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Chloe Chronicles Part X

Things are different these days. Chloe now sleeps in the bedroom on that glorious thermopedic mattress she loves so much. We call it the Master Bed. I like having another being in the room—another beating heart asserting the continuity of life. Also, I’m now the first to rise in the morning. What surprises me is that Chloe no longer leaps to her feet when I get out of bed; instead, she remains on her Master Bed, stretching a little and wagging her tail, waiting for me to come to her to say good morning and give her a quick belly rub. It surprises me further that she remains on her bed even as I head into the bathroom or walk downstairs to the kitchen.

Chloe used to follow me everywhere in the mornings— from the bathroom to the kitchen to the refrigerator (for the French Roast), to the coffeemaker, back to the refrigerator (for the cream), back to the kitchen drawer (for the spoon). She didn’t relent until I finally finished my morning routine and followed her out the door. Now, instead of trying to herd me, she lies in bed and observes me from the loft—watching, listening, sniffing—alert, but still. She seems to have concluded that she’s not going to walk all the way down those stairs until it’s worth her while.

After nine years of cohabitation, Chloe has figured out my morning routine. She knows I can be slow to get out the door. She has come to expect that first there will be the sound of the refrigerator being opened, then the sound of a kettle being placed on the stove, then a bubbling of water, followed by the slight hiss of the French press and the smell of coffee. Then this liquid is poured into a travel mug. And so forth. With her keen ears and sensitive nose, she can predict things down to the minute. Once she hears the lid being sealed on the travel mug, she knows what will come next: the sound once again of an opening refrigerator door, that Pandora’s box of cold food smells, the scraping of a stew-pot being removed from the top shelf, and then me calling her name and saying that most special of words: “Breakfast!”

Only then will she spring from her bed, showing signs of the formerly spry Chloe as she scrambles—panting with excitement, down the stairs. While she gobbles her food, I finish my pre-walk tasks: pulling on boots or sneakers, grabbing a hat, searching for keys, opening the front door. Once she hears that sound, Chloe—with another burst of youthful enthusiasm—launches herself through the door.

But our morning walks are different these days. Chloe used to charge down to the river or to the beach (depending where we were), and I would follow briskly, trying to keep up. Now, in deference to Chloe’s arthritic pace, we walk more slowly. We amble, meander, mosey. There is a whole new set of verbs for what we do. Although I miss the aerobic factor of our previous morning walks, these slow ambles allow me to focus on the journey rather than on the destination. On the intricate beauty of a new day. Or the way the birds sound their individual sunrise calls. Or the way the mists rise off the river— as if all the elements of water, sun and air are conspiring to whisper ancient secrets, which one might come to understand if one listens. Or even the distant hum of traffic, which, in the morning, sounds peaceful and hopeful, as the human race tries once again to redeem itself through daily tasks.

Chloe, a water dog, used to spend hours in the water, chasing fish, harassing frogs, observing the ducks and herons in the distance. Now she wades around for 20 minutes or so— sometimes less—then comes and sits next to me on the shore. I like to meditate while she plays in the water. Now, we meditate together: two silent companions harmonizing ourselves with the motherly rhythms of nature and breathing in the water-scented air. It’s nice. It’s peaceful.

Recently, however, Chloe decided that this shoreline was not comfortable enough for her stiff old body, and actually started to head home by herself. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled about having to cut short my morning meditation, but still. No matter how safe it is (the trails lead straight to the house), I couldn’t let her walk home unaccompanied.

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Submitted by Michelle | January 31 2014 |

So beautifully written. Reminds me of the slowing down days of my lab. It seemed like she went from puppy 0-8 years old to slowed down to very very slow. Take the time, every single moment to slow down with her. Enjoy it, it can be meditation in and of itself. Love your blog.

Submitted by Lee Harrington | February 1 2014 |

Thank you for your kind words, Michelle. Big hugs to you and your loved ones. Lee

Submitted by Kacy | February 12 2014 |

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful written piece. Coincidentally, my 12 yr. old golden is getting his therapeutic mattress in the mail tomorrow. I look forward to reading more of your work!

Submitted by Lee Harrington | March 5 2014 |

I hope your golden is enjoying his new mattress, Katy. What a lucky boy! Thank you for your kind words. xoxox Lee

Submitted by Karin | April 16 2014 |

Very touching and heart felt story .. I lost my senior dog one month ago and while i was reading your blog i felt like you were describing my beloved Cleo, she was 13 years when she crossed the rainbow bridge, and had her since she was 4 months..She gifted me with 13 years of unconditional love and loyalty..miss her dearly...

