I didn’t plan on writing about my dog today, but Jeff and I were speaking about Brady this morning. Jeff had stumbled across a beautiful list of twenty things about dogs; and #19 struck a very difficult cord for us.
“Take care of me when I get old, just as much as you cared for me when I was a puppy. When I was young, you spent so much time cuddling me and touching my soft fur. My fur might not be as soft and I am no longer small, but my love for you has only grown stronger.”
Brady just turned 12, he’s a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, born on Super Bowl Sunday 2002 (hence his name). He bound into our lives when we needed him most. We had lost our beloved Golden, Palmer, that previous fall, and our hearts were ready to welcome a new family member. We didn’t pick Brady, he picked us. We were very lucky to get him, as there were very few Toller breeders in the country. As luck would have it, we moved into our new home in Eliot, Maine, and Brady arrived to christen our new wood floors just two days later. He was so full of himself, the “cock of the walk” Jeff would say.
His energy was contagious, and we ran with him, hiked with him, vacationed with him and let him teach us about wild abandon. Sometimes, we forget about the things that mean the most around us. We take for granted the dog waiting patiently at the door when we come home. We get frustrated by the smudge marks on the glass panes, realizing only later, that his nose was pressed up against it just waiting for the sign of my car, or for me to head down the driveway on my bike.
He moves so much slower now. He won’t always “go” outside, especially if it is cold. He decides to go on walk abouts when not leashed; and even recently spent the day in jail (fittingly on Super Bowl Sunday). But he has his moments of wild abandon, where everything in his body feels good and he flies thru the powder snow playing once again like a pup.
He sleep a lot; and doesn’t always respond to his name (even after offering cookies and cheese); but he still is at the door the minute we walk in. Waiting to give us that bit of love he so instinctively and without reservation can.
If you’ve met Brady, you know he’s a special dog. He’s relentless in his pursuit of EVERYTHING (especially tennis balls). I know he’s touched many….I’ve watched the FedEx man stay and throw the ball for him during the height of Christmas deliveries. I’ve watched from my window the lawn mowing crew, get off the riding mowers to play with him. I’ve watched my daughters friends snuggle with him in front of the TV. I’ve watched each of my girls take him on long solo walks sharing their secrets only with him; and I’ve watched Jeff love this dog so deeply.
So we wait, knowing this will probably be the last winter Brady will spend with us. I have a hard time forgiving myself for getting frustrated with him, when I know he can’t entirely control his behavior. Today, Jeff and I decided, it’s our turn to make his life special, the way he has made our lives special. To make his end of winter days loving and peaceful, and when he has those moments of reckless abandon, we will join with him and be kids, too.
Today, I sat on the floor for an hour, and brushed him and rubbed his belly before the girls headed off to school. He looked at me with those big brown eyes and I know he was saying, “thank you mom.”