Looking back over my posts from the past several months, it seems there are two topics that I tend to write about most: gratitude and Dolly. Last Thursday’s post was about the former. This one is about the latter. And for good reason. Those of you who’ve enjoyed the companionship of long-term pets understand how they become fixtures in both your life and your heart.
Dolly’s nearly fourteen-year presence in our home has created many of such attachments and although she adores all of her human family—greeting them lovingly and eagerly with butt-shaking tail wags—she and I share a special bond. Over the years, she has become my dog and I have become her person. The one she tends to gravitate toward even after I’ve instigated vet visits, haircuts, baths, ear cleanings, and other necessary (but, in her mind, torturous) means of care.
She keeps me company during long and solitary writing days, serenading me with her sweet snores from her bed right outside my office door, and sometimes, on the rug inside my office. She keeps me on schedule by reminding me when it’s time to take a break to eat or go outside or just slow down long enough to play or give her ears a little scratch. True to her name, she really is a doll. Her pleasant demeanor has brought more joy to my life than I can even recount and makes imagining life without her incredibly difficult.
But last Saturday, the image of a Dolly-less house was abruptly implanted in the forefront of my mind. After a scary episode, that according to two different vets, was either a stroke or something called idiopathic vestibular disease (aka old-dog syndrome), I was socked with a sobering dose of reality regarding Dolly’s advanced age and the diminishing number of “good” years (months? days?) we have left with her. And although she has fully recovered, I really haven’t.
I find myself watching her more closely, looking for signs of anything amiss, and worrying that she will suffer another occurrence of a similar nature. I wake in the middle of the night and listen for her breathing, get her up in the morning and wonder if it will be her last. While these may be morbid thoughts, they are also powerful reminders that time is fleeting. That the precious moments and purposeful minutes we have to spend with those we cherish and doing the things we enjoy, are limited.
So, as Dolly’s incident has prompted me to define and appreciate and incorporate into my daily life those certain people and specific experiences that incite joy and activate my gratitude receptors (like morning snuggles with Dolly), I encourage you to do the same. Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow the gifts of time and presence and appreciation that you can offer today. Because things can change without warning, life can throw us off balance in a blink, and we don’t get to decide when that happens.