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Chloe Chronicles Part X

As soon as we return from our morning walk, Chloe goes straight to her bed. This is another new pattern. I’m accustomed to a dog who runs in circles around the house, sustaining the outdoor sensation of a body in motion. I’m accustomed to a dog who grabs the nearest toy and tosses it into the air, clinging to the joy of having been outside. I’m used to a dog who then dashes into the kitchen to see if any food has materialized since her last investigation. So this new going-straight-to-bed thing is almost alarming. Especially when I haven’t even had the opportunity to give her a “thanks-for-coming-home” treat. Chloe’s former favoritething- in-the-world used to be food. Then swimming. Then her boyfriend Rainbow. Then me. Then sleep.

The bed Chloe chooses post-morning walk is the Office Bed, because she knows this is where I’ll be spending the remainder of the day. It’s one of those Snuggle Nests, plush with big bumpers so that I don’t accidentally roll into her with my office chair.

In Chloe’s younger days, my writing seemed to bore her; it was something she had to endure until our next walk. Sure, she would nap while I wrote, but it was a vigilant sort of sleep. If I so much as moved—stretched or yawned or shifted in my chair—she would spring to her feet in one swift, athletic motion and rush to the door, smiling at me with joy, ready for our next great adventure. In her mind, I was always on the verge of doing something fascinating. (This is a dog’s approach to life. We would do well to emulate it.) Most of my daily office gestures, however, are mundane. I might rise to make another cup of tea. I might pause to check my email. I might moan out loud, saying something to the effect of, “I should just give up on this novel and become a street busker.”

Eventually, Chloe figured out the signals. Rising from the office chair with a glazed look on face meant more coffee, not walk. Moaning about the uselessness of writing meant I was going to check Facebook, not walk. The real moment— the true and absolute sign of an impending walk—was (and still is) the moment I shut down the computer, snap the lid shut and click off the wireless mouse. That one tiny click was like a starting gun for her: she’d push herself up and hurry toward the door.

Now, Chloe sleeps so soundly that sometimes, she doesn’t even hear the click. It’s hard not to smile. A dog in repose conjures up everything sleep should be: restful, peaceful, soothing, safe, warm, comfy. She sleeps so deeply that she snores—a soft, regular snore that sounds like contentment. She often seems to dream as well. I like to watch the way her eyelids twitch and her paws flex. I like to hear her sweet, muffled woofs, which are always sounded in patterns of three. Like a metered poem.

I often wonder what she dreams. Most people assume that dogs dream of chasing rabbits, of leaping over streams, of flushing grouse. But perhaps dog dreams go beyond these mundane visions we humans ascribe to them. Perhaps in her dreams, Chloe visits other realms, alternate universes where all beings exist in harmony, where there is no violence, no suffering, no animal abuse. Perhaps this is the paradise she’s chasing—not some mundane rabbit. Perhaps this is why she used to do that happy-dance in the morning. She’s trying to tell me that such worlds do exist. I hate to wake her. But soon, it is time for our afternoon walk. I lean over and whisper her name. She opens her eyes slowly, unfocused. Then she looks at me, surprised to find herself once again back inside a dog’s body. Surprised, but not disappointed. This has been a good life for her.

Our afternoon walks used to be long, but now—by Chloe’s choice—they are short, especially if the weather is not to her liking. Sometimes she walks a few yards onto the grass, makes a quick pee, then immediately returns to the house and heads straight back to her bed. She’ll circle a few times, then settle down into the foam with a satisfied “oof.” Mission accomplished.

I, however, require more of a head-clearing walk at this time of day, so—iPod in hand—I go back out without her for a brisk power walk along the beach or through the dunes. It’s glorious. Spectacular. Rejuvenating. Refreshing. And yet it feels so strange to walk without my dog. It feels wrong. But I simply adapt to this new phase in my life.

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Submitted by Michelle | January 31 2014 |

So beautifully written. Reminds me of the slowing down days of my lab. It seemed like she went from puppy 0-8 years old to slowed down to very very slow. Take the time, every single moment to slow down with her. Enjoy it, it can be meditation in and of itself. Love your blog.

Submitted by Lee Harrington | February 1 2014 |

Thank you for your kind words, Michelle. Big hugs to you and your loved ones. Lee

Submitted by Kacy | February 12 2014 |

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful written piece. Coincidentally, my 12 yr. old golden is getting his therapeutic mattress in the mail tomorrow. I look forward to reading more of your work!

Submitted by Lee Harrington | March 5 2014 |

I hope your golden is enjoying his new mattress, Katy. What a lucky boy! Thank you for your kind words. xoxox Lee

Submitted by Karin | April 16 2014 |

Very touching and heart felt story .. I lost my senior dog one month ago and while i was reading your blog i felt like you were describing my beloved Cleo, she was 13 years when she crossed the rainbow bridge, and had her since she was 4 months..She gifted me with 13 years of unconditional love and loyalty..miss her dearly...

