It’s been over four fuckin’ years of restlessness. Aching restlessness. But it’s also meant four years of a living, breathing, meaningful existence.
Noah is the dog I adopted from a shelter, at a time when I was as broken as he was. He greets me the same way each day. Bushy tail swinging side to side, making soft sounds like he’s trying to say something. That’s enough for me–and I think him also–because emotions are transmitted without needing to spell anything out. He keeps me up and about, my daily existence.
Lately though, one thought increasingly occupies my mind. All the time actually. Noah is aging. He is over 7.5 years, those fearsome canines are going blunt, his muzzle’s starting to turn frosty, and he is much more calm than before. He is in his prime physically, and easily keeps up on our daily run, keeps pace going up the stairs and even spends much of the day on the bed which he once struggled to climb. The biggest change has been in him learning to trust people. Keeping a watch over the neighbourhood from his window. I can proudly say that he’s doing so much better now than when he came home from the shelter.
Over the last four years he’s been the only constant I’ve known. But I am painfully aware that large dog breeds have short lifespans. He gave me a scare last year when he tested positive for a cancerous growth. Luckily, this was a false alarm. Over the last few weeks, he’s returned to an old habit. When I turn off the lights and call it a day, I hear the pitter patter of claws striking the hard floor. They get closer and closer, until he’s reached the bed. He’s then waiting for my signal and I try to make space for a large dog on a one person bed. He then clumsily hops onto it, maneuvers towards the window overlooking the street and begins his watch. His watch very quickly descends into sleep with him having taken over most of the bed.
His dance when he realizes we’re going for a run or a walk is a joy to watch. We team up for cat spotting and meeting his streetie friends are all part of a normal day. I’ve noticed on numerous occasions how Noah will always choose the side of the weaker dog to defend even when the stronger one is his friend. His tolerance of excitable and pesky pups whom he secretly loves, him greeting his close friends are all part of my therapy. I’m mostly up at the crack of dawn and homing back each evening for walk time. Everything else is planned around this. I remember Noah sitting outside the room I had locked myself in, waiting expectantly, for me to walk out. That image of him sitting outside waiting for the door to open had broken me down then and I had not carried on with my plan. I never visited that zone again for the thought of abandoning him is too painful. The routine enforced on you by living with a dog for whom you have to care can be lifesaving, in addition to all the unconditional love you receive.
Having been on medication for a pretty long time now, I have often doubted their efficacy. I think the meds mostly work for me, but in conjunction with the love I receive from Noah. It takes two to tango doesn’t it? I wonder if they’ll continue to work for me when the day comes, when Noah will be no more with me, but chasing a cat in his happy place where there are plenty of cats to chase. Our runs, walks and time spent together are what keep me going no doubt, but it has also meant being tied to a place for somebody who wishes to float about. Would I be free then? Free to travel and work from wherever I felt like? Free to live out of my backpack, on the road again? Welcome once again in a place that I once loved but had to abandon?
I do not think so. I will not be free then when the day comes. I’m free now, free to think, free to feel the way I want to be. Free to explore the depths of my own mind and my own feelings and to return knowing there’s a furry friend waiting for me. I cherish the freedom I experience now more than the freedom of movement I might have one day. I know my medication will be pretty much shot up when the time comes — having nobody to tango with, and rather than feel slow, sedated and drugged, unable to wrestle anymore with my own thoughts — would I choose to rebel, hang up my boots and paddle into the sunset? I don’t know.