Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lessons on life from my dog.

I want to be the man my dog thinks I am.

Patch is coming to the end of his life. It’s amazing he’s made it this far really. He’s a survivor. And he’s taught me more about life than most people I know.

Who knows, he might live another five years. Some days it seems like he might outlive us all. Every time we think he’s on his way out, he comes back full strength and acts half his age. 

But lately he’s just been tired. You can see it in his eyes — he knows his time is coming. Time catches up to all of us eventually. But he also seems to know he’s lived a full life because he’s been loved. And I think he knows that’s all that really matters when it’s all said and done. Lesson one.

We don’t even know how old he is for sure. We got him when he was a puppy, maybe a year old or so. I think that was in ’99 or 2000, can’t remember for sure. What I do know is this guy has been through some serious shit — but nothing has ever been able to keep him down.

He’s been shot by an inbred farmer and left for dead, only to crawl his bloodied, nearly lifeless body back home after spending almost a week lost in the woods. He’s been run over by the back tire of a truck— he’s always been too trusting of moving vehicles, likes to bite at the wheels of strange vehicles when they pull into the driveway. A bout with lyme disease in his younger years gave him arthritis. His pills help, but the deck stairs prove too much of a challenge some days. He’s outlived several of my mom’s cats. Nine lives means nothing to him.

But none of what he’s been through has stopped him from being the dog he’s always been. He’s a fighter and he appreciates every day. He hasn’t let the sometimes brutal nature of life change his perspective on the simple beauty of life. Lesson two.

About eight years ago, I found myself in the darkest place I’ve ever seen or ever care to see again. Depression got its hooks in me and wouldn’t allow me to move from the couch. If there’s a hell, that has to be what it feels like.

Patch never left my side the entire time I was in hell. He knew I was lost and he knew it was his job to be there for me. I can honestly say I might not be here today if it wasn’t for his calming, unconditional presence. Maybe that sounds overly dramatic, but it’s the truth. He knew the importance of just being there, not really doing anything special, just being there. Lesson three.

The last few years I’ve watched him age and turn into an old man. He reminds me of my grandpa right before he died — even looks a little bit like him. His moves are calculated and crooked. His hearing is unreliable. His eyes get a little cloudier every time I see him. He sleeps a lot. He stinks a little.

But he’s not ready to go anywhere. Not yet. He’ll tell us when he’s ready. Maybe he thinks he needs to stick around because we’re not ready for him to go anywhere. That’s just something he’d do. Lesson four.

There are more stories just like these. So many lessons learned. Too many to mention them all. Don’t go anywhere yet buddy. Something tells me you still have a few things to teach us.

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