Maybe it is the summer heat? Hope so…

Red and white dogs have filled my little yellow house on the hill this week. Our 14-year-old pup Cub and our daughter’s visiting 10-year-old Brittany Spaniel Casey have been sharing the same space. Cub is sixty something pounds and Casey half his weight. Happenstance that both our dogs share the same coloring as their origins are vastly different. Cub a rescue dog from South Carolina and Casey a purebred from New Hampshire. Casey a city dog while Cub lives rurally. Yet, they have settled into their senior years with a mutual understanding of one another. Muzzles may be whitening but their spirits will never age.

They once wrestled and chased each other over our many acres but now they spend their days sleeping close by one another. Casey sleeps in a large crate overnight while Cub snoozes just on the other side of her door. Our family often jokes that he may be keeping an eye on her whereabouts, but I suspect he just likes the comfort of her companionship.

They are both slowing, and this is especially true for Cub. Our once ambitious hikes up Mount Tom are memories only. Daily walks down the street for miles of sniffing, exploring, and wandering have been reduced to a half mile out and back. We cross from the paved road to the dirt and Cub leans into a turn. Coaxing him just a bit further while thinking about how excited he was just moments ago to go for a walk. He leans even harder into the turn in his quiet definite way so home we must go. The heat of the summer months? Maybe. Hope so…

As I obsessively monitor Cub’s rapid labored panting, our devoted veterinarian gently offers her assurances and the harsh reality of loving a senior dog as a cherished family member. A dog that has barked less than a handful of times in his many years. A friend to everyone he has ever met even those that are not “dog lovers” love Cub. Wherever my granddaughter is Cub is right there. Belle often takes a moment to give him a hug. His coat is lush and full, and she sinks in. Soft and certainly huggable. A dog like no other in my experience…

The years have passed like those of my children’s swiftly and filled with so many magical moments. Cub was rescued long ago by a woman in MA. Alana devotedly worked with high kill shelters in the south trying to find forever homes for numerous dogs. She lived with her generous parents in their home in a wealthy suburb of Boston. A gorgeous home in an affluent neighborhood that temporarily housed. dogs in varying ages, sizes, and training. Cub was found somewhere in the streets of South Carolina at an estimated age of nine months. Deemed a stray he was picked-up and brought to a shelter where he was to be euthanized. Number 3 was his unlucky draft pick. Fortunately, he was rescued from such a fate and transported to Massachusetts. He was destined to rescue a family wanting to love a new family member…

My husband, Jon, son Daniel, and myself arrived at our scheduled time to Alana’s house to meet some new four-legged friends. Jon was hesitant as we had lost our black lab Abbey just months earlier to cancer. Lymphoma. Our hearts were still heavy with the sudden and dramatic loss of our 10-year-old lab. Jon particularly still heartbroken. She was crazy but we oved her. My husband loved her just that impossible smidge more so our want for a new family member to love was a little more guarded for him. The pain and heartache palpable. Daniel in his quiet loving manner convinced his dad to come “just look” and Jon did. Alana stepped out of a side door with a thin red and white dog with his head hung low moving in an obvious weakened state. He had already lived a rugged lifetime in his brief existence…

We parked our car and excitedly approached this young dog. Malnutrition exposed a coat that was sparse. Large dark spots boldly displayed on pale pink skin. Blue medical tape wrapped around each hind leg. Evidence of the surgical removal of dew claws by a vet. Cub’s stride so many years later still compensates for the missing digits. His gentle brown eyes looked up at me. The most beautiful reddish-gold retriever head tilted in my direction. His eyes rimmed with black fur looking like a perfectly applied eyeliner. He was unwell and needed to be separated from the rest of the dogs. The promise of tomorrow was iffy at best. I immediately feel in love as did Daniel. Jon was yet to be convinced as the health hurdles were many…

Next, we were brought to a vacant carpeted room in the house that may have been an office at one time. Asked to wait while Alana gathered some dogs for us to meet, we obliged. The door opened and an explosion of dogs entered the room. A flurry of jumping, running, and lunging left each one of us to on their own to protect and defend. The delightful insanity of ping ponging dogs filled the space. The extreme tugging of the heart for animals in need of a home. As I patted and played with my ten new best friends my thoughts were of the gentle spirit I had met just outside. Dan’s too.

We headed back outdoors to greet Cub one more time. Dan and I were all in. Jon asked to take Cub’s leash and walked just a few feet away. He knelt and briefly chatted with Cub. I suspect Cub looked at him with the same soulful eyes he shared with me. Cub was ours then and forever…

“Old dogs can be a regal sight. Their exuberance settles over the years into a seasoned nobility, their routines become as locked into yours as the quietest and kindest of marriages.” — Gail Caldwell

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Elizabeth Ricketson

Elizabeth Ricketson

A graduate of Providence College with a BA in English, Elizabeth Ricketson has always had a love of literature and the fine arts.