16 And A Half Years
I don’t know how to calculate dog years, but I do know that 16 and a half human years is pretty damn old for a dog. That’s how old the family dog was when my mother texted me yesterday morning to say that Ginger had suffered a stroke in the night and my parents had to haver her put down.
I really did think Ginger – a beagle mix adopted from a flea market – would outlive us all. She was more cat than dog, really. She eschewed toys, wouldn’t fetch if her life depended on it, couldn’t swim, hated being petted. She was born old and cantankerous, so it seems odd that we never really got along. She peed on my bed twice during a week-long visit home after college. No one ever knew how she got upstairs.
She mellowed slightly in her last years. She let my parents give her a bath. She tolerated my little sister putting stupid hats on her and taking pictures of it – a biteable offense in bygone days. She would bark at the other (much younger) family dog until that dog would chase her around the house.
Of course, I’ve been thinking of mortality. If a seemingly immortal dog can die, so can and will everyone else I care about. Which, duh, of course they will. TImes like these makes me want to heal every old wound, patch over ancient hurts and grudges, create a figurative (and maybe literal) blanket fort of love and kindness and care and find someone to crawl inside with. Because time is moving. The time you have to start things, finish things, mull things over, create and destroy, embrace and let go is so chest-crushingly finite. Righteousness and pride and someday plans and waitlisted dreams aren’t keeping any of us warm at night. What we make as individuals and with others is all we get and the time we don’t spend making and being and living are days and weeks and months and years we can never call back. And we only receive so many reminders of this truth, most of them painful. Why waste another?
16 and a half years seems like a long time. It isn’t, though. It really, really isn’t.