He used to tip the scales at a hefty seven pounds. These days, he weighs less than five. His hearing deserted him first, his vision shortly thereafter. Not having a walker to balance him, he makes his way precariously around the yard, sometimes traversing sideways if he’s had a bad night. Nothing wrong with that – it’s just old age. On good days, he has a cocky gunslinger walk; it’s precisely this walk that has kept the pink stuff offered by the vet at bay and Spidey staying on the upside of the flower bed.
Almost 18 years old, this piebald Chihuahua is a chimera of Mr. Magoo, Chicken Little, and a tiny, hysterical Paul Revere. Whoever puts him outside has to be hyperaware that Spidey cannot see; he is just as likely to rage at a window and ricochet off the side of the house/fence/shrubbery/tall weeds as the door when he wants to come inside.
He holds his breath when he has to ambulate among the Great Danes, which must seem to him like the massive imperial walkers from Star Wars. But truthfully, they are more allied to the specters of wolves, good wolves, in a fairy tale. They lower their heads, patiently acknowledge his presence, and freeze in place until he finally winds his way among the trees that are their legs.
His teeth have been absent for more than a decade, causing his gums to have hardened, becoming prodigious weapons/tools all on their own. He has routinely bitten everyone except me; it usually takes three veterinary assistants to work with him, even with a muzzle in place. His little body regularly defeats gravity, and his agitation can propel him into the air as a whirling, possessed little dervish.
He spends most of his time on the couch, watching Netflix; he has earned this retirement. And when I sit down next to him, he turns toward my voice like a flower to the sun; he executes a “play bow” and wags his tail. His happiness is sublime and cascades over both of us, and we feel the years drop away. Having roundly defeated much of what should have killed us over the past few years, we congratulate each other every morning on the fact that we are still here. However, each day has to be considered as a gift.
I believe that the existence of love is God’s signature and His affirmation to the world that He exists and that all is well. If anything can bridge the gap between Heaven and earth, that entity is love. And I believe that there are worlds upon worlds if we will only look for them. Spidey and I have often discussed where we will meet in the Afterlife and places that we plan on visiting. I think our itinerary is pretty well set for now.
I’ve told him that during the brief time when we will be separated, I’ll leave the porch light on every night for him. He’ll be able to see it from where he is, and he’ll know that I’m thinking of him. And maybe, if he can get special permission to visit every now and then, I’ll be able to glimpse him just outside the range of light, and we’ll wave at each other.
Spidey went to the vet yesterday for his yearly vaccinations. He was at the top of his game: He refused to submit to the humiliation of having his temperature taken, and he executed his trademark lifting gyration at lightning speed, which impelled him around the table and made it impossible to get the muzzle on. The lone tech, terrified, was useless, but luckily the vet must have overheard Spidey’s objections to the laying on of hands. He stalked into the room, worked quickly and bestowed the shots himself, but still, at a particularly desperate point in the melee, his left thumb was set upon by Spidey’s snapping, rock-hard gums and the accompanying snarling and spitting.
As I picked up Spidey and put him back in his crate, I heard the vet mutter, “That little ------ has 18 more years in him. He’ll outlive us all.”
COMING NEXT WEEK - THE RETURN OF PIED