I’m Holding On. I’m Letting Go.
Musical Selection|SWV: You’re Always On My Mind
Jernee’s getting older. This is expected. I get this. I am one with the idea of aging. What I had forgotten is with aging, things change. Things I thought would remain the same shift with time. Jernee was having “little accidents.” I crate Jernee during the day while I am away at work. I did this because Jernee is active, sort of hyper, and likes to jump from my chair to my couch and sometimes injures herself. I believed crating her was a way of keeping her safe, however, as she gets older, this is proving to be worthless.
Within days of each other, Jernee urinated in her crate. The look of shame and disbelief that crosses her face breaks my heart. She knows she has done something “wrong” or feels like she is not doing something “right.” I am having little talks with her, encouraging her, and letting her know that, “It’s okay, sweet girl. Mommy will take care of it.” She seems to be reassured after I speak to her and give her a few cuddles and scratches behind the ears.
Things I thought would remain the same shift with time.
I don’t like to see her struggling to understand the changes she is going through. I made a decision to leave her out during the day while I am work, but to put a puppy pad down near our front door for her to relieve herself. We began a trial period of this on Thursday, October 31, 2019. Since then, she seems to be a bit more confident. There is always evidence of the puppy pad being her throne for accomplishment.
When I come home from work now, I glance at the puppy pad then at my little monster who is all-too-eager for me to pick her up and give her some attention. I find myself saying, “What a good girl! You went potty on your pee-pee pad!” I clap. I hoot and holler. I do this to show her that she is doing something good and that I encourage it — it is not a bad thing.
At eleven years old, Jernee is aging well. I am often told that she does not look as old as she is, however, we know that her body is showing us the years she has gained. Her eyes are forming cataracts, her limbs and joints are not as strong as they once were. She is prone to having knee dislocations and pain in her hips. I can always tell when her hind limbs hurt her when we’re going on our walks. She will hobble a little or do a sort of quick, jump-step. It’s almost as if she is acknowledging the pain but not allowing it to deter her from our goal. She loves a good walk. I do too. We manage quite well during them.
I noticed a couple of years back I had to shorten our walks. Jernee used to walk two miles without a break in step. Now, we are lucky to walk a half mile before we have to stop for a moment. However, she powers through and we can usually do a mile before retreating home. At first, I brushed off these changes. I tried not to notice the cloudiness of her eyes or the blue puddles that fill them. I ignored the number of breaks we had to take while walking. I came home during my lunch breaks to let her out for mini walks. I was doing all I could to hold on to my sweet girl — to keep her in a place in time where nothing ailed her or made her stand out negatively.
I failed miserably.
Making these changes for her is proving to be helpful — sustaining. She seems happier. I do not know if shame has been removed with the addition of the puppy pads and inviting her to “pee freely” near our front door, but I am happy to not have to strip her crate of her linens, wash her, and wipe the area around her crate down. I had to be real with myself, I have to be realistic about time — it will not pause for me. I am monitoring her urinary incontinence and making sure she does not present any other symptoms out of the ordinary. The last things I’d want her to be diagnosed with are; kidney stones, polyps, spinal cord injury, tumors, etc.
I was doing all I could to hold on to my sweet girl — to keep her in a place in time where nothing ailed her or made her stand out negatively.
We have spent many years together and I notice the seasons Autumn and Winter are our most favorite. I am thankful for Jernee. She has given me plenty of happy times. I know there are happier times ahead. Showing my gratitude for her existence takes seconds and with her aging, I will make the necessary changes to assist her as other obstacles present themselves to us. I wake up every single day with a four-legged creature who believes I am the most important thing in her world. I can see that. I feel that. We are made for each other.
She shows me unconditional love.
I am no stranger to the occasional Vet visit and if this phase proves to be one that could be detrimental to her health, I will seek her Vet’s knowledge and possibly medication — if necessary. In my heart of hearts, I feel as though, it is the aging process at hand tossing my sweet girl a curveball. As time presses on, I try not to mess up my head with things that can go wrong with Jernee, but I’m not jaded. I want to be prepared for any other ailments and stay on top of any future diagnoses should they arise. I am showing her the love she has always shown me. I am her right-hand woman and I will guide her as best as I know how.
I am holding on, but I am also letting go. I have to be mindful of the harshness that comes with life and not soil my soul with “what ifs.” I am simply moving forward with these changes. I am standing firm on what I know and gathering knowledge for things I do not. Having Jernee by my side for all of the phases I have grown through has made me a stronger person. I have no doubt about this. When she looks at me, I see a smiling sun — a burning of unending love. She is my Toto.
I wake up every single day with a four-legged creature who believes I am the most important thing in her world. I can see that. I feel that. We are made for each other.
I will forever be grateful for the love, hugs, kisses, and time shared with her. She knows my faults and loves me still. I no longer see aging as a flawed thing that stepped in and changed my dog. I now see it as a thing to embrace as it is drawing me ever closer to her.
And there is no other place I’d rather be.
©2019 Tremaine L. Loadholt
Written as a response to November hopes: