Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A girl and her dog

Genghis is my girlfriend Michelle's doberman-chow mix. Genghis was born in the spring of 1997, which would put him somewhere over 100 years old if the chart on the left (taken from here, which notes that a dog's "age" isn't linear to time and depends on size) is to be believed.

Since I've been in a relationship with Michelle, Genghis has become as much a part of my life as he is with hers. He seems to like me (especially when I'm in the kitchen, because he knows he'll get some scraps from cooking) and I enjoy having him around as well. Which is saying something, considering that I'm not by nature a "dog person."

Despite his age, Genghis has always appeared to be in good health. That's why we began to get concerned recently about some changes in his behavior. He was getting up, walking around and sitting back down more slowly and stiffly. He sometimes began to whine at night, as if he were in pain, and last week even yelped when he sat down. He began defecating in the house, which was unusual for him (and according to some sources, a sign that "the end is near"). Michelle was obviously concerned, and took Genghis to the vet last week.

It turns out that Genghis is fine; the vet, in fact, thought he was rather healthy for his age and expected him to live for another year, at least. Genghis, like a lot of old-timers (dog and human alike) has arthritis, and the muscles in his hind legs have begun to atrophy. That makes getting up, walking around and sitting back down more difficult and painful for him than it has been in the past. It also may have been a reason for his inside pooping, because it might have been too uncomfortable for him to stand outside long enough to do his business. The vet prescribed a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory for the arthritis and suggested that Genghis spend more time outside in order to ensure that he eliminates properly. So far, so good; Genghis seems to be walking with a bit more ease and I haven't stepped in any more of his messes.

That being said, the fact remains that Genghis has well-surpassed the lifespan that would generally be expected for a dog of his size and breed mix. Michelle understands this and is thankful for every additional day she gets to spend with the dog she calls "her everything." We know that the day will come when Genghis is no longer around. Even though Michelle says she is prepared for it, she knows that it will nevertheless be a very difficult time for her. It will be difficult for me as well. Which is why we're enjoying his company while we still can.

Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman recently posted up a new comic entitled My dog: the paradox. In it, he observes:
Dogs are an unfortunate creature to own because unlike children who turn into adults in their teen years, when a dog gets into his teens he dies of old age.

So you spend a decade and a half building an affinity for this weird little creature only to have its life extinguished.

Maybe that's why we love them because their lives aren't lengthy, logical or deliberate but an explosive paradox composed of fur, teeth and enthusiasm.

And you'll never meet a person who is so genuinely happy to be with you.

No comments: