Caught Between a Puppy and an Old Pooch
I know all about the sandwich generation. Not just because I am sandwiched between my young-adult children and my aging parent. I am also sandwiched between my old dog and my puppy.
Curley is going to be 15 in a few months. That’s 105 in human years. Moe is going to be 3 — that’s “Let’s get wasted now that we are legal” in human years.
Depending on the hour, Curly has either lost all her faculties and bladder control, or she’s like those rejuvenated characters from that movie Cocoon, skinny-dipping at midnight like teenagers.
Most nights she wanders through the house forgetting who we are and attacking us. Actually, just me. To my husband, she can do no wrong. To me, she needs to remember that I’m the top dog in the house and that peeing is to be done outdoors.
Moe has managed to melt Curley's heart.
Curley and I have always had a complicated relationship. When she was in her prime I wrote a column titled, "My husband’s girlfriend is a bitch," detailing my husband’s greater love for Curley than for his actual wife.
But we worked it out. She learned to cuddle me and that I’m the one who gets the bed at night. And I learned that she’s basically in charge of our house.
When we brought Moe into our family three years ago, I fretted about how Curley would feel. We made sure that she always came first and that the new little punk, I mean puppy, would respect the “Queen” in our house. Curley not only tolerated the little interloper — she gained energy.
What I hadn’t counted on was that I couldn’t control her aging and I certainly couldn’t control the emotional stress of caring for an aging dog. Just like I can’t control it with the humans I love.
We haven’t ever cared for an aging dog before. My childhood dog, Charlie, died during my senior year of college at age 5. My husband’s beloved family dog, Sally, was a constant companion to my mother-in-law during her cancer treatment. When I called her after my classes in law school and asked how she was doing post-chemo, she’d say: “GREAT! Sally is with me.”
After my mother-in-law passed away, my father-in-law started dating. He got serious with a woman who wanted to “send” Sally away (euphemism for euthanasia) because Sally was hampering their travel schedule. I said: “Not on my watch.” Eventually we found a farmer who took her in, and she lived out her days as all good dogs should: watching the sunset over the lake. (And that potential evil stepmother was sent packing.)
After we got married we got a dog, Harpo, the first being we had to care for besides ourselves. We learned he had cancer when he was only 6 years old. He passed two weeks after my dad who had died suddenly.
My family was immersed in grieving.
I knew we needed some joy, and even though I’m the one in the family who could live without an animal, I love my husband and kids so much that I drove through a snowstorm to bring Curley back from New Jersey.
Now, on good days, she and Moe are hilarious together. She tolerates his adolescent ways with the generosity that comes with age. But I can see the pain and some fear in her eyes, which are glazed over with cataracts.
I know our job is to give her the love and care she’s given to us all these years. Because that’s what I hope our kids will do for us, especially when I become an old bitch, too.
As first published in the Democrat + Chronicle and on the USA Today Network