They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But I’m learning that an old dog can teach an old man new tricks.
My 14-year-old goldendoodle Boomer has deployed three strategies simultaneously to retrain me — senile barking, separation anxiety, and what can only be described as, um, sleepytime fecal incontinence (SFI).
Once he started pooping while asleep, I announced to him that he was thenceforth an Outdoor Dog.
I didn’t realize I myself would become an Outdoor Man.
Because Boomer is banished to the backyard and because he has only one eye, and that eye is blind, and because he is also deaf, and because he gets scared or disoriented if he wakes up from a nap and I’m not within 10 feet of him, and because his disorientation manifests as loud, nonstop barking … well, you get the idea.
In military terms, I believe he has deployed against me a pincer movement — attacking from multiple sides.
After 14 years he has me where he wants me — next to him, 24/7, outdoors.
Mind you, I would not put up with this behavior from my wife or kids. I would let them bark all night long.
But Boomer has the imminent-death argument on his side. Look I won’t even be alive much longer. Is it such a big deal to camp outside for a few weeks?
There is always the chance that he is pulling a Royal Tenenbaum, faking his terminal condition to win love and attention.
I could examine the Ring footage to see whether he is noticeably more spry and able during the few moments each day when I slip into the house.
Unfortunately I don’t think that’s the case. He’s not long for this world. To quote Warren Zevon, the wheels keep turning, but they’re running out of steam. Until then, I’m operating a one-dog hospice.
My sister suggested doggie diapers to combat the SFI. But clean-up would still be a hot mess. And diapers would be demeaning for a dog of his size and majesty. I’d rather just hose down the area and then give him his customary sponge bath. It’s one of the services we provide, here at hospice.
Yes, there is some intense co-dependence between Boomer and me, no question. For instance, a friend invited me to her family home in Corsica this summer. That seems like the kind of activity one might possibly enjoy, if one weren’t in the hospice field.
And at the end of August both my kids will depart for college. Conceivably they might want me to accompany them on the cross-country trip.
Sorry, guys. The hospice center doesn’t run itself.
How is my wife putting up with all this?
She doesn’t seem to be beating the drum super loudly for my return to the marital bed.
But that could be related to my habit, even before canine hospice, of working barefoot in the garden all day and then sneaking into bed without a shower or even a cursory scrubbing of feet.
Or maybe it’s the snoring she doesn’t miss.
Unlike my dog, my wife is not deaf, at least not yet.
She loves Boomer as much as I do, and serves as assistant hospice manager when called upon.
Before you say ‘take him to the vet,’ or give him such-and-such medication, let me just say that Boomer has a long list of ailments and conditions. These limitations, when combined with his size, make a vet visit not only stressful for all parties, but also somewhat pointless. He’s in Make Him Comfortable stage of medical care.
There are really only two phone calls left to be made, as far as outside help — the woman who administers euthanasia drugs, and the gardener who digs a hole big enough for us to plant Boomer right here on the property. The city probably doesn’t allow it, but fuck it. It’ll be a nighttime operation.
Will Boomer die before the kids leave for college?
We’ll find out!
Gives me something to look forward to anyway — the finding out.
It’s sort of like waiting to see whether your favorite sports team makes the playoffs.
My own view is that 18-year-old kids can take themselves to college. That’s how I did it 35 years ago. But my wife sees it differently. She arrived at college with two parents and two cars packed full of boxes, clothes, and furniture. I know this because that was the day I first met her. I hauled a lot of those boxes up four flights of stairs.
I have told my wife, Maybe that’s how our kids will meet their future spouses — operating solo on college move-in day!
She doesn’t buy it.
The truth is, the only one in this household who has always been on my team — who has always understood me to my core — is the smelly-ass, 100-pound goldendoodle I now spend my nights outdoors with.
He’s high maintenance, but I will miss him.