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thank you for sharing these kind words, and I am sorry for the loss of your Cleo. She was lucky to have your friendship for thirteen years! xoxo

Submitted by Rhonda Koch | April 16 2014 |

I'm experiencing this now with my Vienna. She has slowed way down due to heart issues, IVDD and now Sudden Acute Retinal Degeneration that caused her to go blind in about 7 days. She seems confused, cautious yet happy. I know her life is most likely coming to an end but I plan to make every minute with her comfortable and knowing she is completely loved.

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thanks for writing, Rhonda. It sounds as though Vienna is in the best possible hands. It's really such an honor to get to care for our beloved dogs in their finals years/weeks/days. I wish for you both a gentle journey. xoxo

Submitted by Kate Strouse | April 16 2014 |

This is a wonderful article, Lee. I was introduced to your work through Susie's Senior Dogs today, and like so many others, related to your experience. I am so sorry to hear of Cloe's loss. I have two seniors myself and dread the day that I have to say goodbye. But the slowing down, and arriving home to no greeting-- all too familiar-- and I savor everyday that I realize my babies are just sleeping soundly. My Josie is a Brittany mix who is about 8-9 years old and although she isn't slowing down as quickly as her 14 year old brother, she is growing very white in the face to remind me that she is getting into her golden years. I see many similarities between her and Chloe (besides their looks)-- she also grabs a toy as part of her daily greeting and isn't much of a snuggler. I like to think it's more of the breed and personality than any experiences before she and I found each other. I hope the same was true for Chloe.

One more thing-- it sounds like Chloe had the loveliest kind of life and you should take pride in the happiness you brought her. I'm sure she deserved all those beds and those wonderful romps on the beach but many of the most loved dogs don't even get that kind of pampering. I hope when you are ready that you'll consider doing it again.

Good luck with your healing. I know it must be a lonely road without her.

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thank you for writing, Kate. Your kind words really moved me. I miss Chloe terribly, but she is still with me everywhere, and I know she'll have a toy in her mouth waiting for me to chase her when we meet again. Enjoy your precious animal friends....xoxo

Submitted by LJ Evans | April 16 2014 |

I am having this same experience with my cat Mattie. We are very close. My wonderful vet tells me she must have been taken from her mom too young as some of her behavior patterns are typical to cats like that. I bought her at a feed store for $7 about 18.5 years ago. She is the most affectionate cat I have ever met. She has four beds plus mine, where she sleeps tucked into my armpit, with her head on my shoulder. I added a stool at the foot of the bed so she can make it up and down more easily. I bought a lower bookshelf for the bathroom to make it easier for her to make her way to the faucet, her favorite place to drink, which I turn on for her at a trickle. I keep telling her it's her job to turn it off when she's done but she never seems to get it. I start a small fire in the evening in the woodstove when maybe it's warm enough I don't really need to, but she really loves to curl up in the bed next to the stove and bask in the warmth. When I'm working at my computer sometimes she wants me to hold her, which is tricky, so I have an old grey sweatshirt and when that's what she needs, I pick her up and tuck her in the front and zip it up. I look very pregnant; she'll stay in there for hours. Sometimes she snores, which is very sweet. I stay very still to listen when she does that because it doesn't happen very often.

I saw your story in Susie's Senior Dogs. The piece you wrote about Chloe is just lovely, thank you for sharing so much about your life with her. So sorry Chloe went on to her next existance! That must have been very hard and I'm sure you still miss her terribly. How lucky we are to have the trust and love of these creatures.

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thank you so much, LJ. Your cat sounds very special indeed! Enjoy your time together and thank you for writing.

Submitted by Michelle | April 16 2014 |

What a beautifully written piece. I read it with a knot in my throat and tears in my eyes knowing Chloe passed on. I am giving my babies Riley and Candy and extra hug and snuggle tonight. Love to you!

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thank you for writing, Michelle. Yes, it's hard to re-read this piece, knowing now that she would die so shortly after I submitted it. But Chloe lives on in so many magical ways. Please give Riley and Candy a big smooch from me. xoxox

Submitted by Terrie | April 16 2014 |

Saw an excerpt of this on Instagram by @susieseniordogs & HAD TO READ IT...I feel the love that you have for your fur baby thru your words...This is an amazing piece of work...Enjoy every blessed moment that you have with her, for she is truly loved & knows it very well...

Submitted by Dani | April 17 2014 |

Beautifully written! It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your journey, I am currently on a similar one with my 11 yr. old black lab mix. I am so very sorry for your loss.

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thank you, Dani, for your kind words. Enjoy your days with your senior :)

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