I’ve had a constant companion for almost ten years. My dog, Mr. Cooper. He’s been with me through the good and the bad, always by my side offering his constant support and love. A few years ago he even helped me train for a half marathon by walking and running by my side through the brutal training process. Well, folks, we’re all getting older and just a little grayer and Mr. Cooper is no different. It seems like it happened overnight, but I know it’s been a steady decline. I’ve chosen to ignore his arthritic walk and justify his slowing down as a symptom of the hot summer weather.
This morning I finally faced the facts. Mr. Cooper is thirteen years old. That’s an old dog. I think we still have a year or two left, but it’s time to modify our routines. Trust me, I cannot bear the inevitability of this dog passing. My eyes fill if the thought just whispers through my mind. I cannot imagine me, without him. Anyone that’s loved a pet or shared a life with one knows that I’m talking about. My Dad once said that he hoped he himself died before his dog so that he wouldn’t have to live a day without him. I didn’t get it then, but I sure do now.
Mr. Cooper’s favorite thing in the whole wide world (besides my squash casserole) is going for a walk. He only has to see me put on a baseball cap or hear the leash rattle and he’s spazzing out at 100%. Sometime’s he worn himself out with enthusiasm before we can even get out the door.
This morning was no different except that it was. Typically Mr. Cooper and I hit the door running. We keep a quick pace and I don’t let him dawdle and sniff at every single opportunity. I realized recently that sometimes our walks are more about my exercise than they are about his enjoyment. That changed this morning. This morning, we strolled.
Our walks are getting shorter, you see. I guess I knew this day would come but lately I realize just how woefully unprepared I am.
I did not look at my watch. I let Mr. Cooper sniff and pee at his whim. We dawdled over some flower bushes. We looked at a spiderweb. We walked through puddles. We took in all the smells of a damp August morning. We watched the sun sparkle and shine through wet Magnolia leaves. We leisurely chatted with a neighbor on his roof. We took our time.
I spoke to him softly and sweetly, stopping frequently to run my hand over his head and tug on his soft fuzzy ears. I stooped over more than once and planted a big fat kiss on the top of his head while scratching under his chin. I found myself silently pleading with God to give me another year or two with my best friend.
It was a peaceful morning and a perfect lesson for me to learn. Be present. Slow down. Enjoy the beauty all around you. And never, ever, pass up an opportunity to tell someone that you love them.