by Christy Caballero

 

What do we do when our loving pets face the last leg of life’s race? We do all we can to help them finish well, of course. We take time to recognize the unspoken needs of the friends we’ve come to know intimately.

 

We give the gentle reassurance of a loving touch when our old dog seems confused for no reason.

 

We groom them faithfully, but more gently, as age may bring muscle wasting and arthritic bones aren’t so well padded.

 

We learn to slow down for their sake as they enjoy the scent of the wind or track a visitors trail across their yard.

 

We expect to be inconvenienced and aren’t angry when it happens.

 

We watch for pain and treat it; watch for changes in vision and hearing and do what we can to help preserve those precious senses for as long as possible.

 

We take care of their teeth and make sure their food is a manageable texture for them.

 

We remind them of the need for a potty walk when they seem to forget. We remember the little rewards. We scratch the graying ears and tummy and go for car rides together. When the pet we love has an unexplained need for comfort we give it freely. When infirmities bring a sense of vulnerability we become our old guardian’s protector.

 

We watch their deepest slumbers, when dreams take them running across fields of long-ago. We remember those fields, too. When they cannot stand alone we lift them. When their steps are uncertain we steady them.

 

And if their health fails, it falls to us to make the choice that will gently put them to rest. But until that is absolutely necessary, we pause and watch the autumn sun warm our old friend’s bones. And we realize that autumn is not a bad time of year at all.

 

Old age is not a disease or a reason to give up. It is a stage of life that brings its own changes. Autumn is the beautiful season of harvest.