Tuesday, July 27, 2010

He just keeps on livin'

Over the weekend we had house guests: Merlin and Kitty.

They live with Natalie's dad. Natalie and Matt went to the Bay Area for the weekend to see his parents in Bodega Bay and also join the 5th annual reunion of families with whom we traveled to China to meet our daughters.

Poor Merlin is winding down.
He is a dog's dog. A regal animal. The benevolent alpha male who defends Natalie and me, and graciously allows children to pull on his ears and tail. On walks with Lizzy, who is a quarter his size, Merlin walks out in front, his leash taught. Lizzy walks off leash, but keeps a respectful distance behind Merlin. She knows he is the leader, and our protector.

The Merleman has bone cancer, and Matt was told back in January that Merlin didn't have long to live. His face is totally gray now and a man we passed on a walk last night called him Grandpa.

Matt and I found Merlin in the newspaper 12 years ago. We brought him home and tried not to panic as we realized we now shared a one-bedroom, second-floor apartment with an 85-pound dog. Now he is 13, and spends much of his time during the warm months in an Elizabethan collar because his skin allergies make him so itchy he bites himself until he's bleeding.
When I take off the collar, which we call the cone, Merlin is very happy.
Let me tell you, the visit was exhausting. I am tired. Tie-urd.

I felt like I had a newborn. Except I never had a newborn. But I did have an extremely sick baby and sometimes wondered if, when I went to her crib, she'd still be alive.

The other morning - after sleeping in the guest room with Merlin, who rose to pace and pant and bark at nighttime noises every two hours - I went to make coffee. When I returned, he was in the same position, like a dead deer on the side of the road.

"Merlie?" I said.

He was still.



I bent down and stroked his big shoulder, running my hand along his flank, now bumpy with tumors. And he raised his head and smiled at me as dogs do. Moments later he was in the yard chasing birds, as I mixed medicine and turkey meatballs into his kibble.

After he ate he rolled around on the rug, happy with a full belly and free from the cone.

One of the best things about Merlin is that he follows me everywhere. Back when he was a pup I put him on a leash and tied it to my waist. So wherever I'd go, he'd have to follow. It was a great way to keep an eye on him and teach him to stay with me.

So for all these days of his visit, I had a constant companion who waited patiently for me while I dressed, while I cooked, while I read. Which is a nice treat because Lizzy, despite my giving her affection and treats and long walks, really just gives me the High Hat in return. She is Tony's dog, through and through. But we were both able to fake it for that fireworks video.
By the way, Kitty spent the whole time either in a corner of Natalie's room, or under the guest room bed. She once was very sweet. She used to crawl up the screen door and cuddle and play. But now all she does is hiss. So rude!
Smokey, as usual, was a good sport. He likes his big brother Merlin. Likes to sniff his tail, too.
Last night Matt picked up Merlin and Kitty and I was really sad. I worry that's the last time he'll be at our house. But then, I thought that in the springtime. But the old guy just keeps on livin'.

1 comment:

  1. What a houseful! It's great that he can find such happiness in the simple doggy pleasures even though he is so sick. Sweet pup.