Old Dog Shaky Legs

(I wrote the following last December, 2015. The photo was taken during Winter’s last camping trip, the weekend before she died. Last Sunday, Jen and I picked up Winter’s ashes, a paw print, and a lock of her fur.)

An old dog lies in a campsite by a campfire.

Winter Dog, my friend of 13 years during her last camping trip.

Winter Dog, sweet Winter Dog.

Her hind end has been shaking more and more. Lately, when we go for walks in a Portland park, and she knows it’s a walk and not a sniff and stroll through the hood, Winter follows behind me, her hind legs only there for balance. They move like her pads are sticking to the ground, some herky-jerky movement, a stiff swinging motion uncomfortable when not in contact with the earth.

I love her eyes lately. They’ve always gotten bright with joy every time we go for a hike, or the local park during the last few years. But, there is an extra spark in them, a wisdom, a knowing that something is different. Maybe Winter knows her time with me is limited. I sense this from her. But it’s different, it’s some doggy awareness, its meaning far different from mine.

Dog on a trail

Winter heads towards the Columbia River during one of our trips to 1000 Acre Dog Park.

I think about Winter dying a lot lately, or at least her death is always close to the surface of my thoughts. Sometimes she lies so still on her bed and I reassure myself that she’s going deaf. So, I call her name or give a command like “lets go,” and she still lies there. And, I think, “Oh shit, is she dead? Is it time?” but just for a second, or until I touch her and she startles, looking up from the bed, then slowly, shakily, Winter smiles and rises, ready to go wherever. (December 2015)