Making the Most of Every Day

By Shirley Zindler, September 2015
Patty at the beach

My oldest dog turned 13 this week. Sweet Patty came to us at almost 11, an emaciated, decrepit wreck of a neglect case who I wrote about in previous blogs. How rewarding it’s been watching her blossom into the happiest girl ever. She’s had a couple of really good years with us but we are starting to see the results of age and her previous neglect catching up with her. She still hits the off-leash beach every Monday but sleeps the rest of the day afterwards. She’s nearly blind, has arthritis, chronic allergies and ear infections and is currently battling a nasty bacterial infection. Chances are, she won’t see her 14th birthday.

I feel the squeeze in my heart when I think about losing her and yet I try to take the lesson from Patty and live in the moment. Patty doesn’t lie around bemoaning her aches and pains or dreading the inevitable. She’s happy enjoying her meals, long naps, tummy rubs, soaking up the sun or sniffing the salt air at the beach. Patty finds her joy in the simple things and there is such a lesson there.

 As an animal control officer I have a bit of a different perspective too. I see so many dogs that have terrible lives, who live and die without ever getting the care they need. Knowing that Patty finally got the love she deserves goes a long way in soothing my heart over what’s to come. Patty doesn’t dwell on the past or fret about the future so my goal is to be more doglike in my response, to embrace each day fully, to greet those I love with joy and to live in the moment.

Each night as we head for bed, we enjoy a little ritual. Patty’s thick cushy bed is right next to ours and she pauses before climbing into it. She cuddles with my husband for a bit and we rub her aging muscles and achy joints until she moans with pleasure. Then I take her broad head in my hands and kiss the dippy spot between her big old cloudy brown eyes over and over. She presses against my face and her whole body wags in delight. Afterwards we climb into our bed and she climbs into hers. We drift off to the sound of her breathing and are thankful for another day together. 

Shirley Zindler is an animal control officer in Northern California, and has personally fostered and rehomed more than 300 dogs. She has competed in obedience, agility, conformation and lure coursing, and has done pet therapy. Zindler just wrote a book The Secret Lives of Dog Catchers, about her experiences and contributes to Bark’s blog on a regular basis.

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