A Galapagos land turtle can live over 200 years. With a dog you're lucky to get 10. If my wife and I are extraordinarily lucky, our dog will see his 10th birthday on December 30. Since his diagnosis of bone cancer more than 8 months ago, we've gone through several "final" things with him. We've wished for him to be here for Halloween and my wife's birthday and he was. Now it's about making it to Christmas, my birthday, and his birthday. One last victory lap. All seems well right now. He still gets around ok, taking his nightly walk to the mailbox or to the affectionately titled "Pee Corner", where all the bushes are. Because he's down to three legs now (a "tripawd") he can't make it very far before stopping to get some rest. Imagine if you had to go everywhere by hopping on one leg. Maverick's at 75 percent leg capacity and still gets more exercise than most of the supposedly healthy humans I know.
Soon, we'll start seeing the endgame approach. The cancer has spread to his lungs. Coughing will increase, appetite will decrease. He'll yelp at the slightest touch. The nose will no longer be cold and wet, and the sparkle will be gone from his eyes. This will come sooner rather than later. It could start tomorrow. Everyday for the last nine months, that's been my thought. It could start tomorrow.
Maverick's big comfy bed is put next to ours each night. He chooses to sleep next to me as I'm closer to the doorway and the window, places where threats could occur. Ever on guard, he's what I see last at night and first in the morning. Of the numerous advantages to having a dog versus a kid, the best is that a dog never talks. I wish that could change, if only for a day. When that day comes I just want to know that we've done the right thing, that the pain has become too much, and he has another Gate to go guard for us.