It's good on those days when you really have to pee and you're running straight to the bathroom; no wiggly-waggly canine to trip you up on your single-minded quest. Also works well when your dog has a condition that makes her sick when she's stressed and doesn't like fireworks.

However, when coming home from a trip, it's kind of sad. Reminds me of when I used to kennel the dogs and I'd come home, expecting yelps and kisses and wagging tails, opening the door to... nothing. And that's what I saw this night. Peeked around the corner to the office where Old Girlie likes to nap. No dog. In the bedroom, an empty orthopedic dog bed. No dog snoring on the chair in the sunroom. I crept downstairs, half-afraid of what I might find. I mean, when you suddenly have to leave a 13 year old dog that has Addison's Disease with a patchwork schedule of pet sitters for nearly a week, you worry about... well, you know.

As I tiptoed down the stairs, I saw her. Lying on her side on the living room floor, tongue hanging out. For a second my breath caught in my throat, until I saw hers. Her sides were moving with each breath, thank goodness. Of course they were. She's always fine when I go away, I just jump to horrible conclusions in my head.

I quietly lay on the floor in front of her, remembering what the homecoming greetings used to be like. The jumping kiss assaults that often resulted in a fat lip or a nasty head lumps for both of us. The yelps of joy and excited pacing. Pondered whether or not it's better this way - me getting to actually set my stuff down and take a breath before the onslaught of doggy love.

I tap the floor gently and her eyes slowly open. I can actually see the fog lifting from her eyes and mind and her eyes widen with excitement. She jumps up - these days jumping up has become a slow process with many steps. She has to get her back legs under herself and haul herself up. Then she's off. Just like the old days. Running around the living room, though these days if she runs too fast she trips herself up. So she's running, stumbling, tripping (sounds like a Fergie song or something?), yelping, throwing herself on the floor beside me and kicking me with her back legs, and expressing her joy in my most favorite way: rolling around on her back, kicking her back legs up like she's doing bicycle crunches, and yapping happily.

It brought tears to my eyes. I wonder how much longer I will get to have this friend, this precious gift, in my life. Election day she'll turn 14.

It's good to be home.

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