My friend doesn't walk very good these days. The Degenerative Myleopathy is progressing fast. His hind legs aren't responding well any more and he sways and staggers like he's drunk.
Actually that's not true. I've seen him drunk and this is worse. He stumbles and falls constantly and every trip down the stairs is a nail-biter as I watch to see if he's going to go head-over-heels down the steps. His rear paws drag so severely that even a short walk on concrete will bloody the tops of them, so he's restricted to the house and the deck and his run in the yard now. No more walks around the neighborhood like we've enjoyed almost every day for so long. On his birthday last week I took him to Harpers Ferry for an ice cream cone at the Swiss Miss shop, and it was all he could do to make the short walk from the parking area to the store. And when we got there he wasn't able to stand up on his hind legs and look in the window like he's always done. He tried hard because he wanted his ice cream so bad but he just kept falling over because his once-powerful hind legs won't support him any more. Afterwards, we sat and I saw the people way up on the scenic overlook on Maryland Heights. Lagniappe and I have hiked up there dozens of times just to enjoy the view. It was a powerful milestone in my own rehab just a few years ago and Lagniappe helped motivate me to make that climb by making it look so easy. That overlook might as well be on the moon now, because we'll never make it up there together again.
But he's not down. Sure, he gets a bit moody sometimes, like when he tries to jump up on something and misses, or when he has an accident in the house, something that happens fairly often now that his nervous system is shutting down. But most other times he's still cheery and playful. He still walks up and gives me licks, and tonight he brought me his hedgehog and we played a bit of fetch with it. He still tries.
It's pathetic in a way; between the two of us we have three good legs. He helped me come back from my injury, but there's nothing I can do to help him. He's going to keep deteriorating and I know that I'm not going to have him much longer.
So we don't walk together any more. Now we sit on the deck together. I read books while he lays beside me and stares off into the yard, perhaps wondering why he can't run down there and chase cats and drive off the occasional stray dog any more. Sometimes I shell peanuts from a bag and give him half of them. He loves peanuts. And popcorn. He loves popcorn and we're going to share a bag tonight. He loves ice cream too, of course. Now he gets some almost every night. Why not? It is so wrong to indulge a friend and try to make him happy? And he is happy. His tail doesn't wag any more because those nerves are gone too now, but I can still see the light in his eyes when I talk to him and scratch his special sweet spot on his chest. He knows that I'm going to be here for him as much as I can for as long as we have, and he's not going to go through this alone. When I took this dog in eight years ago, I promised him that I'd always love him and care for him no matter what. I meant that then and I mean it now, and I believe that he knows it.
Our time together is growing short, but we're still a team. Friends forever.