I feel as though I’m cheating on my old girl, Elsie, when I leave her to go spend time with a younger dog: Sir Thomas.
A thirteen-year-old border collie mix, Elsie is the first dog I’ve raised from puppyhood. She was full-grown the day she wagged to greet me as I returned home with my Parkinson’s diagnosis. Well into old age now, she still blinks open an eye (or two) each of the ridiculous number of times I wake during the night.
On those nights, I give her extra neck scratches. On some of those nights, when the occasional meltdown renders me teary-eyed, Elsie is there, the lone guest at my pity parties.
We’re both getting creaky. She a bit more so than I. Her time is limited. And while the yogi in me knows that all of us are here for a limited time, I’m acutely aware of her presence.
From antics to silly dog tricks to travel to simply hanging out, we’ve much history together. Through half of her thirteen years, I’ve been on the challenging journey of living with a degenerative disease. She’s been with me. According to my neurologist, often times the second decade of Parkinson’s presents more significant challenges. It’s hard to imagine that Elsie will not be with me throughout that leg of my journey.
I wonder if it’s not entirely guilt to blame for the twinges of hesitation I feel when I go to visit Sir Thomas. A sweet boy, sensitive and spirited, once he settles and overcomes some of his fears, he’ll be quite the companion. I wonder if part of what I’m sensing is resistance to the reality that I’ll truly need his service in the years to come.
He’s not the only one who needs to settle and overcome fears. In the Introduction to my yoga book, I wrote, “Rest comfortably in the present instead of worrying about the past or fretting about the future.” It’s followed by, “Witness what is and accept it. At times, even embrace it.”
It seems I need some additional training, too. I might be quite the companion myself once I let myself simply be with an aging, fuzzy, stick-chasing, 35-pound girl and a youthful, short-haired boy who weighs in more than I do. There’s plenty of room in my heart for both. And I don’t even mind the fur and slobber that comes from embracing them.