Cosine is the first dog who has completely and wholly belonged to me. Mutt, my family dog growing up, didn't count as "my" dog because she was really my mom's dog. Just like my son can never really call Cosine "his" dog, because she's really mine. She's a bitch. She barks too much because she's stone deaf and doesn't realize she's making such hellacious noise. Recently she's decided she doesn't like to jump up onto the bed, where she really wants to be, so she whines and barks until I get up and lift her up to join us. Yeah. I'm whipped. So what? She's very sweet and dear, and I love her with all my heart. I must, otherwise I'd never put up with her barking.
And while she is, like the rest of us, moving closer and closer with each passing day toward the end of her life and her grave, she's not the one to whom I refer when I say my dog is dying. It's her brother Detail who is actively going about the business of dying.
Cosine has been part of our family since she was about nine weeks old. She and Detail are from the same litter, but Detail initially lived with some other family. Some stupid non-dog-loving family (SNDLF) adopted Detail, even though four out of the six family members didn't like dogs. They hired a professional dog trainer, took him to the vet as needed, groomed him regularly. But did they love him like he needed to be loved? I think not because after about a year, the SNDLF decided they didn't want him any more. WTF?? So he came to live with us. Despite his "professional" training, he did have many bad-dog habits. Like running willy-nilly out any exterior door that happened to open. It took but a few hours of instruction to help him realize doing that was just a really bad idea. But I can't fault him for wanting to do it. The SNDLF didn't have a fenced yard. With the exception of those occasional front door I-need-to-run-and-play-and-explore escapes, Detail had NEVER been outside except on a leash. And he just was not that fond of being on the leash. Imagine.
Fortunately for him and because we are smart dog loving people, we had a fenced yard. A big yard. Crappy fence, but good enough. Lots of room to run around. Plenty of native wildlife to chase. Trees to pee on. Suburban passers-by at whom to bark. Warm sunshine in which to nap. Sticks to fetch and chew. You know, all the good stuff dogs deserve.
Our kitchen door led to a small deck with stairs going down to the backyard. Since we had been working on the "just because the door is open doesn't mean you should run out" training, when I opened that door he sat politely yet quivering anticipatorily near the door watching me. I will never forget the look of disbelief transforming into unadulterated joy as I waved an invitation for him to proceed out the door unrestrained by a leash. He bounded past me, down the stairs and into the yard where he did free doggie things to his heart's content.
Detail quickly developed a routine. Rain, snow, sleet, or sunshine. Out the door, down the stairs, down through the right side of the wooded area to the back fence, looping around to race up the left side of the wooded area to the front fence, surveying his domain. Soon his path was worn and visible and rarely did he deviate. He'd sit outside for hours on the deck, watching over his home and soaking up the sun. Rarely did he bark to come in, leaving that job to his sister who was, even at that young age, a champion barkaholic. He only raised his voice when there was really something to raise it about, like a child riding his bike down the street. "Alarm alarm! They are coming to kill us all!", he'd proclaim lustily and loudly in his rich deep baritone voice.
When they were younger, I, along with my son who was also younger, would take them hiking in the woods of a nearby park. I'd let them off their leashes and they would take off running through the forest, circling back every so often to make sure we were still on the right path. The paths led near a reservoir and the dogs would swim. Detail and Cosine both loved to swim. They would chase sticks out into the water, and bring them merrily back to shore to do it all over again. Detail, as seemed his nature, would sometimes ignore the stick and just swim randomly around. He's always been an independent fellow, almost a loner but still enjoying the comfort of his pack.
So anyway. Back to the dying part. Detail was diagnosed with Cushing's Disease about eight months ago. In a nutshell, it's a tumor on either his adrenal or his pituitary gland that causes an overabundance of cortisone in his body. He's on meds, but I'm unsure of their therapeutic value. His muscle mass is wasting away. His nickname used to be Fat Boy, but not so now. He can't go down the stairs by himself and often his legs slip out from underneath him. His coat, once the most beautiful thick soft and shiny fur around, is now thin and wispy. His wonderful rich bark now sounds more like a mouse squeaking. He seems embarrassed at the change in his voice because he now uses it even less frequently than before.
They'll be sixteen in August. If he makes it until then, I'm gonna bake him a cake. Maybe I should bake it now instead.