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thank you for sharing these kind words, and I am sorry for the loss of your Cleo. She was lucky to have your friendship for thirteen years! xoxo

Submitted by Rhonda Koch | April 16 2014 |

I'm experiencing this now with my Vienna. She has slowed way down due to heart issues, IVDD and now Sudden Acute Retinal Degeneration that caused her to go blind in about 7 days. She seems confused, cautious yet happy. I know her life is most likely coming to an end but I plan to make every minute with her comfortable and knowing she is completely loved.

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thanks for writing, Rhonda. It sounds as though Vienna is in the best possible hands. It's really such an honor to get to care for our beloved dogs in their finals years/weeks/days. I wish for you both a gentle journey. xoxo

Submitted by Kate Strouse | April 16 2014 |

This is a wonderful article, Lee. I was introduced to your work through Susie's Senior Dogs today, and like so many others, related to your experience. I am so sorry to hear of Cloe's loss. I have two seniors myself and dread the day that I have to say goodbye. But the slowing down, and arriving home to no greeting-- all too familiar-- and I savor everyday that I realize my babies are just sleeping soundly. My Josie is a Brittany mix who is about 8-9 years old and although she isn't slowing down as quickly as her 14 year old brother, she is growing very white in the face to remind me that she is getting into her golden years. I see many similarities between her and Chloe (besides their looks)-- she also grabs a toy as part of her daily greeting and isn't much of a snuggler. I like to think it's more of the breed and personality than any experiences before she and I found each other. I hope the same was true for Chloe.

One more thing-- it sounds like Chloe had the loveliest kind of life and you should take pride in the happiness you brought her. I'm sure she deserved all those beds and those wonderful romps on the beach but many of the most loved dogs don't even get that kind of pampering. I hope when you are ready that you'll consider doing it again.

Good luck with your healing. I know it must be a lonely road without her.

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thank you for writing, Kate. Your kind words really moved me. I miss Chloe terribly, but she is still with me everywhere, and I know she'll have a toy in her mouth waiting for me to chase her when we meet again. Enjoy your precious animal friends....xoxo

Submitted by LJ Evans | April 16 2014 |

I am having this same experience with my cat Mattie. We are very close. My wonderful vet tells me she must have been taken from her mom too young as some of her behavior patterns are typical to cats like that. I bought her at a feed store for $7 about 18.5 years ago. She is the most affectionate cat I have ever met. She has four beds plus mine, where she sleeps tucked into my armpit, with her head on my shoulder. I added a stool at the foot of the bed so she can make it up and down more easily. I bought a lower bookshelf for the bathroom to make it easier for her to make her way to the faucet, her favorite place to drink, which I turn on for her at a trickle. I keep telling her it's her job to turn it off when she's done but she never seems to get it. I start a small fire in the evening in the woodstove when maybe it's warm enough I don't really need to, but she really loves to curl up in the bed next to the stove and bask in the warmth. When I'm working at my computer sometimes she wants me to hold her, which is tricky, so I have an old grey sweatshirt and when that's what she needs, I pick her up and tuck her in the front and zip it up. I look very pregnant; she'll stay in there for hours. Sometimes she snores, which is very sweet. I stay very still to listen when she does that because it doesn't happen very often.

I saw your story in Susie's Senior Dogs. The piece you wrote about Chloe is just lovely, thank you for sharing so much about your life with her. So sorry Chloe went on to her next existance! That must have been very hard and I'm sure you still miss her terribly. How lucky we are to have the trust and love of these creatures.

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thank you so much, LJ. Your cat sounds very special indeed! Enjoy your time together and thank you for writing.

Submitted by Michelle | April 16 2014 |

What a beautifully written piece. I read it with a knot in my throat and tears in my eyes knowing Chloe passed on. I am giving my babies Riley and Candy and extra hug and snuggle tonight. Love to you!

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thank you for writing, Michelle. Yes, it's hard to re-read this piece, knowing now that she would die so shortly after I submitted it. But Chloe lives on in so many magical ways. Please give Riley and Candy a big smooch from me. xoxox

Submitted by Terrie | April 16 2014 |

Saw an excerpt of this on Instagram by @susieseniordogs & HAD TO READ IT...I feel the love that you have for your fur baby thru your words...This is an amazing piece of work...Enjoy every blessed moment that you have with her, for she is truly loved & knows it very well...

Submitted by Dani | April 17 2014 |

Beautifully written! It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your journey, I am currently on a similar one with my 11 yr. old black lab mix. I am so very sorry for your loss.

Submitted by Lee Harrington | April 18 2014 |

Thank you, Dani, for your kind words. Enjoy your days with your senior :)

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