I cried last night. Not about the price of food, or because I injured myself, or even because I looked at how much money we owe for my student loans. I cried because Doc fell down the stairs. He was helping me bring his toys upstairs, just like he does every night, and he was almost to the top of the stairs but his hips gave out on him and he fell all the way back down again. Once he got to the bottom, it took him a second to clear his head. He didn’t want to try going up the stairs again but I promised him I’d help and he was able to make it back up the stairs the second time.
It was really sad to see him fall like that. Wes and I have seen Doc fall a host of times. When he was a baby puppy he decided to sit down at the edge of the stairs and fell himself right down them. The first time he tried running on ice he slipped and slid himself into a tree. Those were all humorous moments, because most of the time it’s hilarious when someone or something falls down.
Not this time. This time it made me cry; because of what it means.
It means the arthritis in his hips is getting bad enough that stairs might soon be too formidable a challenge for even the great Doc Holliday puppy extraordinaire. When he tore his ACL last year, the vet told us that arthritis started developing almost immediately because he was walking on his hips badly.
It’s hard to say how long he’ll have with us. For all we know, he could walk around with a hitch in his giddyup for the next ten years, or he could decide he’s in too much pain to go on another month. We watched him closely today, trying to limit how much he uses the stairs as much as possible, and he seems to be as fine as he ever is. He’s walking ok, and, barring a strange vomiting episode this morning, acts with his customary enthusiasm and general brutishness.
We know that someday we’re more than likely going to have to euthanize him. I can’t even begin to think of what that’s going to be like, so I won’t even try, but knowing that it’s in the future lends a poignant sweetness to our time with him now. He may not be able to go for walks, or play fetch or tug o’ war, but he’ll catch a ball if you throw it up in the air, and he still enjoys chewing and eating things. We know there are bright spots in his life.
We’ve found new games we can play with him that don’t stress his hips and knees. Games like rolling the ball back and forth (sounds boring but he rolls it over with his nose and it’s major league cute) or finding the crumbs I drop when I cook or doing tricks to earn peanut butter or biscuits. He’s still happy, which I’ll take to mean we’re doing our job well.
Someone asked me today if we’d get a new dog when Doc passes away. I’m not sure. I think back to puppyhood, with the ensuing training and sleeplessness and the strange stains and the destruction and want to run away screaming “No no no no no no!” Then I look at how much fun it is to watch the puppy’s legs grow too long for the rest of him, and remember the thrill of the first time the puppy obeys a command, and little puppy kisses, and I’m not so sure.
All I know is that, strange stains notwithstanding, I’d really miss this: