We were younger then and agile, eleven years and seven months ago, me intent on redirecting his puppy energy and world-class OFA-certified, genetically healthy hips from what he most wanted to do with them then: leap onto things or off, thus risking an injury that could cause those pricey hips to cause him a problem later on in life.
Only moments before this photo he’d been atop that tire, challenging my right to request him to do otherwise, and on the next pass he cleared it with inches to spare before wheeling into my embrace for this one brief and rare snapshot. Photographs tell almost nothing of reality. Ours then was that he was almost always on all fours, full out for tomorrow’s back forty, with me on my two hoofs, gamely paddling along in his wake but always attempting to assert control over how high and whether he jumped. Lest it seem a fully unequal partnership, I should add that I could do a roundhouse kick over the top of my six-foot-tall spouse’s head that winter, from mid-step and without requiring a wind-up to boot, so I, too, was in reasonably fine form for a functioning human. Not fine for looking at, no, though to be frank, that has never been one of my higher (or even lesser) goals for existence. But I could work my feet and the rest of me quite well.
Still can, though my rusty roundhouse today would be liable to land on somebody’s elbow or knee instead of sailing over a noggin with inches to spare and looking impressive on the way. There’s no one here to capture us in pixels today and perhaps that’s a good thing, for my fine friend can no longer leap tires and kick dust on his human mom’s advice or wishes. He can’t leap anything. He gets up only if I lift him. Out of sheer hardheaded will, he moves the hips that months ago became nearly nonfunctional, and then I have to help him lie down again. He hurts and I can’t fix it. (No one can.) I wrote my way toward this weeks ago in an entry for this creature I love so dearly, already well past the point where I should have ended all this in the only way it can ever end, but I keep saying to myself that until he gives me the sign he’s ready to quit I can’t quit either, and he hasn’t given that sign. Just hasn’t.
It’s not pretty, it’s not inspiring, it’s downright grueling some days. And nights. But he still has a bright fire for life, and I cannot extinguish that just to take away his pain or my own. On this throwback Thursday, though, I have to admit that, despite my vow on the day of his birth to keep his bones and joints thriving, and despite the fact that I don’t do anything I do in a halfhearted manner (which means I did my deadlevel best to keep that vow, then to now), and despite the application of every possible form of utterly hopeless medical intervention, I have not lived up to my word. Never could. The attempt alone was sheer hubris. He, like all beings here, did as he saw fit whenever he could, living to his own lights. We walked alongside one another for these years—12 and counting, come this Cinco de Mayo—and now the last fork in our mutual road is looming, bearing down on us hard and steady, a crossroads from which only one of us will walk beyond and still be here. For a spell.
No pilgrim to this planet, no matter how long lived, gets more than a few breaths of eternity on this side of the pale. The question arises, as I always, always knew it would, but I was stubborn then and would not concede the point as long as I thought I could finagle some control over the outcome: why not leap and bound about for whatever time we have here? Why not, indeed?
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