Lately I’ve been getting emails from Roo’s old vet in North Carolina reminding me that it’s time for her Senior Wellness Exam. The email goes over the importance of making sure than an old dog like Roo be thoroughly inspected, and if that vet had any idea of the course Roo’s life has taken, as the Queen of The Forests, Jungles, Deserts, Mountains, Wildernesses, Seas, Lakes, Rivers, Streams, Brooks, Ponds, Puddles and Ditches, the vet would probably recommend an extensive refurbishment along the lines of what you’d do if you found a rusty old Model A with its fenders shot off in 1937 in the barn and decided to get it running again.
The picture the vet sent of some poor dog looking miserable on the floor of the office was probably meant to inspire immediate action. But that dog looks nothing like the senior Señorita Roo.
It’s true, though, that Roo is slowing down. It’s been hard to figure out sometimes whether age is catching up with her or she’s bothered by other things. Sometimes, for example, she hears gunshots (the worst time was right around Christmas, when everybody gets new guns and a load of giftwrapped ammunition and blows through it all as fast as possible), and that makes her reluctant to go outside for a whole day. When that happens, I don’t know if she’s upset or not feeling well. Same thing with thunderstorms. A terrible storm came through recently, dropping the temperature from 72 degrees at two in the morning to 11 degrees, and when that cold front blew through it was terrible. Roo didn’t want to go out for three days.
Only a few months ago, Roo still wanted to go for four-mile hikes. Now I have to limit her to an hour at a time. Anything more than that seems to beat her up. The main problem is that her favorite thing to do — digging mouses up — hurts her. I suppose she’s getting some arthritis. She can dig for a short time, but when she loses her mind and tries to really excavate, she limps. It’s presenting a challenge, because in the heat of the moment, she doesn’t realize that she’s getting hurt and it’s one hell of a job to get her to stop. And she can’t jump up on the bed any more. And sometimes she asks for help getting in the car, which is really saying something, because she hates being given a boost like that. When she asks for help she’s embarrassed and wags with her tail low and her ears way back.
I’ve never had a dog who made it this far. Roo is only my second dog, and Orville died when he was six-and-a-half — a year younger than Roo is now. So I’m not experienced in the ways of dogs when it comes to aging.
One thing that’s new about Roo is that she has developed a taste for taking an evening walk in the streets of a town to anywhere else. That started up in Brunswick, Maine. Here, in east Oklahoma, it’s a much more difficult proposition because the only town big enough to take a walk in within 30 miles is Poteau, and as soon as you get off the two blocks of Main Street there are dogs fenced in every yard and you’ve got to run a gauntlet of dozens of them barking and snarling like madmen, which leads to the occupants of the houses coming out and yelling at them and it’s unpleasant. But it’s the only way. Otherwise it’s hard to get Roo to go out at night, and if her last walk is around four or five in the afternoon, that means she doesn’t get out until she rolls out of bed around noon. It can’t be good for her, even if it doesn’t seem to make her uncomfortable. At the moment we have the luxury of a campground all to ourselves, which means Roo is more willing to go out for a last look at night because she is free to charge out of the camper and give the cows and coyotes across the lake a few barks, and that way she remembers her courage and feels all right.
Last week, Roo’s arms were bothering her so badly that I had to help her get into the car. Even the step up to the camper was painful for her. Then she got sick on top of that for a couple of days. She’s fine now, but it made me feel worse than ever about her living in this camper. It seems like it might be a too hard a place to live for a dog who always needed a place to hide out. Maybe now that she’s getting older, she needs that more. I don’t know.
But, as you can see in the pictures of her above, she looks happy and healthy. Really, it’d be better for me not to have to hike as much as she used to, because it’s more of a beating than I can take, either.
I guess we’re getting old together. I don’t care about my getting old, but the whole damn show goes by much too fast where a good dog is concerned.