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Chloe Chronicles Part X
Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie
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Chloe Chronicles

For the past few years, my dog Chloe and I have been going south for the winter, staying in rentals ranging from cottages at artists’ colonies in Florida to cabins at spiritual retreat centers in South Carolina. I don’t pack lightly for these annual trips. Thus, I always hire someone to help me load my van.

“Just how many dogs do you have?” asked my most recent moving man as he maneuvered yet another large dog bed into the already overstuffed van.

“Just one,” I said.

“And how many dog beds do you have?” the man asked.

“Six.”

He took off his hat and scratched his head as though my answer made his mind itch.

“Creature comforts,” I said.

Yes, it’s true that my dog-to-dog-bed ratio is quite high.

But my girl is getting old. Although I don’t know her age for certain, nine years have passed since I adopted her, so she’s at least 10. Only recently has she started showing signs of old age. The clearest sign is that her new favorite thing in the world is sleep. And I believe that an old, arthritic dog who spent her early days lying on a concrete floor in a shelter deserves a comfortable place to sleep. The more the merrier.

Most of Chloe’s beds were freebies, by the way. One was a gift from a friend in the city who can’t resist buying things in bulk at Costco. (“A $12 dog bed! Can you believe it?” she exclaimed.) Two were hand-me-downs from another friend whose beloved Vizsla passed. The enormous thermopedic mattress came via Freecyle.com from a woman who couldn’t bear to throw it away. The final two were thrift-store scores. It’s easy to find a good dog bed if you know where to look.

At our New York house, I keep one bed in the master bedroom, one in the main living area, one on the deck (for optimal deer-viewing), one in the van (I took out all the seats, so it’s like a studio apartment in there), one in the office (where I spend the majority of my time) and one at our favorite English Setter Rainbow’s house (where Chloe frequently stays).

When we drive south for the winter, I take four of these beds, stacking them on top of one another next to the back passenger door, creating a rather precarious travel throne. Perched up there, Chloe looks like the princess in the “princess and the pea” story. I actually don’t mind dogs on the furniture, in case you were wondering. In fact, I welcome it. There’s something about a sleepy dog curled up on a chair or sofa that makes the house feel more cozy. More down-toearth. (“That’s because you have actual earth on your furniture,” my stepmother used to say.)

In my defense, I do like to keep some pieces of furniture dirt-free, so when I first adopted Chloe, I taught her which pieces were available for her use and which were forbidden. She has her own special corner of a very soft couch, and she is welcome to sleep on my bed at any time. I was dismayed, however, to realize that she only wanted to sleep on my bed when I wasn’t in it. Chloe, it turns out, is not a snuggler. This saddens me to a certain extent—I don’t know what happened to Chloe in her previous life that led her to keep her distance from humans; I don’t know what private sorrows she holds, or how her trust was violated. But I accept her needs. So if she prefers to sleep on the sofa in the living room, that’s fine.

The point is moot now, because Chloe is too arthritic to jump onto furniture. I see her approach “her” sofa, looking longingly at those comfy cushions. I watch the way she seems to ponder the situation, analyzing the amount of strength it would take to leap up and whether her current level of stiffness allows this. More often than not, she turns away and opts for one of her beds.

Yes, my girl is slowing down.

In the past, Chloe was always the first to wake in the morning. She’d trot into my bedroom and stare at me, tense with anticipation, waiting for me to wake up, too. The moment I opened my eyes she’d start her “happy dance,” running around in circles, leaping joyfully, trying to herd me toward the front door so we could take our morning walk. There, she’d press her nose to the crack, wag her tail and wriggle her whole body in barely contained excitement, as if saying Seize the day, seize the day! It was like this for nine years. In her feisty-dog opinion, I slept too much.

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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 :)
xoxo

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