Last May 2018, my GSD Reiki went from walking semi normally, to barely moving, both hind feet knuckling over, low in the rear, you name it. I was away at the time, and Dave, my partner, called me frantically, hoping he could hang on until I got home.
Lots of fantastic vet care later, lots of money (because his Pet insurance doesn’t cover anything to do with his spine), lots of blood, sweat and tears, lots of questioning as to whether I was doing the right thing, and lots of experimenting with the right mix of drugs and supplements, here we are. Today, a year later in May 2019, we went for a half mile walk in our favorite shaded woods, ironically called “The Quiet Place.” We celebrated his 12 and a half year birthday. Reik doesn’t walk like he used to before his incident, but he walks “good enough” to get around and he doesn’t knuckle over on his back feet, a blessing.
I spent the first 4 months of the last year after his incident wondering which day I was going to put him down, noticing how he could no longer move like he used to, let alone jump and run. I shortened his 2 mile walks to ½ mile twice daily, dreading when winter came because he couldn’t possibly be alive that long. I wrote a blog post that I never published detailing out his accomplishments and how great he USED to be.
And then, one day last October, I noticed that Reik was still living his life. It took a couple conversations with good friends, (thanks Oriel and Dave!) but literally in one day, I stopped feeling sorry for him and all the things we couldn’t do anymore, and started noticing how strong his spirit and will to live was. I bought him a waterproof coat, and a new dog dish. Dave built him a covered deck off our uncovered deck so he could stay outside and survey the yard even when it rained. I bought a lap top so that I could do my on line work on the couch with him instead of in my chair on my PC. We established a new routine where we walked down our road every morning and evening after dinner, the 4 of us, Dave, Changer, (my 13 year old GSD), Reik and I, even in December when it poured rain and was pitch black out, and in February, when it snowed 2 feet, which Seattle is not prepared for. The image of Reik carefully navigating the tire ruts through the snow and ice on our evening walk still sticks with me to this day. By darn, he was going to go for his walk, regardless of that snow!
On the days that I am home, Reik always gets a car ride and a sniff walk at a “away from home” area, a different one each day of the week. We explore areas around town like The Quiet Place that I’ve never bothered to before because they aren’t big enough for a ‘real” walk with a GSD. But they are perfect for us! I take Reik to the trail heads of where we used to hike and he sniffs around, and walks as much as he wants, or opts out if he prefers. Opting out looks like Reik stopping mid path, looking at me, and turning around and walking back to the truck, not even checking if I am following. He always did have his own mind!
These last 8 months have been so good for me, always moving me, to stop for a moment and smell the flowers, to notice the snails and slugs on the path, to realize that Reik does not care that he can’t do what he used to, but is figuring out what he likes to do this month, this day, this second. Today we encountered a doe in the meadow next to the path. It noticed us noticing her and we stood and admired each other for a couple minutes, then moved on with our lives.
I know they always say this, that dogs live in the moment, but as I reflect on how determined and how Present Reik is in his old age, I only hope that I live in the moment too in the sunset years of my life.