My lab Molly is old. Her once black face is mostly grey, and she limps all the time and struggles to climb stairs. Not too long ago my vet gently said, “She is in her bonus months. Enjoy her.”
And so, as my daughter, the cat, the dog and I drove the 10 hours north yesterday, I found myself wondering, as I lifted Molly in and out of the back of my Subaru each time we stopped for a break, if this was going to be her last summer at the beach. Would she remember the house? Where the electric fence lines are? Our after dinner walks? Would she even want or be able to walk? She has dementia now, and when we are home, she sometimes wanders to the bottom of the driveway and onto the quiet country road in front of my house and can’t remember how to get back home.
We arrived at the beach later in the day than I’d hoped, and it was raining and windy and cold. But the minute we pulled up the grass driveway, Molly’s tail started to wag. And when I lifted her out of the car, she went to all of her usual spots to sniff and do her business. When she hobbled inside, my mother’s young Shepard came bounding but quickly curbed his enthusiasm. He understands, I think, that she can no longer romp for hours in celebration of their reunions. So he settles instead for a few nudges and licks.
Molly found and nestled down on her dog bed, tired I suppose from the long drive. And she lay quietly under the table during dinner as my mother, my daughters and I caught up on news since we’d all last been together.
But a funny thing happened as we began clearing the dinner table. Molly stood up and started pacing. She went to the kitchen door, a hopeful look in her eyes.
My mother grinned. “You know what she is expecting don’t you?” my mother asked me.
I laughed. She remembered. Molly remembered that after dinner we always walk. She wanted to walk.
And so we did. We didn’t go as far as we used to, but Molly went to all of her usual places to sniff and investigate and do her business. She was full of energy and joy and hardly limped at all for those fifteen minutes as we walked at the edge of the beach through the misty evening.
Maybe it will be Molly’s last summer here, but I think it’s going to be a good one.
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