Tuesday, February 22, 2005

No self righteousness here

Woo is eating her dinner, finally, which is wonderful since she hasn't been feeling well this week. She's kept me awake the last couple of nights pacing and barfing. My vet thinks she probably ate something vile in the woods last Sunday, which sounds suspiciously like something Woo would do. She's a terrible scavenger.

Apparently old dogs sometimes have a lot of anxiety, which explains why Woo paces all the time. She's on valium to make her relax a little, because she must walk 10 miles every day just doing laps around my kitchen, and her kidney issues make her terribly thin anyway.

It's hard having an old dog, and I feel so guilty for getting frustrated. Most of the time Woo's still pretty spry, and I try to be patient with her on her slow days, but every once in awhile I forget that she can't help it and end up dragging her along behind me. That makes me feel mean and small.

After she got too old to jump on and off the bed, I never minded getting up to get her a drink of water. But now she doesn't have much bladder control, so she can't sleep up here as often (unless she's on her hazmat) and ends up pacing all night. The noise of her little toenails clicking around and around and around and around my apartment in these aimless circles starts to make me feel like a Poe character. She wanders into things and gets stuck and I have to get up and help her and put her back into her basket. But she doesn't stay there, and we have this awful Sisyphusian pattern all night long that makes my heart race and my head ache and I end up wishing they made doggie straitjackets so I could just close my eyes without feeling tense and watchful. Locking her in the bathroom or a crate just makes her howl, and at three a.m. when I'm so tired and feeling guilty for waking up A.S., I'm not capable of rationalizing that Woo can't help being old. What must she think when the hands that reach out to her turn from helpful and reassuring to rough and impatient?

I also wonder what sort of parent I'm going to be if I get this resentful and irritated with a poor old dog. Will I be the kind of person who shouts at my children for repetitive whining and interrupting while I'm trying to write? Will I shove them into bed and hold them there if they get anxious during the night?

What about my parents--when they get old, will I give them just enough care to get by and be comfortable, or will I be big enough to give them time and love without secretly wishing it was easier or less messy? I'm so frightened I'll be the sort of daughter who will change their diapers but make them feel ashamed for needing me to do it. Most people would say I am good to Woo, but I think I'm only really good when I have the time. I hate that I resent Woo, even in those miserable morning hours, because I know how much I'll miss reaching out for her when she's not here anymore.

But let me ask you something. Why is it that when I'm out with Woo, people are compelled to make some unsolicited remark such as, "She sure is walking slow" or "Is your dog's leg hurt?" She's almost 19, for pete's sake. If she wants to take 30 minutes to walk around a half mile lake, FINE. I'm just glad she's walking. And forgive me if I don't want to explain that she can't take arthritis medicine anymore because of her kidneys. And what I REALLY resent is when people hear how old she is and rather than saying, "That's amazing. How lucky that your wonderful dog is still with you," say instead something obnoxious like, "Isn't it hard to lose a pet? It's like losing a child." Why would you say something like that, especially to someone you don't know? I don't ask how old someone's mother is and then shake my head and talk about parents dying.

Maybe I'm the one who needs to be on valium, not Woo.


Elysia said...

OK, maybe I AM stalking your blog, but gods honest truth, today is a Tuesday, and Tuesdays are like the February of the week..... dull, boring, and completely unnecessary.

My doggie is old, too - she lives in NC with my mom, since I no longer live where I can have a dog. (I am one of those people that refuses to shut a dog up in a tiny house with no property to run around on... my mom has 43 acres). I totally know what you mean about all your feelings about your dog, your parents, your kids.... you are not alone in those thoughts. The thing is, as noble as we like to think we are, we are still human and we have weak and selfish moments. What really counts is the underlying love that motivates what you do. It's not that you will never have a moment of exasperation with your dog, your kids, or your parents - what counts is that you love them, that you really do have their best interests at heart, and that you allow yourself to be human in the process of working through the painful parts of seeing those you love get older. God, that sounds all preachy and I don't mean it to be. I guess I'm just saying that you sound like you have your feet on the ground and that you're a good person, and you shouldn't be too hard on yourself.

Jemima said...

Well, my mom said this morning that a person who was truly selfish wouldn't actually WORRY about being selfish. So I guess I have that.

I love that you're reading my blog, by the way. Stalk yourself silly.