Being a woman ... being a mom ... being Italian ... whatever

May. 03, 2014 @ 01:31 PM

I took my dog, Kasey, to the vet today. She’s sort of a small-medium size, looks like “Benji” from the movie. Turned 13 years old on Valentine’s Day, she’s been slowing down quite a bit in the last year or so. Naturally, I first noticed this with a jovial “Join the club!” kind of response. But, today, when I lifted her onto the table to be examined, she looked at me, and my heart suddenly seized. 

The look in her eyes is new; it’s different. It wasn’t her regular, “Whoa, why are we here again? I hate this place!” Her gaze is beginning to say something else these days.  Waiting for her veterinarian to come in, the two of us locked eyes for a long moment, and her expression spoke so clearly it was like hearing Kasey’s voice.
“I’m getting on, you know,” she ‘says.’
“I know,” I answer softly. “Me, too,” I smile.
“I feel it, Mom,” she breathes. “More every day. It isn’t easy, and I don’t understand it, but I can’t make it up the hills any more. I can’t jump up on the bed or into the car by myself. I can’t make it through the night without needing to go out, and without my arthritis medicine, everything hurts. Why? I never used to feel like this. Can the doctor make it better?”
Kasey’s eyes never left mine, searching for an answer, trusting me to know, as I always have, how to fix it. And, although my eyes held hers, mine filled with tears, and her cockeyed ears blurred for a moment.
Being a woman ... being a mom ... being Italian ... whatever it is, I smiled through the tears and scooped her off the table, sitting with her on my lap (she’s a solid 30 pounds, so being a lap-dog has never been easy, but she has patiently accepted my sentimental insistence over the years). 
I had just realized -- vividly, starkly -- that I would one day lose her.
Of course, I knew it. I’ve had dogs since I was tiny, and have suffered through countless losses, and yes, I do believe it made me stronger. Children learn through the deaths of their pets; they learn lessons that truly cannot be taught as well in any other way.  Lessons about loyalty, and irritation, and unfairness; about laughter, about heartbreak ... about unconditional adoration, and about loss ... about life.
So, yes, I’ve always known that I would lose Kasey (and Gabby, her “sister,” who looks like “Lady” to Kasey’s “Tramp”).  But, somehow, it’s different this time. With these two particular girls of mine, I’ve always thought, well, that’s a long way off, we have loads of time, they’ll be around for years. And, together, we’ve faced knee surgeries, mean-dog attacks, a sincere devotion to hysterical barking, life-threatening illnesses, eye problems, tooth extractions, tummy sensitivities, a slight loss of hearing, a clouding of sight ... and those years have gone by.
As I held Kasey tight, in the new near-panic of this realization, rocking back and forth in the vet’s office today -- as mothers are prone to do, if you’ll notice -- I could hold back neither the tears nor the smile. Yes, this time was different, but I understood why.
It’s because Kasey and I are “getting on” together. And, she’s right: It isn’t easy, and I don’t understand it, either, but it’s getting harder to walk those hills ... hell, even the nice flat driveway. I can’t jump on the bed or into the car any more ... honestly, I can’t jump, period. I can no longer make it through the night without getting up to “go out” myself, and without an Aleve or two for arthritis, everything hurts, and I mean everything. I never used to feel like this, and I am still looking for someone -- even my mother -- to make it better.
So, somewhere in the back of my mind, I was working out the fact that, yes, I will one day, perhaps not long from now, lose this adorable, cockeye-eared, scruffy, trusting little dog who will take with her a piece of my heart until I see her racing up the hills of heaven; but, also, that one day, perhaps sooner than I know, a little dog will “lose” me, too. And, I smile that I had not fully realized this way before now -- how silly of me.
I don’t think it will be soon. I’ll have plenty of time to fall in love with more scruffy heart-stealers -- and as wrenching as it is, love them I will. But, I will also always remember this day -- the day Kasey and I sat, and rocked, and reminded each other how short life really is, and how much we were loved ... over ... and over ... and over ...

Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker.  Readers may contact her at chh@heraldsun.com, or by visiting her website at www.vickiwentz.com.