My mornings begin with a cup of coffee and a book, my notebook, or my laptop. I settle myself into an overstuffed arm chair that my son swapped out with a dining room chair and pull myself up to the dining room table, now used for holding book stacks and feeding cats instead of people. When you have eight cats, they tend to take over your space.
I am never settled for long before my thirteen-year-old pit bull, Roxy, joins me. She’s deaf now, but somehow she always hears me when I sit down in our chair, and she rouses herself from sleep elsewhere and staggers into the dining room. She stands there blinking at me expectantly. She wants to get into the chair, but she can’t make it on her own anymore. Occasionally, when she’s having a spry day, she’ll try, but she usually ends up on her back like a turtle that has tipped over. Then she blinks expectantly once again, to communicate the need for a different kind of help. She’s sixty pounds and top heavy and I sometimes struggle to right her when she ends up upside down. She’s very good about not complaining.
I hop up and move the chair farther away from the table. I grasp her waist to let her know I’m ready. She lifts her front legs, and I lift her back legs. I swivel her back end around so that she only has to collapse in place to be comfortable. She lets out a sigh, then curls into a tight ball that still takes up three-quarters of the chair. I am left with mere inches of chair space. I used to nudge her aside and make her share the chair more equitably, but now I let her be. Before long, she’s snoring.
We have spent our mornings together for over twelve years now, though the routine has changed. Morning naps gradually replaced morning walks. Some mornings, she doesn’t even want to navigate the stairs to go outside. It’s straight from her bed to our chair.
On a good morning, we have a couple of hours together before anyone else gets up. I read and write. She snores and grunts. We are often joined by cats. When I remember, I pet her head or tell her she’s a good dog, even though she can’t hear me.
Every morning when I help her up onto the chair, I wonder about our last morning. I know it’s coming. Each day, her back legs fail a little more. Each day, it’s a little harder to get out to the yard. Each day, she sleeps a little more.
But she still wiggles and waggles like a young dog when we come home from an afternoon away. She’s still so excited by her nightly Kong filled with peanut butter that she scampers across the floor, sometimes wiping out more than once. She still enjoys a nap on the porch in the sunshine, especially if she’s joined by a cat or four.
It’s not our last morning. Not yet. And I am grateful for that.