A year ago, tests said kidney failure. Normally, this never improves. In Adrienne’s dog-walking days, one of Adrienne’s dogs died this way. It’s not good. Tulip has lost weight, from 63 pounds down to 46. She’s thin and wobbles unsteadily, as her muscle mass fades away, her body trying to survive.
Clearly she’s uncomfortable, sometimes unable to lie at rest, shivering, weak. She’s eleven years old. Somehow we thought she’d be long-lived, reaching fifteen or sixteen. But no, it seems not.
We’ve known this day was coming.
Adrienne says she cannot imagine what life would be like, without Tulip. Tulip has been part and parcel of our lives, day in and day out, for the last eleven years. We’ve grown older, and along with us, she has grown from gangly puppy to a magnificent mature animal and now she diminishes toward that silent and eternal night, growing thinner and more frail.
Her eyes are not as clear as once, but her heart is loving as always. More these days, she comes to us for comfort, placing her head against us, waiting to be petted, waiting for us to caress her smooth fur, because we love her.
A border collie is a long-haired dog. For years, we find long black hairs blowing around the house. They gather into dust bunnies beneath the furniture, and crouch in the corners. It is difficult to prepare a meal without at least one black hair appearing as if by magic in the skillet, among the vegetables, or upon the plate. We’ve grown used to them.
Recently, since Lizzie came to live with us, with two long-haired dogs, the drifting fur has accellerated till it was making Adrienne crazy. She sent Lizzie to the groomer and had her shorn. Lizzie came back with a crew cut, looking very different, and the fur diminished.
So a few weeks ago, Tulip also went to a groomer, for the first time. She came back shorn and looking so thin, but the drifting hairs have almost vanished around our house. Then Tulip became weak and troubled, and the vet said her kidneys are failing badly. They’ve kept her the last three nights, feeding her fluids and medicines, in hopes that the flush will give her a few more weeks or months of life.
We’ve visited each day. She seems stronger, but so unhappy to be left there. She’s a good dog, but she so wants to come home with us. As we leave, she calls to us.
If we are lucky, tomorrow her new tests will say that she can come home again. If we are lucky, then she will be with us for some weeks, or some months.
Coming home, we ate at the Black Bear diner, and during the meal, on my plate suddenly there appeared a small black hair, falling from sleeve.
“Look,” I said, “One of Tulip’s hairs has got in the food again.” Adrienne looked at me, tears welling in her eyes. Her voice caught.
She said, “I wish they always would.”