Bright and Dark

My old dog is pacing this morning as he often does these days. He’s a thirteen year old chow mix who has arthritis in his hips IMG_8636and shoulders (not helped by the leap he took from a second story window as a young pup, or the time he went through a plate glass window in terror over fireworks on New Year’s Eve and ran like hell for miles, only limping home at four in the morning with a sheepish expression). He’s not completely deaf, but not far off.  He sometimes stops now in the middle of the room with a bewildered expression, and I know he forgot what he was doing.  Since I’m familiar with this, I tell him to go back where he started and his purpose for going to the kitchen will come back to him.

The point is, he’s old and getting really old right before my eyes. The pacing started recently, just a restless, endless circling of whatever floor we’re on. He can’t get comfortable. He has all the supplements and the painkillers and a special drug for Cushings and….well, none of it is going to keep him alive forever.

12705453_10153418938840893_4732546385600136097_nOn the other hand, I have a new granddaughter. Isn’t she the sweetest little thing? She’s a calm, thoughtful baby, unlike her sister, who was born at a full run and hasn’t slowed down since. (Much like my own boys, Ian and Miles, but maybe I’m projecting) Many of my friends are longing for grandchildren, and I know I’m blessed. I was young when my own babies were born, and here’s the payoff–I’m a young Nana, too.

Another event this month was that my old cat Athena, roughly 18 years old, suddenly went down hill and had to be put to sleep. I was astonished. Crushed. She was old, yes, but she’d been fine–until she wasn’t. And that’s how we all want to go, isn’t it?  Skinny and noisy, maybe, but still chowing down on the food and cuddling with the people we love, then–ugh, I don’t feel well. I guess I’ll die today.  If I get a choice, that’s what I choose.

But I was wrecked for a couple of days. She was my friend for a long, long time. She was the last animal lingering from the time when my children were small and I was a bustling, busy young mom. Her passing marks the passing of 12654322_998324673591455_1155556203263120998_nan era.
The circle turns, the weeks, the days, and I had one more event this month. A big one.  My older son, Ian, proposed to his girlfriend. The story is a romantic one–and he gave me permission to tell it.  My mother gave him a ring that belonged to my grandmother, and he had it remade by a jeweler whose family has been in the business in New York City for generations, into a vintage-looking beauty, using the stones and adding another (old and new).  The process took quite awhile, but finally it was ready last Thursday.  He said, “I carried it around in my pocket for a couple of days, feeling like Frodo.”

But at last, the moment came, in Washington Square park at the end of an ordinary Saturday. They’re both alums of NYU, and there in the neighborhood where they’d spend so much time, he proposed and she accepted.

And as if heaven wanted to rain down some extra joy, a news photographer happened to spot them and took this photo. Isn’t it amazing? I want to frame it.

The circle turns. Joy and sorrow, sorrow and joy, celebration and remembrance. It’s all so precious in its way, isn’t it?

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7 thoughts on “Bright and Dark

  1. aida alberto

    I have a Chow mix same age as yours but she is a female. She is suffering from arthritis also. Breaks my heart to see her struggling to stand and keep up with me. Her name is Samantha and is the best dog ever.

    • Aida, I remember that your chow and mine are close in age. It’s really a precious, challenging time, isn’t it?

  2. Debbie

    My 13 yo dog is a Sheltie, but I so identify with your thoughts & description of your dog!
    I wish he could live as long as I do, but mostly I just want to make life as easy as I can for him.
    Let him go gently.
    Like I wish someone would do for me too.

    So sorry to hear about Athena. My cats are getting old too!

    Congrats on your grandaughter, & your son’s engagement! What blessings!

    The cycle of life moves on & on……..

    • Barbara Samuel

      I’m so excited! 🙂 Who knew this stage of life would be so full of love?

  3. Karen

    I too have an old dog! A beagle who is now 13 1/2 and is definitely slowing down and losing her hearing! She actually understands a number of hand motions. She’s my baby and just follows me from room to room. Congratulations on your new granddaughter. She’s beautiful. I am looking forward to my own grandchildren. And the story about your son is just beautiful. How sweet! He must have had a good mother to be so thoughtful and caring. Thanks for your stories!

  4. Candice Royer

    I’m sorry you lost your cat. By now, you may have lost your sweet dog, too. I’m taking my eleven year old Siamese rescue to the vet on the 23rd, along with her sister, and my very large – not just fat, but this cat is bigger than a Jack Russell – four year old brown tabby. The first I mentioned, Shy, has two lumps. My mom swears up and down they are just fatty tumors that animals often get. I’m not holding out hope. The larger lump swells at times, and Shy’s eyesight and hearing are also changing. I used to call her to come to bed and she’s come flying – I’m the only human she’ll sleep with, and I’ve lived with my parents more than half of her life. Now she doesn’t hear me unless I’m in the room with her. She only sees what’s about within five feet around her, and that she doesn’t see well since she’s been cross-eyed since she was a kitten. I don’t want to lose my baby. She’s the one who’s *my* cat, plastered to my side and always trying to get in my lap, even when it’s full. So, I feel for you. My heart aches for you. Furry family is family, no matter what. Losing them is losing a piece of our heart. Considering I still mourn every cat we’ve lost – and as rescuers, there have been many – little pieces of my heart are buried all over the backyard. I have a feeling that, if not on the 23rd, before the year ends, I’ll be finding another spot in the backyard for one more piece of my heart.
    Congratulations on that beautiful granddaughter! And to your son. What a gorgeous photo. I would frame it, too.

  5. Susan/DC

    We had an 18 year old terrier mix who went downhill over the course of a year, but it wasn’t until the vet told us that it was no longer a kindness to keep him alive that we had the strength to put him down. Still miss him, and it’s been years.

    But how wonderful to have both a new baby and a new adult addition to your family. The photo of the young couple against the backdrop of Washington Square is stunning and definitely should be framed. One of my sons also went to NYU and lived in NYC afterward for a few years (he’s now in Guadalajara, Mexico — his goal was always to live/work abroad), and his younger brother has since taken his place in the City. He lives not far from Washington Square and adores being a 20-something in such a vibrant place. Congratulations and much love to all concerned.

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