The Good Dog Duke, almost 16 years old, is on the downhill slope of his years. The protector and guardian of Spiritcreek is in his dotage. He can see but not very well. He does not have cataracts but there is a strange blue cast in his eyes. He is effectively deaf. He has lost a significant amount of weight. Afraid to hear what Dr. J might tell me, I waited too long to take Duke in for a check up. Finally, I gathered the courage I needed on behalf of the good old dog, and we went to see Dr. J this week.
The good news is that, based on a routine check up, there is nothing sinister - at least nothing obvious. I have to give Duke a Prilosec for stomach acid 15 minutes before his first meal, and then I serve the good old dog home-cooked human food: hamburger and rice mixed with eggs and cottage cheese, with yogurt and pumpkin thrown in, too. It smells delicious! So far, Duke has been able to keep all of his food down and seems to have already picked up a couple of pounds on this diet.
I keep Duke and Jake separated for most of the day. Jake is a bad, bad dog. He is absolutely willing to fight poor old Duke away from his own bowl! He really whipped old Duke's butt the other day before I could get to them to put a stop to it. Jake has no idea how close he is to being shipped out for good. He is worthless! He hides under the porch whenever anyone comes on the property. The old braveheart still puts himself between the "threat" and me. Duke cannot even flop over in the tallgrass for a delicious, if far less vigorous than former days, backscratching session without Jake bullying him and bulldozing him.
I do not know how much longer the old Duke has. I can hardly bear to think how it will be here without Duke. I will not be nearly as brave going out at night without his constant companionship and his keen senses that have always kept me from being surprised by anything unpleasant (except snakes and spiders). I have already learned to keep a better look out for myself because Duke no longer hears the crunch of gravel at the top of the driveway. Jake hears but he has no interest in barking to let me know we are being invaded.
Dr. J spent a long time discussing the foreseeable future regarding the inevitable. Bottom line, I see that Duke is still enjoying life even though he is losing strength in his hind quarters and he cannot see or hear. He still goes to the barn with me and enjoys running downhill when we come back. He still enjoys a backscratch in the tall grass. He can still get up and down the steps. He does not appear to be in acute pain. Now that he can eat and hold down his food, maybe there are several more years left, even if I have to cook a big pot of food for him every week.