She is in pretty good shape, maybe a bit thin around the flanks (getting her to eat two meals a day has never been easy), but she’s kept her black ‘saddle’ and hasn’t succumbed to that salt ‘n pepper beard, the tell tale sign of many an aging pooch.
It’s her legs that are the principal cause for concern. They’re letting her down. This morning the hind pair buckled as she went through the garden door. She did the splits, and was visibly shaken. The front ones often go too, if she’s had to make a sudden change of direction, or the ground under paw is a bit damp and slippery. When it happens it saps her confidence, and invariably she’ll turn and head for home, scraping her paws every other step, a sign that she isn’t lifting them adequately.
A few years ago a vet in Cornwall diagnosed arthritis in one of her front legs, and prescribed Rimadyl. She’s taken one 50mg tablet every day since then, and she’s been much improved. I don’t know what they put in them, but apart from Bonios, cheese, chicken and chocolate, it’s just about the only thing we can get down her without any kind of coercion.
With her tale erect she’ll go for short walks, of sorts. More long, distracted plods, punctuated with dozens of diversions; a twig here, a bush there, and long stationary looks toward some unknown point in the distance, as if she were on some sort of surveillance. Walks that a man on crutches could achieve in 20 minutes can easily last well over an hour with Tashi.
She does have some reserves of energy, in storage for emergencies like squirrels, postmen, and moving tennis balls. At these times she can cover short distances at a creditable sprint. Thereafter plodding, even slower than before, her energy levels depleted, but with a look of satisfaction on her furry face that only Kim and I can recognise.
It is a fact that dog owners often speak to other dog owners. I am not referring to the groups of dog people you often see huddled together, deep in conversation, while their dogs wonder what’s going on. Rather the off-the-cuff remarks other owners feel obliged to make, as if the very fact that both you and they have a dog is membership to some secret canine society that does away with normal British reservedness. In much the same way that motorcyclists nod and acknowledge one another.
To this end many people I would never normally communicate with feel duty bound to comment upon Tashi’s age, and general feebleness. “Oh, bless,” they’ll say, and, “she’s doing well for an old ‘n”. It’s a kindness, of course. They really do care, because they know how short a dog’s life is. As Hugo, a stooped former military man in Padstow remarked, with a tear in his eye, after his best friend died a year ago, “it’s not fair, their lives are too short.”
I daresay the man sat by the fire at The Lamb Inn, in the Wiltshire village of Hindon, felt the same way, as Tashi stumbled down the short flight of steps into the pub, looking dazed. He looked a bit like Nigel Bruce, whom some may know as Dr.Watson in the original Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes mysteries. His wife remained silent as her husband, in tweeds and brogues, inquired as to Tashi’s age?
“Eleven eh,” he said, leaning forward. “It’s a terrible thing when they have to stick the needle in, and it’s all over.” Upon hearing that his wife, the size and features of a small bird, stunned, by her husband’s tackless candor, wrestled with his arm and extracted an apology of sorts.
Of course, he meant nothing by it, the old fool. But since then I’ve been just that little bit more attentive of Tashi. She’s on the sofa now. Lying on her back with her legs in the air, one out straight like a Nazi salute. I wonder if she knows she’s old? Or maybe she just thinks the squirrels are getting faster.