Although I didn't physically birth her, being that she has four legs and is covered in fur, I consider my Shih Tzu Mellie, who turns 16 today as much a member of my brood as I do my fairly hairless, two legged kids.
For these past 16 years she's been a constant presence;, the one living, breathing creature who has always been eager to comfort me. In fact for the first half of her life- I guess you can say it was a pretty self-indulgent relationship for me. Wherever I sat, within seconds she was right next to me snuggled up, she never pulled away when I tried to kiss her or reach out for a hug and for years she'd wait for me each morning until I was ready to get out of bed ( the old girl has slept till 11am on many a weekend morning without so much as a bark).
On the very few vacations we've taken without her-( because I hate leaving ANY family member behind!) I've left her in the care of my family- with specific instructions on how to feed her and give her water. The old girl needs to be hand fed and she will bark at the bathroom sink when she wants water- at which time one needs to fill up a cup of fresh water and she will then proceed to drink ONLY from that cup.
I know dogs are granted to us humans for a short period- and we have to manage to squeeze out as much love and memorable moments as we possibly can during those fleeting years. But it just doesn't feel fair, and recently, as I've been watching my once spunky Shih Tzu slow down; she's now blind in both eyes, needs to be carried up and down the stairs and just seems less willing to be cuddled and manhandled, I've been feeling this sense of dread and panic well up in my chest.
I can't even fathom a time when she will not be with me, sitting beside my as I type on the computer, (and a few years ago when I would be gone she would jump in my chair waiting for me to return) she's helped me to be a more patient person, a better mother and her presence reminds me on a daily basis to appreciate the sweet here and now. I guess the greatest gift she's given me is that of time- understanding how fleeting and precious it is- and being mindful not to waste it on any of it.. especially when it's negative. I just want more time, more vigorous tail wagging, more kisses, more snuggle time, more unconditional love, more of everything. Because really isn't that all any of us really want anyway?