Why, Yes, Dogs Actually Do Rule the World
Updated: Jan 29, 2020
Lately, I’ve been wondering if Truffles is the last dog to live in our house. She’s almost 13 years old – her birthday is March 14 – and her recent survival of a dash in front of a car was wrenching. Truffles is a reactive dachshund; she’s never met another creature she didn’t bark at. She’s bitten many an ankle that has tried to get past our front door. Her protective stance knows few boundaries. She barks fiercely when there are unknown people at our door asking for time or money; that I don’t mind so much since it makes the uninvited step back. We’ve tried all kinds of ways to train her to behave differently with little success. But she’s very sweet when she is at home, in her own environment, surrounded by her own humans. She curls up beside us, shares our popcorn on movie nights, cleans up any food dropped on the kitchen floor during dinner prep. She has allowed our granddaughter to snuggle with her since Camille was a baby without so much as a warning nip. When she almost ended up beneath car tires right after Thanksgiving, we realized what a big space in our hearts Truffles has claimed over the years.
On the way to the veterinary hospital emergency room that day, I felt such a mixture of anguish for my bloodied dog and anger at the person who hit her but kept driving. It was much later when I finally understood that driver likely never knew they hit her because of bad weather conditions. And this little dog, who is always true to her nature, does not understand anger or revenge. What she does understand is loyalty.
Truffles has the slightest scar above her left eye.
Now she appears to be healed. She has a little scar on her forehead where she needed stitches after the accident. We’ve noticed she is not inclined to go on walks with us since then; we haven’t yet figured out if that’s because she has some residual pain or because she is a small older dog who doesn’t tolerate cold winter walks anymore. We’ve started doing our morning walks without her and she hasn’t complained in any way we recognize. I can’t say I miss taking her along on walks all that much because now we can walk by other people without having to rein Truffles in. We can share the path with other dogs without incident. As for Truffles, she plops down in her bed while we’re out, unconcerned with having to protect us. Perhaps this is her retirement.
Still, her slowing down makes me teary some days. It’s been a few years since we lost Ruby, our Irish terrier who mothered Truffles’ puppy self when she first joined our family. Ruby went downhill quickly once she was around 13; over that last year, she dragged on walks, snapped at us when we tried to help her up from her dog bed even though she struggled, got confused about where she was. By the time we said goodbye, Ruby was thin, scraggly, smelly, and we weren’t sure she could hear us anymore. I’m not sure how Truffles will do these next few years – her older years might be completely different than Ruby’s. Older dogs present many challenges; they break our hearts even as we love them. That’s the piece that makes me wonder if I want to do this again after Truffles’ time with us is up.
I wasn’t expecting to write this today, but it’s been nagging at me and needed to come out. One of the gifts of writing is this very thing: how whatever is niggling at us makes itself known right there in words we can see and think about. Words we can share, because if we’re feeling this thing, then so is someone else out there. Someone who also has an old dog and is wondering if they, too, are going to do this again or find another way to have nonhumans in their life. Maybe having pets primes us for doing other things for animals that involves volunteering, giving time in smaller doses that have impact. I’ve been pondering that, too – thinking about animals who have no one to watch out for them in a world that is not always safe for them.
Or maybe the lessons learned from having dogs in my house are what I need to expand on: lessons about fierce loyalty, being in the moment, forgetting past slights. Lessons about the sheer joy of running somewhere, tongue out tasting the wind, unconcerned about appearances because this world offers too much to waste any more time staring into the distance without going to check it out.