Chapter 81 — Old Dogs and Special People

Millie was a nice dog, polite, grateful for a walk and a scratch behind the ears. But she seemed likely to become a long-term resident at the Humane Society.
Millie was old. Everyone wants a puppy, sweet, cute, energetic and adorable, ready to wiggle and bounce his way into your heart.
Old dogs, like old people, are less likely to be cute and energetic. They don’t handle change as well as they did when they were younger. And they tend to have more medical needs. Go calculate the ratio of gray hair and wrinkles to brown hair and smooth skin at your local doctor’s office. It’s probably close to 20:1.
Millie wasn’t cute any longer. She was a bit oddly shaped, maybe a little more pear-shaped and a little less elongated than she would have been as a younger dog. But she had a sweet disposition.  I got to know her as we walked the Humane Society grounds on my weekly dog exercise time.
One sun-filled Monday, I walked into the Humane Society building, looking forward to seeing Millie again. We could go together at what has become a reasonable pace for a 70-plus-year-old human and a dog of roughly equivalent years.
We could walk up hills instead of running as the younger dogs like to do. We could sit in the sunshine and Millie could contemplate the scents of outdoors, which are always more interesting than what you get in the kennel.
I grabbed a leash and strolled down the row of kennels, setting off the usual four-alarm barkathon. Dogs leaped against the cage doors or pawed the chain-link cages.
It’s a no-win situation. I don’t have the upper body strength to handle a dog so energetic that he charges out of the kennel before I can snap the leash clasp on his collar—and sometimes goes after another dog pressed against her cage door. I don’t want to create an out-of-control situation, so I leave them in the cages. Sadly.
These dogs desperately need walks, but they cannot reason out the problem. They don’t know I would love to take them for a walk in the sunshine, out in the world where dogs should be, if only they could stand still long enough to be connected to a leash. They don’t even need to reason it out, if only the Humane Society had the resources to pay a professional to work with some of them on good behavior. They are not bad dogs. They just need to learn how to live with people.
But Millie, I could walk. Except that Millie wasn’t there that day.  She had been adopted.
It takes a special person to care for and love an older dog, to give her medication as needed (and pay the veterinarian’s bills), boost her hindquarters when she can no longer make it up the stairs, put down an egg-crate foam or a soft bed when arthritis stiffens aging joints.
Millie’s new parents could be jerks who neglect and abuse her.  We don’t know.  But I choose to believe they are not. I choose to believe they will do what it takes to make her last years happy.

A dog can’t ask for much more than that.

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