During Ari’s darkest moments in early January, I phoned one of the vets at Guide Dogs for the Blind
(GDB) for advice.
“No one will judge you,” she assured me as I wept into the phone, “if you think Ari has reached the end of his life.”
“I know, I know. He’s really trying, and so far we are handling things…”
“…how will I know when it’s time?” I asked at last.
“You’ll know,” she said gently, “by his quality of life.“
“His quality of life?”
“Yes. A dog’s life is about more than eating and relieving. You can’t even go by his appetite, or whether he wags his tail.”
“It’s all about whether he is still happy, you know, if he plays, things like that.”
So I started paying closer attention. Was Ari happy? Or was he only eating and relieving? For a very long time, we were focused only on getting him to move through the house, to go outside, to eat his usual amount of kibble.
But was he happy, actually happy?
His favorite toys, Haver the squeaky lizard, Buddy the bulbous fox, Princess Duck, and even Opie the opossum Still lay huddled in a pile in the bedroom, sadly abandoned, perhaps forgotten forever.
J and I tried to include them in our routines. We pointed at Haver, and nudged hopefully, “Hey, want to play, Ari?”
But Ari was not interested. Maybe he was still too unsteady on his feet, or too weak. Maybe…
Then one evening our daughter CC and her husband came over for dinner.
Ari was pleasant enough. He greeted them at the door, and joined CC and me in our yoga session, taking his usual place on a nearby cushion.
But once we were busily involved in eating, the house abuzz with chatter and fun, something came over Ari. He suddenly remembered CC was his long-time competitor for my attention.
You see, from the day I brought Ari home from GDB, he had tried to nudge CC out of the way. If we were sitting on the sofa together chatting, he would squeeze up as close as physically possible to me and ever-so-subtly push her away. Her moving out and getting married didn’t change anything for Ari. He was my teammate, and CC better know it.
So it should not have surprised me when I suddenly became aware of Ari pushing Haver against my knee under the dinner table. CC was talking to me too much, and Ari was reasserting his position .
I tossed the toy a few times, and yes, Ari brought it back to me just as often. His old spunk wasn’t the same, and obviously pouncing was out of the question, but I had my answer. For now anyway.
Ari is happy. Play is still with us, somewhat daintier, but with us. And so is Ari! .