Once When You Were Trouble: Loving an Old Reactive Dog

I saw the dog coming towards us. Like always, I began to make a quick u-turn to give you some space. But silly me. There’s nothing quick about the way we move these days.

So there we were – me guiding you in what felt like the world’s slowest about-face in the middle of the street.

By the time we were done inching our way around, the other dog was long gone.

You looked confused. What’s with all the fancy foot work?

When the next dog appeared, I guided us to a stop to make some room for them to pass. I held tight to the leash, waiting for you to see the other dog and react.

But you just stood there.

I smiled. Look at you, not caring about the other dog! Way to go old lady!

It only took you 15 years to finally stop giving a shit about every single dog that looks at you.

It’s the moment every person who has ever walked a reactive dog dreams of – my dog stayed calm.

We finally did it!

Then I started to cry.

You didn’t react to the other dog because you’re old.

You’re not being cool about other dogs. You’re losing your vision. And your hearing too.

Did you even see the other dog? I don’t think so.

And if you had?

Then the cancer in your body or the ache in your back would have stopped you from putting that dog on full blast.

Who has the energy for rumbling these days, right?

Loving an old dog who used to be trouble is a bittersweet thing.

I feel relief that we no longer need to hide behind cars or that I can hold your leash lightly and get lost in thought while we stroll.

Then I feel a punch in my chest. It’s my heart breaking.

This new peace comes at such a high price.

This is the last leg of our journey together my old friend.

Lately I find myself reminiscing as we walk, a little slower each day, about the times when we had to cross this very block three times to escape the woman who wanted us to meet her dog.

That dog died years ago.

We’re still here.

But crossing the block three times would take us so long that anyone could catch up to us now.

We used to move so fast! I could barely keep up with you.

Back then you would explode at other dogs. It was a big show and it stopped some people in their tracks. Tsk tsk, they’d say.

I’m longing for those days now that I know they won’t come again.

I cried while we walked today.

What I wouldn’t do to see you at full force again.

What I wouldn’t do to yell at someone to back off so we can make our escape together.

Loving an old dog who used to be trouble is a funny thing.

Here we are, where we desperately wanted to be. All those years when walks were an obstacle course of stress, embarrassment, and near misses.

Not any more.

I’m enjoying how easy it is to be out in the world with you now.

But oh, what I wouldn’t do to see you at peak naughtiness again.

To see you strong and healthy. To hold you back with both hands while you tried to take on the world. To feel exhausted by our walks.

This peace comes at such a high cost.

Now that we finally have it, I don’t want it.

I want the trouble.

I want you to stay.

 

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