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Quiet Desperation

Furry friend is fading, and that’s just how it is


Old friends," Simon and Garfunkel sang, "sat on their park bench like book ends."

Smitty would need a helping hand to sit on a park bench with me. I carry him up and down the stairs too. Our walks are shorter and shorter, sometimes no farther than the driveway.

His veterinarian, Dr. Bowman, said, "He still has his dignity," and I guess he does. He is not in pain, and he is not suffering. His appetite is good, and his eyes are shiny.

He is incontinent and deaf, and he doesn't always know where I am, but he always wants to be near me. It's a very good thing that I work at home.

It's also a good thing that he doesn't weigh any more than my bowling ball. Some of my neighbors have very large dogs. I would be unable to carry one of them around. It's something I never considered when I began to favor the breed.

"Big ears, I know you're the one."

Smitty's ears are quite large. There seems to be leftover material. But there's a reason and a purpose, although we have never tested it.

Dachshunds were bred to hunt badgers. Badgers burrow in the ground. Dachshunds, I'm told, would stand at the entrance, and listen intently. Leaning forward, their big ears were capable of capturing the sounds below.

Nature, huh?

Dachshunds that hunt might actually go below ground, and signal the hunter with another feature of the breed: their bark is far larger than the dog. If you own a dachshund, or live near one, you know what I mean.

I would do what I am doing for Smitty if it were a human family member who lived with me.

Does he run around the house or the park like he once did? No. But neither do I.

A reader offered to make a custom-sized diaper. I declined. Instead, I have a shelf of dachshund-dedicated, absorbent hand towels that get the job done.

I still talk to him, even though I know he cannot hear me. The good news: He wasn't petrified on the Fourth, when all of our delightful neighbors exploded things, like they always do.

Thunderstorms no longer send him into hiding.

He still has an appetite, and it reminds me of the (old) joke about the two elderly women at a Catskills resort.

"The food is terrible."

"Yes, and the portions are so small."

I feed him, and he is ready for more. But I refuse to have a walrus in the house. Because we go on fewer walks, there has been a weight gain. But there will be no obesity while I am on duty.

A very good friend just brought her dog's ashes home in an urn. I have been through that. Maybe you have too. It's beyond description, and beyond consolation. We have yet to talk about how the dog's life ended. She wasn't advanced in years and she wasn't ailing.

I said, "Tell me when you are ready."

What's next for me? I haven't decided. But I think Smitty might be the end of the line. I have been the owner and operator of three dachshunds, and each one has improved my life. The benefits have meant everything.

"Memory brushes the same years."

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net


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