I don’t have to look down near my feet to know my dog is there. I can hear her ears flap when she suddenly decides to wildly shake her body. When I turn down the music I can hear her take deep breaths. I can even smell her. But not in a bad way. Elka keeps herself very clean, but she has a unique scent that tells me she’s my dog.
It’s been this way for nearly 10 years.
I don’t have to look down because she’s always been there. Sometimes she curls up next to Kim’s feet, and that’s why I keep her circular dog bed next to my desk.
I’m having a difficult time watching her grow old.
I’m having a difficult time writing this as I imagine our home without her.
As much as I enjoyed her as a puppy, she’s an even better adult dog. I love how she nudges my right hand off my mouse when she wants food. Or when she wiggles her butt and tiny tail when I arrive home from work. Or return from taking out the trash. She’s also developed an uncanny knack for photo-bombing any picture taken on her property.
I love the deep sigh she lets out just as she’s about to doze off or how her stomach always stays warm. I love that.
I’ve noticed how much she’s slowed this past year, yet it didn’t hit me until this morning.
She knows on Sunday she’s on her own for three hours while we’re at church. I knew she’d be curled up in a ball on our couch upstairs, but decided to call her name from the garage. She hadn’t been outside all morning. But she didn’t run towards me like she normally would if she were being invited to go for ride.
I had to call her a few times before I heard her roll off the couch and slowly make her way down the two flights of stairs to me. Her hind legs have lost their spring, and she no longer darts down the stairs three at a time.
She came around the corner and stopped when she saw me. She knows to go outside and take care of business. Most days she’ll walk right past me and return within a minute or two before heading back up the stairs to her warm spot on the couch.
But today she stopped and looked at me.
She looks as regal as she did five years ago. Her dark brindle coat still shines as do the white patches on her chest and paws. Only the grey around her whiskers gives her age away.
I don’t know how much longer we’ll have her. We understand boxers have a relatively short lifespan. She’s still sweet as can be. Still patient with four noisy and occasionally aggressive children. They love her as much as she loves them. Even when Anna puts underwear over her head.
I’m not certain she was trying to tell me something today. She could have sensed the light falling rain which she despises. Maybe she didn’t need to go outside. But I felt like she was trying to communicate something to me. As if she wanted me to understand that she’s no longer the same dog that slept on Kim’s lap during the drive home from the breeder. Maybe it’s something simple.
That she’s still our dog.