Our beloved Australian shepherd, Calypso, turned 14 years old today. I just took her on a walk around the block. It was bittersweet. Time has been kind to her looks, but not her mind. Her coloration is such that gray doesn't show: she looks the same as she did ten years ago, except a bit thinner. But, our bright, vivacious dog has slowly gone away. She's lost most of her vision, and most of her hearing, and it seems like she has the dog equivalent of Alzheimer's. Formerly a fiend for toys, and an avid playmate for other dogs, she doesn't notice them anymore. As she slowly went around the block, limping and stumbling over cracks in the sidewalk, I began to realize that this might be the last time I get to take her on a walk around the block. A few flashes of the former dog showed as she eagerly sniffed a tree or two at the beginning of the walk, but eventually settled into a slow routine. She even walked by our front gate, missing her arrival home, formerly the occasion for great excitement. But, as we started up the walk, I got the glimmer I hoped for that she knew she was home (or did I imagine it?), As I unlocked the door, she turned around and looked down our front walk. Perhaps we both wondered if there would be a next time. Happy birthday, Calypso. We already miss you.I was in tears writing the words above, which is pretty rare as a die-hard analytic geek engineer. And Calypso was aware of that. That evening the old Calypso resurfaced a bit as she stuck by my side as she used to do when anyone was upset, licking my hand in support.
My worried post on canine cognitive decline turned out to be even more true than I expected. Calypso declined rapidly and passed away last week, only eight days later, in the arms of my (adult) son, Andy. That was indeed our last walk around the block.
I'm sharing this because my initial words touched many of my friends, who shared their understanding. And for my colleagues, who might have detected some slacking off lately in my relentlessly optimistic Energizer Bunny persona.
Many of us feel like our pets are integral parts of our families. Although the passing of a pet isn't "supposed" to affect us so strongly, for many of us it clearly does. My family is still walking around out of balance, always expecting to see our dog, starting to go to feed her or let her out. There's a dog-sized hole in our lives, and it is a much bigger hole than I ever expected.
I thought I'd share a picture of Calypso in her prime, as we'll remember her.
Thanks, Calypso, for all the love and happiness you gave our family. We do miss you.