Andy the ten year old Shelty, very large for his breed, is dying. He’s got a rapidly growing tumor in his butt. The vet says it’s inoperable. He came into our lives as a very young puppy and was raised under the authority of Catmandu. That may be one reason why he had a hard time adjusting to other dogs. It may also explain some of his odd mannerisms, such as batting balls in a clumsy imitation of a cat. Mandu died at the ripe old age of 22. Andy’s ball batting turned into a respectable game of doggie soccer to which was added a vigorous round of backyard Frisbee.
Other dogs, or an other dog, came into his life a few years ago in the form of six month old Riley, an all boy West Highland Terrier who did everything he could to tempt Andy into playing like a dog. Sometimes it worked. Most of the time Andy remained aristocratically aloof, which did nothing to abate Riley’s adoration of him. On those occasions when Andy was taken somewhere alone, Riley would sit by the door and howl for an hour or more before finally lying down, not to move until the big guy returned.
Things are changing now, and fast. Andy is no longer confident that his rear legs will follow the ones in front, or that they will stand when the rest of him is trying to. Riley no longer tries to bait him into play. I’m his new target. Frisbee is still Andy’s favored game as long as he can stand no farther than three feet away. That way he can catch it and give it back without having to move.
I don’t know how long he will last. Maybe a few weeks. Maybe a few months. No longer. He’s not in pain as far as I can tell. Yesterday he could still climb the stairs to Dianna’s studio, although it took him several minutes to make it. Coming back down was something like a moderately controlled fall. I’m not sure he can do it today. He seems content to lie down and be petted. We’ve tried to arrange rugs on our hardwood floors to give him more traction on his regular route from the bedroom to the back door. It’s a trek he prefers not to make unless absolutely necessary.
I wonder if Riley will howl his inconsolable howl when Andy is gone. Maybe I will too.