When the dog you love is getting old

There’s something I’m sure of and it’s both heartbreaking and exciting: I can’t fully love my young dog until my senior dog has died.

It’s not because I can’t bond with two dogs (or seven dogs). It’s because I give so much of my time, heart and dedication to each dog.

Ace is doing well considering I thought he was going to die two years ago.

He sleeps all the time, but he walks with me slowly for 20 mins each day. He eats all his meals. He seems to enjoy our trips to the park. He rests in the grass while I watch over him.

But the inevitable is my Lab mix is almost 12 and that’s old for a big lug like Ace. He’s ancient.

It will be nice to acknowledge his 12th birthday (March 1). We have a few trips planned and a big move. I always hope Ace will be here to enjoy life’s changes; I hardly know what I’ll do when he’s not.

But with the passing of one dog, another chapter will open.

Remy and I will focus more on training, agility, going for even longer runs. I can’t wait to take him on epic backpacking trips. I can’t wait to see our potential.

I will eventually foster dogs again. Get ready, Josh. It won’t be anywhere near as easy as it was fostering dogs with Ace (Remy is a spaz!). But there are dogs who need our help and we can provide routine, exercise, safety.

I’m interested in fostering bird dogs (because I’m nuts). And I want to help our country’s most forgotten dogs – the strays across our Indian reservations.

And someday, I’m not sure when, we’ll of course be getting another dog of our own. I have a feeling that dog will be extra special. My heart will be larger because of Ace. Maybe that dog will be our next mutt. Or, who knows, another weim.

But that won’t be for a long time.

I need to focus on the young dog in front of me. And today, my old dog.

For months, I felt guilty that Remy took attention from my best buddy.

Now I see a shift. I see that Remy can’t reach his potential while my heart remains so guarded.

Don’t get me wrong, both dogs are pampered, spoiled Mamma’s boys. I spend all day with them!

But Ace takes up so much love in my heart, there’s hardly room left for Remy.

There’s an essay by Will K. from the blog “Marking Our Territory” that I want to share with you.

It’s called “The Dog I loved the Least.”

Will’s situation is not the same as mine; his dog lost the chance to grow old. But it’s the closest words to what I’m trying to say:

From “The Dog I loved the Least”:

“The alternative is to love yesterday more than today. Love memory more than experience. Love the world less after having shared all those life changing moments with Eko. …

“The easy truth is that I loved my puppy with every fiber of my being. The hard truth is that the greatest honor I can give Eko is to remember him as the dog I loved the least. That his life transformed me into a person with an ever increasing capacity for love, no matter the cost.” [Read the full essay here.]

I understand how someone could have 5 or 6 dogs and properly care for them all.

I understand how someone could have no dogs, to avoid the inevitable heartbreak.

For me, I loved dogs before I knew Ace and I will love dogs after Ace.

But Ace has opened my world to blogging, dog adoption, fostering, agility, running with dogs, backpacking, starting a business, leading me to friends I never would’ve met. You know who you are.

Today, I will appreciate every moment with my boy.

Because of Ace, because of all dogs, my heart will grow.

In the comments, let me know about your special dog.

And what did you think of the essay, ‘The Dog I Loved the Least’?

Read it and then come back and let me know!

Other writing I want to share:

Ocean-going Labs

NY Times Essay “The Wrong Dog”

Essay: Winter camping with my dog – a break

Essay: “Disconnected”