I’m not sure how many more days I can take of Mr. T following me through the kitchen like my shadow while staring up at me through his cataract filled eyes wondering why I’ve chosen to torture him at this late stage in our relationship. I don’t want to be mean to him. If I had my way, his days would be filled with greenies and turkey dogs. But, like so many of us, he is now being forced to face the inevitable results of old age.
It started with a routine visit to the vet for a dental cleaning in honor of the fact that March is Doggy Dental Care month or some such thing. I mean really, do we have to have someone actually proclaim this – as though having your dog breathe into your face in the morning isn’t all the notice you need that it’s time for a dental checkup.
Unfortunately, Mr. T found out he had another problem during that visit, a problem I had always connected to old men. Then it struck me that at 14, I could no longer call him my little boy. He had become my little old man.
The treatment for his problem involved flushing his bladder – a procedure every bit as disconcerting as it sounds. He seems to have come through it fine though I can’t say the same for my credit card.
Once the immediate problem was dealt with, I was told there would have to be a slight dietary change to keep it from recurring. Only it turns out it wasn’t such a slight change.
He can’t have protein anymore. Protein will make the little stones grow again. How do you tell a fourteen-year-old dog that he can’t have his turkey dog in the morning anymore? Or his shredded chicken in the evening? Or his beloved greenie after his walk? Or those chewie treats that comfort him when he stays in the car while I’m in the store?
If he was human I could try to reason with him. But he’s a dog. Even I realize that. And dogs eat meat. And meat is protein. And trying to convince him that an apple is as good as bacon is not going to work in my lifetime.
The food he gets to eat has a strange yellow hue to it and seems to most resemble cardboard in texture. From the look on his face when he gets so hungry that he actually eats it, I get the feeling it probably tastes like cardboard too.
I did try peanut butter on a cracker as a treat. I know it’s peanut protein but I figured he’s got to have something to look forward to in life. It took him ten minutes of protracted agony to eat it, sucking it off his teeth and tongue and licking it off his muzzle. He was not amused.
I’ve considered buying him tofu hot dogs on the theory that soy is the one thing in the world that no one can say is bad for you. It certainly tastes bad when made into tofu dogs and hamburgers but who knows, to Mr. T it may taste of nirvana. It would have to beat the heck out of the yellow cardboard he faces every morning in his dog dish.
But wouldn’t you know, when I called the vet I found out that even soy wasn’t good for him. Take that you vegans!
Food has always played an important part in my life. In my family, food meant love. It was that simple of an equation. Nothing from life to death to war to unemployment couldn’t be made better with food. So long as there was pasta and sauce, a little meat to flavor the tomatoes and some warm bread to sop up the drippings, life was bearable.
I figure this is why I am having so much trouble dealing with Mr. T’s new dietary restrictions. He can’t tell me how they are affecting his quality of life but the look I catch him shooting me periodically tells me it’s probably not enhancing it. I go to sleep at night and wonder if the teeth he has left are still sharp enough to take a bite out of me while I’m sleeping. Not that he’d want to hurt me. But I am the only protein available to him right now and if he gets desperate enough….
Maybe I’ll have him sleep on the couch from now on while I sleep behind a closed bedroom door. Or maybe I just have to figure that at fourteen, he should be allowed some of life’s forbidden pleasures every once in a while. Just often enough to keep me from getting nervous when I wake up at night and find him staring at me.