It is strange and terrible to be here again. I’d let Latte off lead and she made it halfway up the stairs before her legs gave out and she toppled. It wouldn’t be the last time. She seems, at 13.5 years old, to have failing back legs just as Kali did. There is, in the final years, a zen that fills old age. Kali would have spurts of unmitigated joy and then she’d lie in the sunlight and be contented. The word for it is peace.
Latte has lived long enough for the wild to have softened — this dog who’d jump into trees after quail, scramble down holes chasing skunks, grapple with porcupine and marmots, herd deer, leap into a river and catch a thrashing, gleaming fish. In her ancient days, she’s just happy to lie nearby and get into the neighbor’s compost. I was afraid when Kali was dying. My grief was a fearsome thing. I don’t feel quite like that now. It is a blessing to be so close to her. To have lived long years together. Kali had six more months than anyone figured. Latte can still leap onto the deck 80% of the time.
I have never been so aware of being a mother as now. Preparing, as I am, for weakness, for debilitation. Preparing as I am for hard love. Wearying grief. Lifting a dog in my arms to carry her inside. I don’t need metaphors to explain mother. I know this word from every angle. From the center out. What we hope is that we don’t get the entirety of their lives. That their lives go on beyond us. What we are most certain of is the depth and sprawl of our own love. How it extends beyond these arteries and bones. We can’t contain it. We can’t bind it up in these bodies.
My dog has gotten old. All at once, I would argue, but that’s absurd. She has gotten old daily. Scoops of food in her bowl. Walks where the heron cruises overhead. She has grown old with me. All it cost was love.